ニューレリジョン 「Nyu- Rerijon」
Release Date: 2023
Duration: 100 mins.
Director: Keishi Kondo
Writer: Keishi Kondo (Screenplay),
Starring: Kaho Seto (Miyabi), Satoshi Oka (Photographer), Ryuseigun Saionji (Boyfriend), Daiki Nunami,
J-horror is effectively like a Frankenstein’s monster these days. When major studios resurrect a character like Ringu‘s Sadako or Ju-on‘s Kayako, there is the recycling of a patchwork of scares and tropes grafted on to gimmick storylines. Original works by horror masters like Takashi Shimizu find their scares toned down to be more acceptable to the mainstream and so, without the power to shock or even surprise, these films have the freshness of a desiccated corpse. Viewing them is like passively watching a corpse shamble on and off the screen. Then, out of nowhere, Keishi Kondo’s New Religion emerged on the festival circuit, like a breath of fresh air gusting into the genre crypt.
A truly independent film, Kondo made it in between fulltime work commitments and a crowdfunding campaign to help with post-production. What we get is a horror movie that feels close to the supernatural apocalypse films that Kiyoshi Kurosawa put out in the late 90s/early 2000s but it is wrapped up in an affecting portrait of the main character’s inchoate grief warping reality.
When we first meet the main protagonist, Miyabi (Kaho Seto), we see the tragedy that eats away at her throughout the film. While reading Virginia’s Wolfe’s The Lighthouse in the kitchen of her high-rise apartment, she fails to stop her daughter plunging to her death. Fast-forward a few years and a broken marriage and we find that she is working as a call girl and living with her DJ boyfriend (Ryuseigun Saionji), all while living in the same apartment and with her daughter’s items still around.
There is a shroud of death covering her, one might say, and that becomes exploited by the film’s antagonist of sorts, a mysterious photographer (Satoshi Oka) whose use of a voice box gives him a unnatural sound while he moves in an almost mechanical way. He is seemingly connected to the psychotic break and disappearance experienced by another call girl and it seems that Miyabi might be next in line. How? With every meeting at his creepy apartment, he takes pictures of parts of her body. Her feet, her legs, her spine. Miyabi is initially suspicious but that feeling fades away as she soon senses that with every photo taken she can detect her daughter’s spirit. She becomes addicted and finds herself departing from the calm façade she has built up to become more morbid.
With each part of her he captures on film, Miyabi finds herself losing something of her essential spirit. As she starts to come closer to the daughter she lost she moves closer to facing the grief that she has tamped down inside of herself but she risks losing everything.
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