Stigmatized Properties (PG13)
Starring Kazuya Kamenashi, Nao Honda, Kôji Seto
Directed by Hideo Nakata
I always have an issue with horror movies where characters have purchased a new home, only to find out much later — usually after a spate of spooky occurrences — about its checkered past. Look, unless the story is set in the pre-Google era, there’s no way in Hell the homebuyer couldn’t have known anything about the place’s horrid history without checking online first. And why didn’t their real estate agent warn them? (You suck!)
Anyhoo, that’s my beef with haunted house stories. And now, there’s Stigmatized Properties, another haunted house movie. Except this time, the tenant knowingly moves into an apartment where bad and horrible things happened, aka “a stigmatised property”.
The movie — from Hideo Nakata, the J-horror master behind The Ring — follows Yamame (Kazuya Kamenashi), a failed comedian in Osaka reduced to being a bit player on a variety show. His former partner Nakai (Koji Seto), the show’s writer, pitches an idea to the producer: Have Yamame move into a stigmatised property and document any supernatural activity during his stay.
And guess what? Weird shit does happen in his first apartment. Yamame captures it on his camera, goes on the show to talk about it with a panel of guests, and — boom! — the ratings are through the roof.
And what does Yamame do for an encore? Easy. He moves into another stigmatised apartment. Then another. And another. (Besides, it’s a win-win situation: he’s broke and the rent is cheap.)
Yamame has a sidekick of sorts: Azusa (Nao Honda), a devoted fan of Yamame’s defunct comedy act, who happens to have the ability to see ghosts. (It’s always nice to have such friends around, right?)
The paranormal chills are of varying quality; the first tale is creepy but the subsequent ones get a little repetitive, dull, rushed even. All the stories is linked by a silly Grim Reaper-like figure who looks as if he’s dressed for a Halloween party.
More fascinating, however, is the man whose real-life exploits inspired the movie: comic Tanishi Matsubara, who built a career on the variety show circuit from staying in haunted apartments. (See the video below.) Maybe that should be Quan Yifeng’s next reality show. Mediacorp producers, are you reading this? (**1/2)
Photo: Shaw Organisation
Note: You can track down stigmatised properties in Japan as well as around the world (including Singapore) at the website Oshima Teru.