Saturday, November 28, 2009

In short: Fu-Rai (2005)

aka White Panic

(This time, I will not be able to avoid spoilers for the film's ending. Be warned!)

Four young people - three men and a woman - awaken naked in an empty white room full of something that looks suspiciously like flour. They all remember that they were assaulted in their respective apartments and kidnapped, but have a hard time imagining why they have been brought to this strange place.

Since this is a Cube-alike, they immediately start to bitch at each other for no good reason at all. From time to time, their discussions are broken by the lights turning blue, gas being pumped into the room and guys in white hazmat suits forcing them to swallow a mysterious fluid.

After some time, at least three of the young people form a reluctant coalition and try to find out why they have been kidnapped and how to get away. Turns out that they all share a feeling of guilt for one parent.

With this pooled information strengthening their resolve, they manage to escape from the room, only to spend the rest of the movie crawling through air-ducts and running through corridors and stairways, all the while evading a handful of exceedingly silly death traps like the Mousetrap of Being Stuck and the Foot-Cutting Wire.

It's no wonder these traps are so silly. They have after all been invented by the same scriptwriter responsible for the film's twist ending, such as it is. You see, our protagonists' feelings of guilt notwithstanding, those feelings aren't the reason they have been kidnapped, rather, they have been chosen because nobody will miss them when they end up as food in the giant microwave oven of an evil corporation trying to solve the problem of overpopulation while making tasty treats.

Fu-Rai is an ultra-cheap imitation of Cube, but one which, unlike the films it copies, is stupid enough to commit to a reason for the things happening to its characters. The cooking angle is of course patently absurd, the earnest and dramatic way the film treats it making the ridiculousness just worse.

This is not the film's only problem. Its production design tries hard to let the cheap and shoddy look minimalist and stylish, but seems to give up after the first twenty minutes or so, and just goes for the usual airduct/corridor/warehouse stuff.

With a running time of 68 minutes, Fu-Rai is also at least half an hour too long, like a classical Twilight Zone episode artificially bloated by flashbacks and people screeching at each other.

While all this does not for a good movie make, I can't help but appreciate that director Shugo Fujii is at least trying to make an earnest and interesting little film, something that puts it automatically above too much of the direct to DVD market in Japan or elsewhere, which is full of films made by people who just don't give a shit about movies or their audience.

With a bit more cleverness, a slightly better sense of pacing and little less (or much more, of course) silliness, this could have been a neat little movie. As it stands, Fu-Rai is just not interesting enough to overlook its flaws. It is also a case where I find myself having a hard time laughing about a film's unintentional humor. It would be a bit like laughing about a one-legged man's troubles with stairs.


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