Marronnier(Elite Entertainment, 6.7.2005)
The first time I tried to watch this movie I found it nearly incomprehensible and, frustrated, turned it off after about half an hour. It took a few days for me to work myself up for a second attempt and the second time the movie drew me in a little more. I still couldn't find anything that resembled a coherent plotline but I figured that wasn't what writer/director Hideyuki Kobayashi was interested in developing. This is really a series of loosely connected, violent vignettes.
While most J-horror films have a slow, dreamlike quality that drips with atmosphere, Marronnier is edited so fast and is so full of seemingly pointless tricks -- even something as simple as the main characters brushing their teeth can't just simply play out -- that mood and atmosphere become something of an impossible dream.
So if you don't have atmosphere and you don't have much of a plot, where can you go from there? Well, if you have a bunch of crazy, gory scenes that involve puppets, mad-scientist types, cute young Japanese girls and the demented stalkers that love them, that can eventually begin to gel into something.
But it takes a while for that to happen and I began to wonder if I'd ever make it to the end of the movie's brief (80 minute) running time. And because the movie is so light on plot, it just kind of ends. I'm a fanatic when it comes to horror movies, especially Asian horror movies. So, if this movie was an endurance tester for me, imagine how it will play for casual fans or newcomers to this genre.
There is one thing that I really enjoyed on the disc, however: a short film titled Legends of the Marronnier, which is sort of a kung-fu battle played out by the titular dolls. And the interview with Junji Ito, who designed the dolls, is interesting. You can see him really taking the time to develop some personality for his design sketches. It's just too damn bad the director didn't let his film do the same thing. -- Christopher Hyatt