Films, Horror, Japan, Recommended posts, Reviews

The Discarnates

4 stars

異人たちとの夏, Ijintachi to no natsu. Japan 1988. Directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi. Starring Morio Kazama, Tsurutaro Kataoka, Kumiko Aiyoshi, Yuko Natrio, Toshiyuki Nagashima. 110 mins. In Japanese with English subtitles.

1 Comment

The simplicity and innocence of the cunning parent figures will stay lodged in your mind…

From the film’s title and indeed from the films poster, at face value everything points towards a ghost story when it comes to The Discarnates. In fact, the direct definition of ‘discarnate’ is to have no physical body or form and can go as far as referring to spirits when utilising such a word. Not that this gives the game away entirely, but it does get you geared up for a supernatural story.

Based on Taichi Yamada’s novel titled Strangers, director Nobuhiko Obayashi takes us on a simmering story through the eyes of lonely and annoyed at the world, Hidemi Harada (Morio Kazama). It’s safe to say this man is stuck in a rut; a screenplay TV writer, who loses a work colleague due to the awkward situation of proposing to Hidemi’s ex-wife. Ultimately, this becomes a pivotal moment in this already empty man’s life and results in him shutting people out even more. It seems all is lost for this poor soul, until by chance he runs into a young man who coincidently reminds him of his father. Having lost both his parents at the age of 12, when this ‘stranger’ invites him back home the young boy inside him respectfully accepts the offer. Not something one would ordinarily do, albeit when seeing that the man’s wife looks remarkably like his late mother, he initially thinks he has made the right choice.

Being treated with kindness seems to be what this man needed and leads to him forming a relationship with Kei (Yuko Natori), a woman who lives in his apartment block. For a while Hidemi is happy; an emotion this man has clearly not experienced in some time. However to us and indeed the people outside this immediate circle notice a drastic change in his appearance. For a man in his forties to look this pale and for his teeth to start rooting, it becomes apparent there is something much more sinister is at play.

It’s hard to get caught up in this simple yet fascinating plotline; however credit is due when it comes to director Obayashi. This film is powerful enough without scare tactics or overtly gory moments. Any director can take a horror and add blood and copious amounts of make-up, but the ones that always get you are the ones without such theatrics. If you are signing up to be scared out of your wits, you will be disappointed. Of course, there are a few, ‘grab the pillow’ moments due to the nature of the film; albeit, the characters we see here are enough to terrify you on their own. The troubled and lonely situation that the lead characters have either been in, or find themselves in makes it hard to see how anyone on screen will ever feel whole again. Lead actors Morio Kazama (Harada) and Yuko Natori (Kei) both give terrific performances, as the broken humans they are. As well as Kumiko Akiyoshi (Mother) and Tsurutaro Kataoka (father) as the young yet soul sucking parents, who have been ripped away from their son too soon.

The Discarnates subtlety is undoubtedly its best quality. Its slow development towards the inevitable reveal really gives the viewer a chance to get to know the characters. The simplicity and innocence of the cunning parent figures will stay lodged in your mind. It’s a slow burner, not without errors, but nevertheless a worthy and innovate ghost story.

Thanks to Stephen for suggesting we cover this film!

About the author

Gloria Daniels-MossGloria Daniels-Moss Gloria Daniels-Moss
A former student and graduate of Canterbury Christ Church University where she had the pleasure to study English and most importantly Film! Her main love for Japanese Cinema comes from seeing Spirited Away when it was screened at Pinewood Studios for Club 7 at the mere age of 11... more
Read all posts by Gloria Daniels-Moss

On this day One year ago

Murmur of the Hearts

The heart is a painful destination for two siblings struggling with the past... (more…) Read on

On this day Three years ago


Smart, titillating and visually arresting. Tezuka’s commercial failure is anything but!... (more…) Read on

On this day Five years ago

Opium and the Kung-Fu Master

A solid period piece based on a real martial arts master and his break with addiction… (more…) Read on

On this day Eight years ago

Congratulations to the winners of Life Of Pi...

A very well done to two very entrants who have won a copy of Ang Lee's beautiful Life Of Pi on 3D Blu-Ray in our competition. Once again we had a fantastic response, so if you ... Read on

One thought on “The Discarnates

  1. Given your review, did you watch the movie through to the end? The entire ‘parents are sucking his life force’ was a red herring revealed in the last 20 minutes of the movie, when Kei is shown to be the second, vengeful ghost of the film, the one really draining his life force.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.