Ah, The Ring. The film that drew our collective attention to Japanese horror after being desensitised by rivers of blood and latex gore. It took a slow moving, internalised film to really bring back that sense of dread that made you sleep just that little less soundly than before. And we were hardly disappointed — soon what followed were films like Ring 2, Dark Water and The Grudge (though admittedly I wasn’t that big a fan of that last one, but have grown to appreciate it in later viewings). Of course, once we began the search for more true horror and the spotlight was shone into those dark corners haunting us, all we discovered were the shadows of what really was just the wind.
So we continued on, knowing that there really wasn’t a monster in the TV (or house or water tank) that just despised us and wanted us dead and we had a good laugh when a dismembered hand dialed the next victim’s phone…
Takashi Shimuzu knows this. So it is with Reincarnation. He asks us to look behind us once more — just in case. So we do, because we can feel that sense of wrongness in the air. How macabre is it that a historical and senseless tragedy of a mass murder is recreated for the sake of our entertainment? Do the ghosts of those who died cry for vengeance at the hubris of the desecration or do we truly reincarnate the tragedy with its recreation?
The rationalisation of a man who just one day decides to kill (and kill randomly) is one that escapes us in the day to day. It is almost reassuring that perhaps there is some justice in avenging ghosts and cosmic forces looking to rebalance the scales. Reincarnation relies on the hint that as long as one does the right thing, you don’t have to worry about vengeful ghosts — barring of course that you have good karma as well. And it is the randomness of karma that conscripts the lives of unconnected people into a vengeance plot generations old, that reflects the existential randomness of the tragedies of The Ring or The Grudge.
Once again the universe is a cold and hostile place and just because we know it is just the wind, doesn’t mean it likes us. Much of Reincarnation is an unfolding mystery of the past as much as it is generator of fear. The thrill of the slow unravel is a strong part of what makes this film worthwhile viewing. It is a worthy inheritor of a genre I had given up upon and a film worth thinking about if you’re serious about your horror.