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MOVIE REVIEW: Room Laundering (2018)

MOVIE REVIEW: Room Laundering (2018)

Room Laundering (2018) / Fair use doctrine.If you were told you were about to watch a film that is one-part Beetlejuice and one-part The Frighteners but produced by a Japanese filmmaker, would it leave you wondering how something like that could possibly work and what kind of hot mess you’d be left with unspooling before your very cynical eyeballs? The answer, in this case, is co-writer/director Kenji Katagiri’s Room Laundering, a quirky, geeky, unexpectedly charming ‘dramedy’ about grief, loss, coming of age, and finally coming into your own against all of the obstacles that life happens to throw your way…oh, and yeah, it has a few ghosts in it.

Co-written with Tatsuya Umemoto, Room Laundering is the usual story about a very unusual twenty-year-old girl named Mitsuko, “Miko” for short (the winsome Elaiza Ikeda, who could be the Japanese version of Winona Ryder’s Lydia Deetz.) Seemingly dogged by bad luck, after her father died and her mother disappeared when she was a kid, she grew up with her grandmother, who also promptly kicked the bucket when Miko was eighteen. Being the only family she has left, her uncle, Goro (Joe Odagiri) takes her in, and also puts her to work for him in a rather…strange enterprise.

You see, there’s a regulation that says if any untimely deaths take place inside a residence, any potential tenants who intend to move in must be informed of the event. Nobody said WHEN they have to be told, so in order to avoid the money-losing possibility of having people not move into your place at all, you talk to Goro, who then has Miko move in, live there for a time and then leave, giving the place a new lease on life as a rental (no pun intended.) The process is nicknamed “room laundering,” similar to money laundering, but it’s dealing with properties instead.

Oh, and one other wrinkle, by the way – the tenants can’t see or communicate with the restless spirits of the late tenants in these places…but Miko can. (A silly duck lamp, a gift from Miko’s childhood, serves as the indicator of when spirits are present.) Which has resulted in her having very little communication or relationships with living people – not that she minds all that much. The life of being a nomadic medium of sorts seems to suit her, thank you very much.

Things seem to change radically for Miko, however, with the latest two “hauntings” she’s had to deal with. The first is the spirit of a goofy dead punk-rocker named Kimihiko (Kiyohiko Shibukawa), who slit his wrists in the bathtub of one of the places that Miko is ‘laundering’ (and his injuries make for a gross if hysterically funny Tim Burtonesque sight gag).

The second and more serious case is the next apartment, which finds Miko dealing with something she hasn’t before: a murder victim. The ghost in question here is that of Yuki Chikamoto (Kaoru Mitsumune), an office worker who threw herself into cosplay and social media in her off-hours. It’s her gruesome murder (shown mostly offscreen) that opens the movie and her style of haunting that’s closest to what we’ve come to expect in J-horror films like The Grudge and The Ring. But even that is handled with a lighter-than-expected touch by Katagiri.

Miko’s encounters with the murdered ghost of Yuki also brings Yuki’s next-door neighbor Akito (Kentaro) into her orbit. Guilt-ridden by his lack of concern for his former neighbor, grocery store manager Akito has no plans to make the same mistake twice, and in spite of his awkwardness around her, remains determined to get to know Miko a bit better, even though she herself is sworn not to break the number one commandment of her ‘job’, which is “no fraternization with the neighbors.”

To say that Akito changes everything for Miko is a complete understatement. As he begins to gradually break down her barriers, she starts to emerge from the shell of her ‘weird’ existence, discovering that dealing with the living really isn’t as bad as all that…until, of course, the subplot kicks in, where she finally decides to go above and beyond the call of her usual duties to help out both Kimihiko and Yuki, which brings the movie to a tense-yet-funny, and finally satisfying conclusion.

Neither quite as ‘out-there’ as Beetlejuice nor as intense as Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners, Room Laundering takes a more sentimental approach to the like-minded material. Katagiri’s empathy for his characters really shows here, revealing a bit at a time, the layered personalities of each one. Even the supposedly nihilistic Kimihiko and the allegedly self-absorbed Yuki are shown to be a lot more sympathetic than one would think from first impressions.

Especially funny and touching are the interactions that Miko has with the ghost of a dead former classmate and friend, who has the sensibilities of a horny twenty-something man, trapped forever in the form of the grade-schooler he was when he was hit by a car and killed.

The most surprising aspect of the film is how it expresses a belief in the humanity of the living, and yes, even the dead, just when you think that the world is little more than a revolving, never-ending ball of ‘suck.’

The performances are engaging, and the story, though familiar, does a good job of keeping you guessing about characters’ intentions and just exactly how and where Yuki will end up. Katagiri’s direction is sure-footed, as he manages to walk that thin line between pathos and having things become way too maudlin to enjoy.

Room Laundering gets a very solid three-and-a-half out of five stars from me, with a strong recommendation to those who usually avoid J-horror as being too “gross” or “creepy”.


Posted by Samuel Glass in COMING SOON, FAMILY HORROR, HORROR COMEDIES, MOVIE REVIEWS, PARANORMAL, 0 comments
Geena Davis cast in small screen adaptation of classic The Exorcist

Geena Davis cast in small screen adaptation of classic The Exorcist

By Kev B. 

geena-davis

What an excellent day for an exorcism! It’s the Captain Howdy show!

The Exorcist is known to be one of the greatest, most beloved, and iconic horror films ever. The book it was based on is considered required reading for any serious fan of modern horror literature. It is number 3 on the American Film Institutes list of 100 most thrilling films, after #1. Psycho and #2. Jaws. It was one of the first 3 movies I ever owned (along with A Nightmare on Elm Street and A Clockwork Orange) back in the 80’s when my parents finally gave in and got a VCR. It’s a piece of horror history, and has been praised by some of the harshest critics as being a nearly perfect film.

Then why would anyone want to remake or re-imagine it? I assume because they’re money hungry and they’ve run out of original ideas, but we already knew that. They remade Psycho shot for shot, in color, with Vince Vaughn as Norman. More recently, and as part of horrors resurgence on television, they remade (another classic) Rosemary’s Baby into a mini-series with Zoe Saldana in Mia Farrow’s role. Not sure why, but they did. Norman has his own show Bates Motel, and Ash fights the Evil Dead weekly also, both of which I personally love. I believe Hannibal has been canceled last I heard, and I haven’t seen Damien yet, but for some reason I’m not too optimistic about that one.

The Exorcist has been the subject of discussion for a re-whatever for quite some time now.. Most recently it was rumored to be getting a big screen remake, but news just broke and it turns out we are getting a pilot episode for a series or mini-series. Details are vague at best, but everywhere I looked I found the following copied and pasted on every entertainment site I checked.

“a modern reinvention inspired by William Peter Blatty’s original book, The Exorcist is a propulsive, serialized psychological thriller following two very different men tackling one family’s case of horrifying demonic possession, and confronting the face of true evil.”

The good news is, Geena Davis is supposedly in a starring role as Angela Rance: (more copy and paste) Naturally beautiful, regal and proud but weighed down by stress, Angela does everything she can to stay positive and keep her faith even though her family is currently struggling. She can’t help but think, however, if perhaps her nightmares about a demon are a sign of what’s wrong.

Geena Davis

Now most of us old farts fell in love with her in the mid-80’s when we met her as Odette in Transylvania 6-5000 and opposite Jeff Goldblum’s Brundlefly in David Cronenberg’s classic re-make of The Fly. Oh, and obviously Beetlejuice and Earth Girls are Easy. Her long list of accomplishments include, of course acting, film producer, writer, former fashion model, Olympics archery team semi-finalist, and a member of Mensa. Yep, all that and she’s smart too.

Now, as I said, details are scarce so this is all I could find at this time. As more news is released, we will keep you posted here at House of Tortured Souls...

Posted by Alan Smithee in CAST AND CREW NEWS, HORROR NEWS, WOMEN IN HORROR, 0 comments
HALLOWEEN HORRORS: Sleepy Hollow (1999)

HALLOWEEN HORRORS: Sleepy Hollow (1999)

By John Roisland

Sleepy Hollow poster

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a story that I hold very true to my heart. People always ask, "What movie was it that got you into horror so much?" It wasn't a movie at all; it was a story that was read to me as a very young child at a public library at a fall festival, and yes it was in New York state, where our legend just happened to have taken place. I can still remember the tone and descriptions given by the reader, the sound of the wind blowing outside on a late fall afternoon, the smell of cinnamon and burning leaves as I was enthralled in this (new to me) classic tale of horror.

From that day forward, I, like every child, looked forward to Halloween, but even more, I looked forward to listening or even watching a cartoon movie short in school of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

In 1999 filmmaker, Tim Burton brought to us on the big screen, his vision of this tale with Sleepy Hollow. Love him or hate him, Burton's work is always extremely imaginative , and dark to say the least. Burton's version is one that I do quite enjoy. Although parts of the tale have been changed. For example, our lead character "Ichabod Crane" in earlier versions, is portrayed as a school master who is trying to win the hand of a young lady, "Katrina Von Tassel", who is haunted and attacked on his way home from a town party. In Burton's adaptation of the classic tale, they are introduced as Crane's character first arrives in Von Tassels small town sent by New York City authorities to investigate a murder - a murder caused by an alleged headless horsemen who rides the stormy nights on his steed seeking revenge on those who killed him. One by one, the headless horsemen runs down his victims, beheading them, just as he is.

Burton's change of storyline slightly from the original American version of the folk lore and in my opinion works beautifully! The story flows and actually helps to make for interesting turn of events through the film. As mentioned, Burton's films always have a dark overtone to them, this time the cinematography is just as dark and is incredible! Set in the fall of the late 1700s, the scenes are dark, dismal, yet beautiful all at the same time! The settings, the props, the outfits, and especially the cloud covering for a northern fall season, are like none I've seen executed nearly as well.

 

The film's run time is 105 minutes and carries an R rating. The film stars:

Johnny Depp (Sweeny Todd, Edward Scissorhands, Tusk) as our hero Ichabod Crane, yes, yet another Depp /Burton film!

Christina Ricci (Monster, Black Snake Moan, The Addams Family)

Miranda Richardson (Empire of the Sun, The Phantom of the Opera (2004), The Crying Game)

Sir Michael Gambon (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Gosford Park)

Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers)

Jeffrey Jones (The Hunt for Red October, Beetlejuice, Ferris Bueller's Day Off)

Christopher Lee (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, To the Devil a Daughter)

Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter, Suicide Kings, The Prophecy, King of New York)

And let me tell you, Walken, who plays our dark horseback riding killer, is brilliant. Even though you only see Walken as the horsemen in the beginning and the ending because the rest of the story he has no damn head (could be anyone), but it was Walken, brilliant as always!

Headless Horseman

No matter how many times the story is altered or put the through the Hollywood shredder, this will always be my all time favorite horror story!

Posted by John Roisland in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments