Pet Peeve (International Title) / Seeds of Anxiety (Japanese Title)
Romaji: Fuan no Tane
Release Date: July 20th, 2013
Running Time: 87 mins.
Director: Toshikazu Nagae
Writer: Masaaki Nakayama (Original Manga), Toshikazu Nagae (Screenplay)
Starring: Anna Ishibashi, Kenta Suga Koudai Asaka, Kanji Tsuda, Shimako Iwai, Kurea Mori, Hitomi Kurihara, Ryosuke Kawamura,
Pet Peeve is a really awful title for a film, any film, and it is best to pay attention to the Japanese one, Seeds of Anxiety (Fuan no Tane) which sums up the content perfectly.
Moving towns is something a lot of us go through and it can be daunting but spare a thought for a group of outsiders settling in the rather strange Funuma city.
Ryuuta is moving with his sister and parents to a nice house in the suburbs. Hauling boxes upstairs, he is greeted by the sight of a detached eyeball spying on him. This is the first of a number of strange things to invade his house…
In a nearby suburban street, a 23-year-old named Daiich (Asaka) is making a delivery. He discovers the strange sight of a teen named Seiji (Suga) half sticking out of a bush following a motorbike accident.
Six months before their meeting, both Seiji and Daiichi were new in town. Seiji was attending university and he even had a hot twenty-year-old girlfriend named Yoko (Ishibashi) who has strange powers. She warns Seiji about the dangers lurking in town.
Meanwhile, Daiichi scored a job at a restaurant where Yoko works. During his first week, against Yoko’s advice, he serves a strange and menacing guest wearing a hat and face mask and trench coat who does nothing but sit and stare. That very guest begins to stalk him and Daiichi who soon discovers more terrifying sights.
All three are connected but in what fashion, few will be able to guess…
Fuan no Tane is a horror film adapted from the 3 volume manga of the same name created by Masaaki Nakayama. The manga is a collection of very short stories that favour creating atmospheric tales over outright scares. In effect, these are a new set of urban legends for a new Japan. The manga never struck me as prime movie material because of its disjointed nature and lack of a strong hook but it has been adapted for the big screen by director Toshikazu Nagae, a man responsible for two films I found rather awful Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night and Ghost System. He follows the manga by adopting a sort of omnibus style full of weird tales and people that can be found in the city of Funuma.
“This town is a weird place…”
The city looks like your standard urban sprawl. The film’s locations include anonymous suburban streets with quiet houses, apartments stacked up around restaurants and roads that stretch into the distance. Look carefully and you will see stranger things like clouds that form the shape of outstretched and contorted bodies that dance around each other, prosthetic hands in garbage bags, eyeballs slipping and sliding around the streets, and ghosts that peer out of those dull houses mentioned earlier. Overlooking all of this is a menacing gas refinery that spews a constant stream of noxious-looking gasses.
Roaming in the streets,lurking in the houses and wandering along the roads are a strange set of people and creatures… They are worse than the eyeballs that wander around and spy on people. These creatures are a mixture of strange people with distorted bodies and twisted faces and are drawn from the manga: strange shadow people, a mysterious and hideous woman wielding a hammer, and other freakish denizens who wander around the town.
Why these places are strange, it is never explained, all we can do is sit back and watch the new-comers get terrorised.
“This town’s coming for me”
The film is heady stuff for horror fans who enjoy a weird atmosphere and a step up from Nagae whose previous films have been dull and flimsy. He neatly combines psychological horror with grotesque gore and a plot structure that loops around on itself brilliantly. There are a lot of interesting ideas and horror staples thrown in from body horror and time displacement and curses.
Nagae milks the most out of the fear of being observed by strangers with unknown motives, knowing that something is in your house that shouldn’t be there, all the things that cause us anxiety in our day to day lives.
His direction shows flourishes of imagination as he films things like has yurei subjective cams tearing around the city, long takes where the use of darkness and lighting alters to conceal scares and reveal them at key moments and the mixing of high and low angles to generate the feeling of being watched and paranoia much like vintage Kiyoshi Kurosawa.
On top of the strange and horrific, there is black comedy as people get knocked off by the strange town. All of this is delivered in a narrative that houses a non-linear plot and characters taken directly from the manga. The film’s narrative makes little sense until the very end when everything is joined up in an enjoyably twisted tale of terror.
Toshikazu Nagae has made horror films that I found rather dull but he has redeemed himself somewhat with this title. It fits in the school of weird fiction and captures the manga perfectly. While not terrifying, it is fun and it transforms the urban landscape into a place of anxiety.
Here’s another review over at Sadako’s Movie Shack