The Neighbor No. 13 will have a sobering effect for those feeling queasy from the recent glut of J-Horror imports and knockoffs. The film isn’t very good, but it’s refreshing to see a director tell a story without the familiar noise of blinking lights and stringy-haired nymphets. Director Yasuo Inoue’s palette looks mean and grubby, as if it’s been chewed up, spit out, and stomped on by its maker—fittingly, a huge steaming loaf figures prominently in one scene as a scare tactic. Not nearly as messed up is the story, which has an almost improvisational feel—an account of how a young man, Juzo (Shun Oguri), moves into an apartment complex where the bully, Toru (Hirofumi Arai), who made his grade-school years miserable also lives with his wife and son. Is it coincidence or premeditation? The answer isn’t exactly clear. What is, though, is that Inoue has studied—and dumb-downed—his Lynch. Shortly after a cruel acid-to-the-face skirmish, Juzo develops an alter ego, No. 13 (Shidou Nakamura), with whom he hangs out in a subconscious red room. A manifestation of his psychological wounds, the blind-eyed No. 13 starts stepping out of Juzo’s headspace when the older Toru starts picking on Juzo at the construction site where they both work. No. 13’s squeals and moans might spook Leland Palmer, but Inoue’s grasp of psychology is hopelessly literal-minded. Bullies may recognize a cautionary tale here—all others will tap their fingers waiting for either Juzo or No. 13 to leave the other behind. The everydayness of the film’s violence is jarring, much of which occurs off-screen away from the prying eyes of the audience. It’s a smart move—infinitely headier than the mind of the film, which could have benefited from a backward-talking dwarf.
- Media Blasters
- 115 min
- Yasuo Inoue
- Hajime Kado
- Shidou Nakamura, Shun Oguri, Hirofumi Arai, Yumi Yoshimura, Tomoya Ishii, Minoru Matsumoto, Gekidan Hitori, Mitsuru Murata, Takashi Miike
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: