Directed by: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (pictured above)
A jack-of-all trades within the film industry, Kiyoshi Kurosawa has tried his hand at nearly everything. Acting, directing, writing, producing, and even cinematography. While he may have drawn attention for sharing the same last name of Akira Kurosawa (no relation), this Kurosawa has built a reputation as a master of horror and suspense. Retribution demonstrates those two elements probably at their best, with each scene moving in a slow, dreadful (in a good, chilling way) pace. Up until the very end, the audience is made to sit at the edge of their seat, waiting for the scare or big reveal. Kurosawa’s crew generates all the trimmings of a “living nightmare”, guiding the audience through empty, souless rooms only to flash a shot of the ghoul in red we’ve all been too afraid to confront. I’ve always been more of a sucker for suspenseful films or movies that rely more on the “suggestion”. The way a scene is set up. The layout of the set. Using the atomsphere to build the tension instead of relying wholly on the actors and actresses to provide the scares. I truly believe a film about a haunted woodshed could be the scariest film ever produced if the same care were shown in regard to the set production. Set production value is an incredibly underrated aspect of movie making. On a unrelated note, the element in films probably taken for granted the most is the use of makeup. Seriously.
In addition to Retribution, Kurosawa has directed, written, or both in these following films: Tokyo Sonata, Loft, Kazuo Umezu’s Horror Theater: Bug’s House, Doppelganger, Bright Future, and Pulse. Like I mentioned earlier, this Kurosawa has built his reputation in the industry as a master of the horror genre.
This film begins with a murder, and as we soon learn there have been a number of murders that follow the same “M.O” (method of murder). Our lead character, Detective Yoshioka, is investigating the case along with his partner, Detective Miyaji. Some of their early findings are that the murdered have all been drowned in basically the same manner, with small differences. Some were bound, others drugged, and others gagged; however all were forced (head first) into a basin of seawater and drowned. The film takes on an interesting early turn when Yoshioka accidentally leaves his finger prints on the body of the corpse. Later the investigative lab reveals this and Yoshioka is nearly suspected as the killer before admitting to not wearing gloves while investgating the crime scene. It is this intitial suspiscion that gives the audience the impression that there may be more to Yoshioka than what meets the eye.
As time passes, sveral othere murders have been committed by various persons with seemingly nothing in common; each of whom killed their victims using the “seawater method”. Leads for the case start to end up going nowhere, and Yoshioka begins stressing over the case and searching for relief by spending time with his girlfriend, Harue. Another murder occurs, wherein the killer uses a special type of wire to bind the victim’s hands before the drowning. Yoshioka realizes that the building he stays in is one of the only establishments that still uses this type of wiring. At this point in the film, Yoshioka begins investigating the case alone, and secludes himself from his partner and others involved in the case. This is also the part of the film when Yoshioka starts getting visited by the ghost of a mysterious, red dress wearing spirit. An oddly tangible spirit. Anyway, the spirit begins haunting and blaming Yoshioka for her death, even after Yoshioka swears he doesn’t know who she is.
Later on in the film, it’s revealed to the audience that this same spirit has been haunting all of those who had killed people using the “seawater method”; and it’s later implied that the murders are the result of an overpowering desire to kill apparently brought on by the prescence of this “red spirit”.At this time, I’d like to apologize if I got some of the reasoning wrong, but the film forces the audience to fill in the blanks, Which at times was refreshing, but other times it made me question the writers even more so.
Without spoiling anything, the last 30 minutes of the film attempts to piece together the 3 parts it spends the whole movie revealing to us. As it does this, we soon see a “fourth piece” in the form of a major twist that fully seals the fate of Detective Yoshioka. Unfortunately the reveal and the falling action, during this third act, is delivered so haphazardly that some of the mystic is lost in translation. However, even with a confusing ending, random “spirit attacks human” scene, and storylines left up to the audience to figure out; this is a movie that deserves to be seen. Netflix it up, people.