Two Thrillers from Tartan Video
Doppelganger (March 30/05)
Though Doppelganger features a seemingly foolproof premise - a man comes home one evening to find his double waiting for him - filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa nevertheless manages to screw it up, imbuing the movie with an oppressively slow pace and characters that aren't interesting in the least. Kôji Yakusho stars as Michio Hayasaki, an inventor whose latest creation - a device that will allow paralyzed men and women to regain some mobility - will surely bring him fame and fortune, though problems arise when his aforementioned doppelganger arrives (the double is loud and boorish, where Michio is quiet and reserved). Instead of allowing the story to unfold in a natural, organic manner, Kurosawa turns the film into an existential morality play - with the various characters questioning the very meaning of their existence (think Bergman, except with sporadic instances of graphic violence). As a result, Doppelganger quickly becomes an interminable experience - something that's exacerbated by a third act that's at least half-an-hour too long.
Phone (February 24/05)
Phone is a typically baffling Asian horror flick revolving around a possessed cell phone and (surprise!) a creepy, long-haired little girl. Though the film is actually quite effective in its first hour - director Ahn Byong Ki infuses the proceedings with a hefty dose of style, peppering the story with some genuinely disturbing moments - Phone becomes progressively more and more difficult to follow, particularly as the movie begins to blur the line between reality and fantasy. It certainly doesn't help that the storyline is extremely reminiscent of Ringu's, with the central character a journalist investigating a mysterious death (which is later connected to the demonic cellphone). Not content to simply present the viewer with a ghost story, screenwriters Ahn Byong Ki and Lee Yu-Jin throw in a variety of utterly superfluous elements - including a pointless subplot featuring a psychopath and his obsession with the reporter. Had the film eschewed all these superfluous elements, it just might have been a creepy little flick - though as it is, that's certainly not the case.