Hideo Nakata is famed for bringing into the world some of film’s truly darkest horror creations. None more so than 1998’s Ring, and no, not the dumbed-down-over-obvious-Hollywood-Naomi-Watts-screaming version but the genuinely terrifying Japanese original. It seems the years haven’t been kind to Nakata, his powers of darkness clearly having faded, as his latest offering The Complex sadly proves.
Watching Sadako crawl out of the TV for the first time in Ring is up there amongst the scariest moments in movie history, with some of the others also coming from that same film. Unfortunately, it can’t be said any of that horror magic remains in The Complex. Whatsoever.
It may be that having a child as the scariest element in a horror film is just old hat. A 35 year-old hat, in fact. As 1979’s seminal masterpiece The Exorcist did it beyond comparison and again a year later with Kubrick’s psychological game-changer The Shining. It seems to have become a genre unto its own: a creepy child being creepy supposedly creeping people out. But is that really enough anymore to send shivers down our spines? Watching The Complex, apparently not.
The opening half hour is pretty solid, building some nice tension as we learn that Asuka, played by Atsuko Maeda, and her family have moved into a haunted apartment building. Asuka starts to hear noises coming from the other side of her bedroom wall but when she goes to investigate she discovers far more than she bargained for. It’s just, if you heard creepy noises coming from next door, why would the first thing you’d do be to go take a look? OK, it’s a horror film but we’ve seen it all before and, as a saturated genre, horror needs to be more original and inventive than this.
Maeda does a valiant job bringing this lost young woman to life, and can’t be faulted for effort, but there’s not enough around the character to make her struggle emotive and the terror palpable. There is a semi-intelligent twist (albeit fairly easy to see coming) and interesting camera perspectives to keep you engaged but when the major scares are just an old guy in prosthetics and a small child looking evil then there isn’t really enough to give you the willies. Even when watching alone and with the lights out. Not good enough for a modern horror movie, especially a Japanese one. Sorry.