Saturday, February 24, 2024

Door-To-Door Nightmares: Door (1988)

Door (Japan, 1988)
Rating: ****
Starring: Keiko Takahashi, Daijirô Tsutsumi, Shirô Shimomoto

Yasuko, a housewife, lives a rather regular life in a high-rise urban apartment with her husband Satoru and young son Takuto, with the only snags in her happy mundane days being Satoru's workaholic tendencies which often have him spending more time in the office, as well as the constant barrage of spam messages from phone calls, mails, and door-to-door sales. Little did she expect, unfortunately, that a particular visit from an uncomfortably forward salesman one day would set off a series of stalking and harassment, hurling Yasuko down a disturbing path of distressing encounters and increasing violence which soon ends in an unsettling and brutal home invasion.

Marketed as an extremely rare late-80s home invasion slasher flick that never got a screening outside of Japan until very recently, Door (1988) is more of an Italian giallo-inspired stalker horror that leans towards style and direction rather than an increasing bodycount. The story is simple and straightforward, slowly burning its way from the everyday normalities of a small family, to the sinister scares and creepy set-pieces perpetrated by either our villainous stalker or Yasuko's growing paranoia, all in a pace that's best described as organic. It does take a while to get to the action going, in turn, and a few scenes did feel like they're padding for time, but the build-up is made mostly bearable and captivating thanks to the lurid cinematography and free-floating camera work effectively capturing just how alone and helpless Yasuko is in her predicament. A good portion of visual shots are even done in positions showing wide spaces behind or around certain characters to further convey this sense of isolation, greatly working with the narrative as it soon establishes that Yasuko's husband, Satoru, is essentially neglecting his family being so focused on his job, plus her neighbors would prefer to turn a blind eye to the attacks as they retreat to the safety of their own apartments and the cops are unable to help Yasuko that much as she never got a good look at the salesman so she couldn't provide them a proper description of her stalker. All of these elements melded well to create an intense and atmospheric plot that'll only get more shocking as it reaches its climax.

These last 20 minutes of Door (1988) is this movie's cream of the crop, an impressive scattershot of bloodwork and ferocity as Yasuko and her son Takuto, now trapped in their own home, are forced to flee from room to room and fight with whatever they can against a deranged salesman gone full maniac on them, knife at hand on one moment, a roaring chainsaw in the next. Gore makes its welcome presence around these parts, not overly splashy but a gnarly display nonetheless. Cinematographer Yasushi Sasakibara's phenomenal camera work captures the pure chaos and claustrophobic terror in an array of interesting shots, while Junichi Kikuchi's wild editing helps keep the hectic pace of the attacks, juxtaposing with the eerie slow burn that came before. Granted all of these end with a single kill only, the gradual escalation of edge and suspense made the wait all worth it, even more so when the death itself is crazy violent, cathartic in a very macabre way.

Keiko Takahashi, wife of Door's director, Banmei Takahashi, carries the film as our lead Yasuko, doing a fantastic job making the character sympathetic enough to make us feel for her during her loneliest and most helpless plights, definitely selling a lot of the film's more crucial moments. In turn, Daijiro Tsutsumi, playing our stalking salesman Yamakawa, lands quite an impression with his transition from a calm yet disturbed creep to a manic madman prone to sexual violence, despite the character having very little background to explain his sudden spiral to depravity. He's simply crazy. Dangerous. Sometimes that's all we need from a good horror villain and Tsutsumi nailed his part.

Door (1988) undoubtedly have most of its bits and pieces working in its favor, resulting to a terror flick that swims in shuddersome unease and nightmarish fear before rewarding us with a bout of thrilling savagery. A psychological horror with grit in its teeth, I say don't miss this one! 

1 male stabbed with a barbecue fork and brained with a bat, nearly decapitated with a chainsaw
Total: 1

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