FEARNET Movie Review: 'The Complex'


the complexOne does not criticize the Japanese filmmaker Hideo Nakata lightly. One of the godfathers of the J-horror craze (and one of the guys behind some of the best of those films), Mr. Nakata has certainly earned all the praise for Ring, Dark Water, and dozens of creepy short films. And it's not like his new feature, The Complex, is a poorly-made or uninteresting chiller... it just feels like a whole lot of "been there, done that, kinda playing it safe because that's smart business."

The Complex is about a family that moves into a creepy apartment building on the wrong side of the tracks, only to discover that their daughter is hearing noises. Mom and dad laugh it off. But when an old neighbor is discovered dead and Asuka's "welcome note" is found at his apartment, well... creepy stuff does happen eventually. That's how most J-horror films work: long set-up, some solid jolts, and something at the end just in case a sequel is required. 
There's always something to say for plain old Japanese craftsmanship. Even when The Complex is at its most uneventful, it's still a simply beautiful film to look at, and (to be completely fair) just when you think you know exactly where the film is headed, it makes a weird left turn and treads some new ground. Nothing groundbreaking, but at least The Complex avoids becoming another "body count" horror movie or an endless series of hallway wanderings. The young Atsuko Maeda is quite excellent, which helps the film immeasurably at both the dry and the creepy moments.
Not surprisingly, The Complex is at its best during moments of tension and suspense, but it feels slight and ineffectual when it comes to plot and characterization. At times The Complex feels almost episodic, as if it was once an anthology piece that got reconfigured into a straight narrative. Individual scenes and specific moments shine (and scare), but not much adds up to a satisfying "whole."
Call it a decent but strangely forgettable new paranormal thriller from a guy who could make this sort of movie in his sleep. There's too much skill and talent on display in The Complex to dismiss it outright, but let's just say it's the sort of flick the J-horror veterans might enjoy -- even if it won't enlist many new converts. I also expect an even more forgettable American remake to arrive within 18 months.