Published Oct 18, 2016Creepy is a tight, tense thriller that makes great use of lingering long takes and light and darkness to tell a story about the evil trapped within the everyday hiding just beneath normalcy. It highlights the way that small behavioural tics or cues, little things that seem "off," can attest to a more sinister agenda that lies under the veneer of politeness.
After retiring from the force due to a traumatic incident, former detective Koichi Takakura (Hidetoshi Nishijima) moves into a new neighbourhood with his wife Yasuko (Yuko Takeuchi), and takes on a position as a criminology professor at a local university. Determined to make nice with their new, standoffish neighbours, Yasuko eventually befriends the odd, socially awkward Mr. Nishino (Teruyuki Kagawa) and his teenage daughter Mio.
Meanwhile, Takakura begins to take an interest in an old cold case, the disappearance of a married couple and their son that only left daughter Saki remaining. As Takakura becomes more and more invested in helping Saki recall the events preceding her family's disappearance, neighbourly niceties come crashing down when it becomes obvious that something is seriously up with the Nishinos.
The film's secondary plot initially seems less interesting, but the typical detective story takes on a weirder, more sinister tone an hour in and begins tying everything together in the second act. There's a shift in tone here, as director Kiyoshi Kurosawa shifts the focus to a central villain, where the first half was a slower exploration of the falseness of societal niceties and the cracks that show in these facades. This has the effect of making Creepy feel like two different films, both tight, tense and engaging. The slow way people reveal their true colours here is ultimately more fascinating than a more standard, "charming and manipulative psychopath" story.
At 130 minutes, Creepy is a commitment, but a great, unhinged performance by Teruyuki Kagawa as Mr. Nishino keeps the film fascinating. Nishino is that person that everyone knows and cringes about, the guy who's just a little too loud, or a little too obnoxious, with a knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. A "creepy" feeling is not one of overall fright, but of an eerie uneasiness, and Kurosawa, a J-horror auteur that usually trades in more overt genre conventions, succeeds at provoking that feeling in the audience.