October 23, 2008

Infection (2004)

During Bravo’s special The 100 Scariest Movie Moments, director Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel) said that all good horror films these days were coming from Asian cinema. And while the creepy Japanese import Infection does have some head-scratching moments, its overall ability to get under your skin makes it worthwhile viewing — and gives Roth’s statement some serious merit.

Infection opens with the distressed call of an ambulance looking for a hospital where they can bring their patient — a man who has an inexplicable virus spreading quickly throughout his skin and internal organs.

We’re then introduced to a nearby, rundown hospital where doctors Uozumi (Masanobu Takashima) and Akiba (Koichi Sato) oversee a small night-shift staff. When an inexperienced nurse hands a doctor the wrong medicine to help a burn victim come out of shock, the patient dies — prompting the medical team involved to cover up the mistake for fear of legal action and loss of their livelihoods.

Meanwhile, the ambulance drops off the sickly patient, leaving the hospital to deal with him. While Uozumi and Akiba want to quarantine the patient, their ghoulish, robotic chief surgeon Akai (Shiro Sano) wants to dissect and analyze him, all in the name of becoming “pioneers.”

Before too long, the patient subdues the head nurse and escapes through the air vent into the remainder of the hospital, forcing the staff to track him down. The doctors and nurses who covered up the burn victim’s death are soon “infected” one by one by whatever made the ambulance patient its host.

Writer-director Masayuki Ochiai uses Infection’s rundown hospital as a metaphor for a haunted house — and for the most part, it works. There are scenes that are (to use a favorite phrase of mine) the stuff of nightmares: unknown figures in the shadows, bodies rising from under white sheets, etc. Ochiai also maintains Infection’s eerie atmosphere with long shots of empty, drearily lit hallways and rooms that are shrouded in a single color of dim light. Occasional shots from above and around corners give viewers an almost voyeuristic feel — and, in turn, make them feel closer to the terror. Lending additional spookiness is the piercing and ominous soundtrack, with staccato violin picks that reminded me of the score of the original Evil Dead.

Near the end of Infection, the film gets a bit muddled — the terror jumps from biological to psychological, and it trips on its own attempt at Something Deeper. However, this shift won’t override the earlier scary scenes you’ll have in your head for days to come.
Japanese, with subtitles.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5).

Will your kids want to see it?
Highly unlikely that your kids have heard of Infection, unless they’re teens and/or follow Asian horror. In both instances, they’d probably enjoy most of the film (again, the ending’s an ambiguous, confusing letdown). Keep Infection away from pre-teens and younger; there’s a lot here that could traumatize young minds.

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
If she likes to be scared and can deal with subtitles, this might be a good one to huddle up closely with her. Otherwise, you’re on your own, dear reader.

* Director: Masayuki Ochiai
* Writers: Ryoichi Kimizuka (story), Masayuki Ochiai (screenplay)
* Stars: Masanobu Takashima, Koichi Sato, Shiro Sano
* MPAA Rating: R (horror-related images and gore)

Buy this movie for less at Half.com >>


Kristin said...


P.S. I dare you to try to pronounce any of the cast members' names (although Shiro Sano *is* pretty cool).

Gemma said...

Ummm...I'd have to say no to this one. Eeewww. I still love your reviews, however!


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