Junji ItoJapanese
Marronnier
Medium: film
Year: 2004
Original creator: Junji Ito
Keywords: horror, rubbish
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 82 minutes
Url: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0443756/
Website category: J-horror
Review date: 26 February 2019
Some films get called amateurish, but this one was literally made by amateurs. I'd become convinced of that within a couple of minutes. No money changed hands here. No professionals were harmed in the making of this film. Visit imdb and you'll find this is the only screen credit of almost everyone involved. It's not quite as bad as a fan film, but you'd probably have to be legally blind to mistake this for a real movie.
That said, though, the credits include:
JUNJI ITO - writer/artist of horror manga and a huge figure in the genre. There have been many adaptations of his work and he's the reason I kept watching, even after deciding almost immediately that I was basically watching a home video. Junji Ito's work is freaky and disturbing, like a nightmare that's forced its way into reality and isn't going to play by your rules. He's always of interest, even in a non-film like this. Admittedly today I tested that principle, but I think it held up.
It's a film about dolls. There's a man who makes dolls, which started in a flashback story that's disturbing even here. That was messed up. There's a pair of siblings that love dolls and puppets, with the sister collecting them and the brother performing on stage with them. There are scenes of characters dressing up as if they themselves were dolls. There will be random moments that are surreal and freaky, such as the sewing machine scene (which made me cringe away from the screen), the eyeball and the toothbrushing. The insects! At its best, watching this film is like taking a bloody, skin-crawling trip into Alice in Wonderland where even simple things unsettle you.
Despite everything, it works. This cheap, half-arsed flick is capable of coming alive on you. I sat through 82 minutes of it, after all, despite thinking it wasn't fit for public release. If anyone ever did a remake, I'd watch it.
That said, though, this really was just a bunch of friends making a film together on weekends over the summer. I know that because I acted in one like that when I was living in Japan. Ours looked better. (We didn't have music, mind you, but there are scenes here where the music really isn't helping.) The acting will make you laugh aloud sometimes, but to be honest it's usually okay. It's the director who's most obviously no pro. The editing annoyed me, even though I'm a know-nothing who couldn't employed as an editor to save my life. (The director cuts away too quickly from key moments, simply because they've reached the last line of the scene in the script.) There's also not a single smooth camera movement throughout the film.
Scenes will almost never take the point of view of a protagonist, instead looking as if the director was just happy to get the scene in the can with the actors doing what he'd told them in front of a camera. That's why you won't remember anyone. It'll be hard to realise that you've seen a particular actor in an earlier scene, because the film's not competent enough to get that information into your head.
There's sort-of-maybe nudity. They come close, through frosted glass or something, but I'd never expect the full monty in something like this. This is mildly amusing in the long-ish sequence where the protagonist's naked in the bathroom.
There's CGI! It's surprisingly effective, actually, but the practical gore effects are, uh, not best.
There's one scene where the picture quality's all washed out and the sound breaks. It looks as if they shot it on a 1970s home cine camera and then left the footage in a garage. In another film, you'd think the director was being arty. Here, I'm afraid I just assumed they'd had recording problems on the day, but then just used the footage anyway. (That's not even the only scene with a sound break, by the way.)
This film is a bizarre combination of essential incompetence and explosive Junji Ito ideas. Messed up doll. Messed up doll-making methods. It's also surprisingly watchable, since most bad movies are at least pretending to be a real film. This isn't. You know what it is within sixty seconds and you can relax into it. There are also some bits of direction I genuinely like, with a flexibility that comes from the production team all just having fun. There's a moment where they speed up the camera and turn the soundtrack into babble, for semi-comedic effect, while there's some music at one point in the finale that's so inappropriate that I think it might have been meant to be funny. Mind you, my attention drifted a bit during some of that finale, which crosses the line between being surreal and just being incoherently shot.
Experiencing this film is like being the director's friend and watching it with him on his sofa. Thinking like that, I'm fond of it. I can see all the effort that went into this film and I think everyone involved did really well. However that's measuring on the "Sitting On My Mate's Sofa" scale.