“While stopped at a roadside phone booth for transmitting his work through the Internet to the university, Professor Hideki Satomi finds a scrap of newspaper with the picture of his still-living daughter, Nana, in the obituary section.” — IMDb
This was an interesting watch. It was originally released as part of a double feature alongside Masayuki Ochiai’s Infection, and is based loosely on Jirô Tsunoda’s manga The Newspaper of Terror.
I found that it had a super strong beginning — it pulled me right in — and a super strong ending, but the middle was a bit lacking and I felt like it meandered for a while.
The very first scene — starting off so innocent and happy and quickly descending into absolute terror and heartbreak — was extremely engaging. The confusion of Hideki (played by Hiroshi Mikami) when he finds the newspaper article, Nana (played by Hana Inoue) screaming for help — it was all so intense. But after that, when we got into more of the searching and the trying to find an answer, it got a bit diluted and I thought kind of soap opera-esque at times, with some pretty cheesy moments (like Ayaka, played by Noriko Sakai, saying “you can’t run away forever!” as Hideki, you guessed it, runs away, or their dramatic kiss as the scene fades out). There were a few good moments mixed in, for sure — like Hideki having the dream about hearing Nana’s voice outside his door and opening it to find her charred body — but I think it largely lost steam for a while.
I was torn about the characterization of the newspaper itself. There were times when it was a bit corny — moaning, dissolving into smoke — but other times I thought it was truly cool how the newspaper was made to be this sentient being, intently following, purposeful. It made it less of just a random addition to the movie and almost a character in itself, which was cool.
The relationship between Hideki and Ayaka is heartbreaking — they obviously love each other deeply but were torn apart by tragedy. They have all of this bitterness and regret, but ultimately decide to overcome those things to work towards solving the mystery.
Really, the whole concept of having to decide which aspect of the premonitions you will succumb to — if you aren’t consumed by madness or illness you will be by guilt — is fascinating and terrifying. There’s no “good” choice, you just have to decide what will ultimately be your end.
After a while of some “meh” scenes, Hideki starts to go through this wild series of flashbacks. The whole process is disorienting — in a good way, really, and I think it’s important, but it is confusing at times to know which way is up. But he is forced back to the original experience — the accident that kills Nana — and while he tries to fix things, tries to find this magical combination where he can save both himself and his family, you are forced to walk alongside him in his frustration and heartbreak. His flashback to before the trip started, when he hugs Nana, is heart-wrenching… his emotion is just so real and palpable. But he realizes that the only way out is to sacrifice himself… and it’s a pretty wild ending, finishing off with not only him finally “resting” in a sense in his final decision, but leaving some mystery with the newspaper floating over Nana.
Again, I thought it lost some of its momentum in the middle — I wish it could have kept up the intensity — but it was ultimately a very clever, intelligent film.
Rating: 5/10 | Director: Norio Tsuruta | Writer: Noboru Takagi, Norio Tsuruta, Jirô Tsunoda (manga) | Music: Kenji Kawai | Starring: Hiroshi Mikami, Noriko Sakai, Hana Inoue, Maki Horikita, Kei Yamamoto