22nd Jul2019

Fantasia 2019: ‘Stare’ Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Marie Iitoyo, Yu Inaba, Shota Sometani | Written and Directed by Hirotaka Adachi

stare-poster

The first film I watched from this year’s Fantasia Festival was a J-Horror sequel in the form of Sadako. My latest viewing is a movie that is heavily influenced by the best crop of J-horror in the late nineties and early two thousands, Stare.

In the same style as those J-Horror movies, we follow a couple of friends who are linked through some gruesome and surprising deaths. People’s eyeballs are exploding from them and autopsies are showing that the victims had heart attacks. But even when the murdered had someone standing right next to them at the point of death, no-one is exactly sure how they are happening. But we join a few main characters who start to investigate the deaths.

Stare wears its obvious influences on its sleeve. There’s no hiding the fact that the film-makers are fans of movies such as Ringu, Dark Water and The Grudge. But this isn’t a problem, if you’re movie is going to be shaped by ones you love, then make it ones that are great movies! The story will feel very familiar to fans of the genre. We have a creepy long haired girl/woman, we have mysterious deaths that are very similar with each victim and we have characters slowly working out what is happening and how they will break the ‘curse’. As a fan of J-Horror it did actually feel good going back to this movie outline.

The pacing is slow but never boring. The death scenes come pretty regularly and are pretty shocking despite holding back on the gore a little (we still know that eyeballs are exploding! ). The long haired woman with no eyes isn’t quite as scary as the description might suggest. Unfortunately the ‘look’ doesn’t quite work as well as I would have liked, looking a bit too ordinary. I did like the use of a single sound though (again not original). The quiet bell chime to signal evil is on its way is nicely put into the story. Speaking of which I quite liked the folklore back-story that is retold several times throughout – the actual re-tellings are well acted and shot, with the hand motions as important as the words . It reminded me of when I was much younger and you used to tell stories with your friends at night. Stories that are almost definitely made up by someone a very long time ago but believable when you’re a young teenager.

Despite doing many things right, and I preferred this to the aforementioned Sadako, Stare isn’t quite as polished or terrifying enough to sit alongside the Japanese genre classics. The score isn’t memorable enough, the acting is fine but not fantastic and there’s nothing that genuinely frightened me. It doesn’t create enough of an atmosphere.

Fans of similar types of films will no doubt get plenty of enjoyment from Stare and watching it with a group of like-minded friends in a dark room might add some much needed tension, making this ghost story just about worth your while.

*** 3/5

Stare screened on Weds 17th July 2019 as part of this years Fantasia International Festival.

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