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!