Be warned, some spoiler-y material may be found below.
Plot – depressed guy is so depressed and tuned out and out of touch that he starts to seek out something that will make him feel really, honestly, legitimately horrified. On his video camera, he captures a guy’s suicide and the movie is off to an eerie start.
First interpretation: Our hero literally goes to hell, comes back with more than he bargained for, and the gods punish him with eternal insanity and grief.
Second interpretation: he literally bums around the sewers of Tokyo for a while and comes back batshit-crazy enough to kidnap and torture his daughter to death, and slaughter two other people (one of whom is his ex-wife who is desperate to find their missing daughter) that he might feed their blood to her to keep her alive. All while recording it on his video camera in an attempt to experience true horror for himself.
Put together, as both interpretations are, it’s a fairly impressive attempt at something that’s one part Little Shop of Horrors and one part What Dreams May Come with a dash of “noisy-slurpy-awkward-silence” thrown in at regular intervals to just keep us on our toes.
A good film… mostly. The ending is a little empty. The man finally attains what he has been seeking, but the moment is far too intimate an experience to this character to even reach out to us viewers. For him, it was clearly the most horrible and frightening thing ever. For us, it’s like … well… okay. Like when your coworker tells you about the worst nightmare she ever had and you’re like, um, you have no imagination. I was glad, however, to see that the producers didn’t resort to any ham-fisted chainsaw-wielding maniacs and left most of the horror to the “humans are idiots and assholes” department.
I think I’d have ended the film differently. I think I’d have had him led back down to the underworld by his new grinning pet… and then locked alone in her place, possibly naked and alarmingly underfed like she was, only to have to watch her return to his life and his world - kindof in his place to slowly and freely leak her special kind of mayhem all over while he’s helpless to control or stop it. After all, loss of control seems to have been the singular terrifying sensation he was seeking.
I would have liked a stiffer moral to the film; one that first underlined “don’t go where you’re not invited” and then added “you just THINK you’ve got that under control, cowboy… now look what you’ve done”. Maybe his initial guide could come and visit him just once to explain that he’s now the worst monster ever and he’ll spend eternity alone in this little cubby, slowly going (more) insane with nobody but himself and his wickedness for company. He’ll never die, he’ll always wake up. Always.
Of course… this assumes that regret is among the heaviest of tortures around… and I admit that there aren’t too many people who agree with me on that little note. But then again, I can allllmost see that this is where the director was going with the ending that they DID use. Kindof. It was hurried anyway… and not nearly as horrifying as we were led to expect. It was more "uh-oh, I'm stuck with HER and SHE's the baddie" which is catastrophically cheap considering the mental gymnastics we've been led through previously.
If you don’t mind a little blood shlurphing… don’t miss it. Maybe see it twice. Once for the spooky, academic, first interpretation and twice for the more grizzly and revolting second one.