A solid horror/thriller with enjoyable nods to Hitchcock and Argento – it’s just a shame that ending is so unsatisfying…
Dripping with references to Alfred Hitchcock, from cinema posters to clubs that just happen to be called Vertigo (down to Saul Bass’ font), wirter/director Tezka Macoto (Hakuchi: The Innocent) has a lot of fun creating a sprawling thriller that chucks up a new red herring every scene.
The basic premise will not doubt sound familiar: aspiring model Asuka (Reika Hashimoto) has barely arrived in Tokyo to make her name when she witnesses a murder from the flat of a new roommate that takes place in a hotel across the street in a notorious red light district. (Rear Window, anyone? Dario Argento’s Bird With A Crystal Plumage? Or maybe even Brian De Palma’s Hitchcock influenced Body Double?)
The grotesque murder leaves the victim dissected like a school biology project, and the police baffled as to the perpetrator. Soon bodies start mounting up, each left in more bizarre circumstances than the last, each with voodoo symbols and a strange black kiss mark on their necks, and each with a connection to Asuka’s brooding roommate Kasumi (Kaori Kawamura), whose mysterious past seems to hold the key to unlocking the secret of the killer (think Laurence Olivier’s character of de Winter in Rebecca).
With clues pointing the police in every direction, time is running out for them to find the killer before he gets to his next victim, Asuka herself…
Shot in a grimy, neon lit, but extremely slick style, the film resembles a cross between Argento’s early ‘giallo’ thrillers and later, more baroque horror like Suspira and Inferno. The cinematography is snazzy without getting in the way of the story telling, though I hope the final DVD has more detail in the predominately dark settings than the screener I got. Its gruesome murder scenes bring to mind the current US horror trend for ‘torture porn’, though this film has taken such a long time to make a UK release that it was somewhat ahead of the curve.
But despite their grisly nature, the film soon loses much of its suspense drowning in a sea of red herrings and pointing us in every direction as to the possible identity of the killer. There are far too many periphery characters that not only have no relevance to the thrust of the story, but are often left way behind. For instance, we know that a recording is made of the lovers at the beginning of the film just before they are murdered, yet both those recordings and the figures who made them never appear again within the storyline.
All of which leads Macoto to the point where he ends up throwing in the towel himself and presenting us with a resolution completely out of left field, leaving far too much unexplained and far too many loose ends. And at over two hours long, you’ll definitely want answers by the end. Again, you can’t help but make those comparisons to Argento again, where the the key to revealing the killers identity is something the lead has seen, yet takes the film to work out exactly what that is.
It’s a real shame, as beforehand Black Kiss is on the whole is an above average thriller. The performances are far more solid than you might expect. In particular Kaori Kawamura, whose role could so easily have been a caricature of a woman with an ominous past, gives us instead a very believable performance as a fallible human being with a past she’d rather leave there.
Black Kiss is a well directed stab at horror in the Hitchcock/Argento tradition, perhaps a little too good – it only makes you realise what it could have been with a better thought out resolution.
The DVD of Black Kiss will be released in the UK on Monday 22 September by 4Digital Asia.
Distributor: 4Digital Asia (UK)
The DVD will include: Mystery Behind Black Kiss with director Macoto Tezka; Truth Behind Black Kiss with director Macoto Tezka; Original Japanese Trailer; Deleted Scenes; Special Effects; Main Cast Interviews.