Thursday, February 17, 2011

In short: Busu (2005)

aka The Booth

Because of renovation work, his station puts Shogo (Ryuta Sato), the host of a late night call-in radio show specialized in love advice, into an old, seldom-used studio somewhere deep down in the cellar of the station's building. What Shogo initially doesn't know (but his producer seems just too glad to tell him), is that studio 6 is supposed to be haunted by the ghost of another DJ who took his life right there. What nobody except Busu's viewers can tell Shogo is that the DJ 30 years ago didn't exactly commit suicide, but was the victim of a ghost from his past for whose death he was responsible.

Strange things begin to happen during the course of Shogo's show. Peculiar noises come from the studio speakers, a woman's voice repeatedly calls the DJ a liar, and everything that can go wrong with the show does go wrong. Some of the things that are happening might just be practical jokes of Shogo's crew, whose members have all been victims of the DJ's tendency to act like a jerk in varying degrees, while others just might be products of his own guilty conscience.

What Shogo feels guilty for slowly becomes clear during flashbacks caused by the stories his show's callers tell him. Looks like he killed his girlfriend while he was breaking up with her, and then ran; not in cold blood, but leaving her dead all the same.

Soon enough, the accidents, the strange happenstances and his own mind lead Shogo to the edge of a breakdown.

The Booth is the last film Yoshihiro Nakamura did in the early part of his career that was predominantly dedicated to the horror genre. Most of these early films Nakamura directed aren't too easily available outside of Japan, leaving the director's name more connected to his scriptwriting for films like Hideo Nakata's Dark Water in our parts. Now, Nakamura writes and directs very particular comedies like the absolutely lovely Fish Story.

Although Busu (also written by Nakamura) isn't exactly a comedy, there is still something blackly comic about watching Shogo's quick descent from professional calm and charm into first inadvertent honesty and then what once was called a nervous breakdown, while the flashbacks are getting clearer and clearer about how much of a jerk (and true misogynist at heart) the DJ really is. But Shogo's character being what it is without any actual insights into his psychology (people usually have reasons for being like they are) also results in the film's biggest flaw in my book in that it makes it difficult to feel much more about what happens to the man than grim satisfaction. The film shows the DJ's final destiny as comeuppance for someone who truly had it coming, and though it's nice to see him squirm, his basic loathsomeness makes it difficult to feel much else about what happens.

There's just not much that's disturbing about this particular horror movie, unless one counts not being disturbed by terrible things happening to a terrible person as disturbing, which would be an interesting direction to go into. Alas, I don't think that's an emotional reaction the film is actually trying to evoke, but more me being the soft-hearted kind of guy I am.

Still, unpleasantly enough, it is satisfying to see Shogo squirm, as it is satisfying to see Nakamura use his probably extremely tight budget to make an equally tight film.


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