Release Date: 2020
Duration: 18 mins.
Director: Tetsuki Ijichi
Writer: Tetsuki Ijichi, Doris Chia Ching Lin, (Story), Judith Redding (Screenplay)
Starring: Eric Slodysko (Josh), Stephanie Pham (Ming), Keizo Kaji (Old Chef), Josh Hammond, Nico Chang Lynch, Heather Plank,
In what one might see as a modern twist on Ugetsu Monogatari (1953), a man eager to escape his bleak existence finds himself entering an unconventional relationship. While not a terrifying time, it has a good horror atmosphere and effectively mixes Eastern and Western culture together for something unique.
The Ugetsu update takes place in working-class Philadelphia where a desperate man named Josh (Eric Slodysko) has washed up following divorce and money problems. We learn of his woes from exposition-friendly sources like text/voice messages on smart phones that get viewers up to speed quickly about the depths of his despair. From there, we see how he falls under the spell of a mysterious lady love.
We watch as Josh grinds through his days of chasing pay-cheques by being a home health aid and getting vomited on by his sole patient. This is a good reason to take us to the titular laundromat which we saw at the start of the film and where we noted the mysterious presence of Ming (Stephanie Pham), a woman in a white dress who catches the eye of Josh. Since it is clear that he is sorely in need of a friend and it looks like she might be game, it seems that his luck has turned, however, desperation blinds Josh to a series of strange events that occur and warnings from people around him…
Of course, the audience is clued up that something supernatural will go down but the direction it goes in may be a surprise. Taking us to the conclusion is a mash-up of cultural styles as part of Ijichi’s smart modulation of atmosphere through various means to tease our expectations.
In terms of the text, Ijichi and his writers place us in a world where the borders between life and death are shown to be malleable by having Josh, his sick patient, and Ming’s existences paralleling and then coalescing belieavebly around the man’s desperate circumstances to organically lead to its conclusion. Dashes of different religious and cultural philosophies are presented with the social reality acting as a strong driver. The actors, while not gelling together totally effectively, gamely play their roles with varying levels of charisma so that we are carried through events well enough.
With smart choices of locations to root us in the world, suburban homecare contrasted with an urban milieu full of Chinese restaurants and laundries, we get a sense of reality. The film most effectively achieves a sense of otherworldliness through technical aspects like sounds effects made up of odd and ominous tones and a musical score mixing East and West, where a jazz-like score dominated by staccato drumming is interweaved with Qian Qin’s performance of Ravel’s Pavane for Dead Princess done by an erhu ((Chinese fiddle)?) to make events unsettling.
Hammering the horror parts home, both in and out of the titular laundromat, are cheap-but-cheerful special effects that are cutely cheesy. Most effective is the use of light and shadow for Ming to come in and out of, the night-time scenes where red is prominent, and the constant cut-aways to security cam footage of characters in the laundromat and slow zooms to a washing machine (almost as menacing as the one featured in Umberto Lenzi’s House of Lost Souls (1989)) that lead the way deeper into supernatural shenanigans.
Don’t go in expecting an experience like Ringu (1998), maybe one closer to the initial Ju-On films or even the aforementioned Lenzi film to get the tone and level of craft. It is a short, fun, and effective horror.
Here’s my interview with Tetsuki Ijichi, the director!
Laundromat on the Corner is available to watch on FilmDoo
Here’s an introduction video to the film done by Tetsuki Ijichi, the director.