After taking the film world by storm with his terrifying and (at the time) unique Ringu, J-Horror master Hideo Nakata has continued to plumb the depths of the now extremely prolific sub-genre to varied results. His latest attempt is The Complex, which promised to be somewhat of a return to form for the director, however that sadly isn’t the case.
The story centres on a young woman named Asuka (Atsuko Maeda) who moves into a new apartment complex (hence the title) with her parents and little brother. But soon after moving in she starts hearing strange, often unexplainable noises coming from the apartment next door. Things starts spiralling out of control when she decides to find out who lives there as well as forming an unlikely friendship with a local boy she finds playing outside by himself.
Save for a couple of decent scares here and there, The Complex is as underwhelming as it is derivative, never able to escape the genre trappings and cliches expected of these films. There’s also a curious misjudgment of tension that leaves the film feeling rather dull and lifeless for a lot of its runtime. It starts off well enough as it establishes Asuka and her family making themselves at home, holding back much happening in an attempt to create suspense.
Unfortunately it’s weirdly lacking on much of that suspense as from then on a we’re left with long stretches of time where just not much happens. It’s a horror after all and therefore we should be plenty scared but when you get to the half way point and there’s maybe only been one or two moments of any real note then we have a pacing issue that ultimately kills the film as a whole.
As it goes it on we see that not all is as it seems when it comes to Asuka and her seemingly idyllic family. But the plot development, as well as any attempts at scares, seem all too familiar to anyone who’s seen a J-Horror before. There’s at least an attempt at something meaningful throughout, as it deals with themes of regret, sadness and even mental illness but none of it really resonates. It builds to bombastic and striking finale which sends you off on a high more than any of what came before but as whole it’s just not satisfying as a horror and will be disappointing to fans of Nakata hoping for him to deliver something substantial again.
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