True J-horror fans will probably shudder at the thought of yet another lacklustre ghost story, and sadly The Complex (2013) is just that. Hideo Nakata was a seminal figure in the rise of the modern Japanese horror film, with Dark Water and the acclaimed Ringu franchise both having the dubious honour of receiving inferior Hollywood remakes. However, the return of Nakata with The Complex could be regarded as the final nail in the coffin for this tired and suitably lifeless foreign sub-genre. More desperate still is the casting of star Atsuko Maeda as your typical horror protagonist; innocent, jumpy and an adept at the wide-eyed scream.
Much of The Complex’s air of unoriginality can be levelled at the ghastly apparitions that creep and crawl throughout – there’s an atmosphere of desperation to proceedings that seems wholly unintended. If you’ve seen Nakata’s far superior Dark Water, the likelihood is you will feel like you have already seen this story played out a hundred times before. Within minutes of the film’s painfully long runtime, the storyline has striking similarities, revolving as it does around a conventional haunted apartment block with a long forgotten and buried history awaiting discovery. The Complex isn’t necessarily a bad film if taken in isolation from Nakata’s past outings, but fails to deliver anything particularly fresh or new almost a decade on.
In short, The Complex is exactly the kind of conventional J-horror that Tartan’s now defunct Asia Extreme label would have released during its boom – a derivative genre film that pales in comparison to the breakout titles. It’s all efficiently filmed by Nakata, with a solid if conventional premise – scenes of the decrepit old man back from the dead are enough to send a shiver down the spines of even the most hardened of horror fans – but savour this shiver as this is all that can be expected from this tired and clichéd trudge. Nakata has an enviable track record as a talented and groundbreaking chiller director. It’s unfortunate, then, that The Complex is not only highly forgettable, but all the more disappointing considering Nakata’s credentials.
Natasha Harmer (CUEAFS)