Stars: Atsuko Maeda, Hiroki Narimiya, Masanobu Katsumura | Written by Junya Kato, Ryûta Miyake | Directed by Hideo Nakata
Review by Andrew MacArthur of Cinehouse
We should know better than to get excited when a once great horror director makes a back to basics comeback. It’s happened with John Carpenter (The Ward), George A. Romero (Survival of the Dead), Wes Craven (My Soul to Take), and Dario Argento (Dracula 3D), and now it is the turn of Japan’s own Hideo Nakata – the man behind Dark Water and Ringu. In a miraculous feat Nakata has managed to make a film worse than all those aforementioned combined.
The Complex follows a young nursing student (Maeda) who moves with her family into a derelict apartment block, which her friends claim is haunted. After being disturbed by eerie noises coming from her neighbour’s apartment it seems these claims may have some truth.
Nakata has made some of the most terrifying Japanese horror features in recent years, which makes The Complex and even more disappointing watch. Opening as an old-fashioned ghost story, The Complex sticks pretty close to the conventions of the genre – from strange noises in the middle of the night to shadowy figures appearing every so often. However, these scenes lack any of the tension or originality they deserve – failing to quicken the pace or enhance the horror of The Complex. As the narrative progresses the clichés continue to come thick and fast from dying old men to sinister children – many completely laughable in the bland way they are executed.
When The Complex does deviate from the conventions of the ghost film there are some great concepts to be found in Ryûta Miyake and Junya Kato’s screenplay. Traces of de ja vu begin to seep into Asuka’s daily life, resulting in a unsettling tone being established. This eventually leads to a look at the effects that grieving can have on the mental state, however, these come secondary to Nakata’s preference for traditional genre scares (ie. possessed children).
The main issue that The Complex simply is not scary. It lacks any tense edge of your seat moments or any originality in its set pieces. It’s not a terrible film – it is just a case of having seen almost everything before and on a superior level. This can result in The Complex becoming quite a tiresome and immediately forgettable watch.
Despite some intriguing concepts at its heart, The Complex is dull, generic and laughable at points. Sadly this is not the return to form that many thought Nakata would deliver.