Door - US Release Review
Director: Banmei Takahashi
Starring: Keiko Takahashi, Daijirô Tsutsumi, Takuto Yonezu, Shirô Shimomoto
Written by: Ataru Oikawa, Banmei Takahashi
Produced by: Kôsuke Kuri
Cinematography by: Yasushi Sasakibara
Original Score by: Gôji Tsuno
After several strangely threatening calls from a local salesman, a homemaker becomes increasingly afraid to answer her apartment door.
Originally released in Japan in 1988, Banmei Takahashi's shocking home invasion thriller finally got a US screening last month at Fantastic Fest and also screens in the UK later this month at Grimmfest.
Keiko Takahashi stars as Yasuko Honda, a housewife who for all intents and purposes is as perfect as can be. She lives with her workaholic husband Satoru and her little boy Takuto in an urban high rise apartment building. One morning after dropping Takuto off to school, she returns home to a plethora of spam phone calls and unsolicited knocks on her apartment door. It becomes overwhelming for her and when a pushy salesman attempts to pass a flyer through the door while it's ajar, she slams it shut on his hand, crushing his fingers and causing some serious damage.
While there is definitely remorse in her eyes, there is also the subtle hint of exultation in the fact that she has stood up for herself. That soon passes when the salesman returns and chooses violence, kicking the door repeatedly in a malevolent and robotic fashion. Eventually after a series of threats, he makes his way inside the apartment and Yasuko's nightmare truly begins.
Much of the film's runtime is devoted to Yasuko's internal paranoia, which is built up slowly and precisely and creates a backstory to her character that is never fully realised. She's the perfect housewife but perhaps there's something truly missing in her life. It's teased that her obsession with her locked door might potentially be the result of a prior incident and to paraphrase a line from a famous western pop song, her loneliness is killing her. When Yamakawa the salesman enters the apartment, part of me first thought that it was some sort of perverse role-play. But it is not and what plays out is a weird, psychosexual dramedy, which then jumps from nought to sixty in the blink of an eye into an explosion of gory goodness in the finale.
Although some of the music choices feel bizarre to begin with at times they actually add to the uneasiness of the situation. And I'm a big fan of the overuse of foley so the sound design put a huge smile on my face. Takahashi manages to create something otherworldly and uncanny even though most of the film is set within the confines of the apartment. We never fully understand the layout of the apartment and it all feels a bit labyrinthine, which only adds to the claustrophobia and desperation during the more intense chase scenes. The acting is a bit campy but by the end I was really cheering on Keiko and her performance.
'Door' feels like Takahashi's love letter to the Giallo. There's no mysterious masked killer of course but there is the highly sexually motivated crime and of course a very, large, sharp knife. And there's plenty of homages to the likes of Argento and company. Takahashi loves to linger on a shot a little longer than necessary, a trait I love to see in filmmakers. There's a few shots here where we hang about longer than expected and it really adds to the sense of fear and confusion and just reiterating the overall smothering atmosphere. And there's a glorious long sequence shot from above inside the apartment that was kinda breathtaking and definitely influenced the likes of James Wan.
As mentioned above, most of the film is all about the set-up to the finale and then when the finale hits, it really hits hard. We get a lovely nod to Kubrick's 'The Shining' before the shit really hits the fan and in glorious B-movie fashion a chainsaw is introduced that of course comes back into the fray at the very end.
'Door' isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination but it's simple premise and gradual, intense build help to make the big pay off at the end all worth it and rightly claiming the moniker of a cult classic.
- Gavin Logan
'Door' streams exclusively on SCREAMBOX October 24th