Mari Asato spins a new take on the well-worn theme of of doppelgängers in this creepy thriller. Bilocation is about an aspiring painter named Shinobu (Asami Mizukawa) and the harrowing discovery that she has an identical self who is traipsing around the city with a completely different will and in a parallel existence, totally unaware that she is just an apparition of the real copy.
Shinobu is a loner, preferring to spend her time in her studio painting, hoping to produce the perfect piece to enter into a local art competition that she believes will jumpstart her career. She obsessively tries to get certain details of her work to look just right, but something seems amiss. Her mostly solitary and predictable life is interrupted when she is arrested on charges of using counterfeit notes for payment at a store, something she vehemently denies even when shown the security camera footage of the dirty deed.
Eventually, with a tip from a local detective and resident expert on the phenomenon of “bilocation”, she finds out about the existence of her double self and gains entry to a secret support group for people with pesky doppelgänger problems. There, they share their stories and offer advice. One of the most important thing to remember, say the rest of the group, is not to come into contact with the other self, lest grave dangers occur. And so begins the cat and mouse chase that takes up most of the story-line of the film.
The film has an intriguing premise, enhanced by clever editing and a convincingly chilling atmosphere to boot, although some of the chase-a-roo action scenes venture a bit too much into the horror cliche territory à la Scream and certain logic-based details are not fully fleshed out. The opening sequence of the film is very nicely done, offering eerie special effects and a sinister backstory on the history of bilocation (which, by the way, is well documented by the Catholic church and those interested in the occult). The phenomenon of bilocation, as the film’s theory posits, occurs when there are disharmony and conflicting feelings within oneself, so the existence of a bilocated twin is really just a manifestation of one’s deep desire to be someone else.
This concept is worked into the screenplay so insidiously and skillfully that the audience slowly comes to realize that what is thought of to be true may not actually be the case. But then again, maybe it is, and the film is just trying to pull a fast one on us. In this regard, Bilocation succeeds in arousing the viewer’s feelings of self-doubt almost to match the protagonist’s confusion and disbelief whenever new twists are revealed.
Ultimately, Bilocation is more of a psychological drama of Freudian proportions requiring a bit more narrative disentanglement on the part of the audience than a scary ghost story. Although I left the cinema slightly rattled by the disturbingly deadpan stares of the glassy-eyed, evil-looking doubles, I also thought a lot about how all of us can sometimes be a bit too hard on ourselves, pondering endlessly on the what-ifs and could-have-beens in life. And we sometimes wish we were better, braver or smarter and had a different life. This film is sort of the cinematic equivalent of that warning, “be careful what you wish for because it might just come true”…
Competing in an arena primarily dominated by men directors, young film-maker Asato’s second feature is easily as good as any in its genre among Asian films, if not one of the better ones. It rises above the tired tropes that can be found in Asian horror films of the last 2 decades (if I never see another scary looking pale Asian ghost kid or menacingly dark waters, it will be too soon). Bilocation is a good choice as the popcorn, stay-in weekend night film, especially during the winter months.