There have been many entries of J-horror ever since the success of "Ringu" in the U.S., not to mention an overabundance of Asian horror remakes. Before this film does officially get massacred by Hollywood, (it has been marked for remake hell) I thought it may be the best time to review this piece of Japanese horror. J-Horror theater 2: PREMONITION (aka. YOGEN, 2004) is based on the manga by Jiro Tsunoda called "Kyofu Shimbun" (Newspaper of Terror). Directed by Norio Tsurata, the film does have a somewhat nostalgic feel to it, similar to the 60's TV show "Twilight Zone"; which wouldn't be surprising since the Japanese comic became popular in the 1970's.
Newspapers are used to tell the past, but for a few unlucky individuals, they foretell the future. When Hideki (Hiroshi Mikami) picked up a piece of a newspaper that foretells his daughter‘s death, he is so puzzled as to what this piece of paper meant and before he realizes what is happening, he is too late to save her.
After the accident, Hideki and his wife Ayaka (beauteous Noriko Sakai, Ju-On 2), divorced and they go their separate ways. Three years have passed, Ayaka had been researching this strange phenomena with the aid of a medium, Prof. Mikoshiba (Kazuko Yoshiyuki) while Hideki fears that if he picks up a newspaper, he will see death. Nonetheless, Hideki begins foretelling ill-omened fate of murder to train crashes, there is nothing Hideki can do to stop the events…or is there? Now, Hideki and Ayaka must find others who have experienced this mysterious phenomenon, in hope of finding an answer. Little do they know that they will be changing their lives forever….
The film does have a good plot and even references the famous psychic Chizuko Mifune, the medium who was discovered by a spiritualistic professor and who later committed suicide. The direction by Norio Tsurata is quite competent but somehow I think his style does push the film a bit to human drama than towards chilling horror. Tsurata steer the film towards a melodramatic approach and while I appreciate that he took the time to flesh out his characters, some viewers may take it as a way to divert the film from its horrific premise. Still, the film does have a number of intense scenes that are both chilling and unnerving. The film does take its time, which helps its script as it builds credibility through its screenplay.
The film's cinematography is polished and stylized. Although some of the CGI effects does look a little cheesy at times. Despite its faults, the ominous music and the nicely paced sequences do assist the film in entertaining me. I am a bit put off by Hiroshi Mikami's performance, he was trying a bit too hard to act terrified. Fortunately, Noriko Sakai is around to bail him out. Sakai is a great actress and quite a treat to look at.
Now about the plot. The film focuses more on the phenomena's investigation rather than scenes after scenes of deaths and accidents. Most of the violence happen off camera, Hideki and Ayaka does take center stage. While the couple obsesses in finding the secret of the "Fear Newspaper", they slowly find themselves becoming attached to each other again. The secret of Rei Kigat and the 13-year old boy who aged into an old man within 6 months are the film's major selling points. These scenes are very unnerving as they become revealed as I got closer to the film's climax.
The good thing about "Yogen" is that the film does have a solid plot and the rules of the film does have a lot of credibility and answers its own questions. True, the film's script does contain some of the usual histrionics, but I do think "Premonition" is a very good film. The film is nicely paced and pleasingly well-rounded. It contained quite a few surprises and avoids cheap scares. No, there is no long-haired ghost in pale make-up on this one. The film focuses on its characters, its mystery and it's logic does make a whole lot of sense when you put it all together. Rei Kigat and Hideki's fates are quite credible, but it also opens some questions.
This is the type of film that the less you know about it, the better the experience will be. Tsurata is to be commended that he managed to generate a feeling of intrigue and genuine creepiness in the film. The film's internal logic and unusual surprises managed to keep me interested for its entirety, despite Mikami's overdone performance. Noriko Sakai is real nice to look at.
Whenever you touch a newspaper, do you notice the ink getting on your fingers? You won't look at it the same way again.
Highly Recommended! [4 Stars]
What did you think of this review?