AKA Gusher No Binds Me
Starring Luchino Fujisaki, Masato Tsujioka, Ikuma Saisho, Kae Minami, Yuko Takarada, Ryusuke Koshiba, Koji Yokooawa, Keisuke Urushizaki
Directed by Hiroki Yamaguchi
When I pick these live-action horror films to review I look for the most outlandish things I can find. Typical horror thrills don’t really thrill me, so if I don’t want to be bored out of my mind I need to track down more exotic fare. Maybe something comedic or deliberately campy, something that doesn’t try to take itself too seriously and presents its silliness with a knowing smile and a wink. Or at least something so batshit crazy that I can laugh at it. Thus when something with a title as puntastic as Hellevator caught my eye, I thought my search was over. But far from a campy cheese-fest, Hellevator is a dark and inventive psychological thriller that, much to my surprise, is genuinely good.
The movie clearly has a vision, and sees it play out with surprising depth. The imaginative world is what really captured my interest. It’s a sort of futuristic setting, but with very old-fashioned technology. There’s a weird combination of heavy industrial machinery with robot brain-in-a-jar toys for children. The society seems to exist solely inside a massive building with no idea that there is anything outside. And what is perhaps the most impressive aspect of the film is how well it establishes this world despite most of the movie taking place inside just one elevator.
The telepathy angle is rather subtle at first, making you work to figure out what’s going on. I like this method of revealing information, and it’s used well here. The telepathy angle also allows some really strange visuals as Luchino dives into people’s minds, which I also loved. And since there is very little CG outside of the opening credits, it all looks really great. The odd setting combined with the hallucinatory imagery makes for a fantastic experience that I wasn’t expecting at all.
This is where Luchino’s telepathy comes to the fore as she dives into the minds of her fellow passengers to see their pasts and what motivates them, while also showing us glimpses of her own troubled past. There is some awkwardness with this part of the film, though, as Luchino’s telepathy isn’t the focus up until this point. I think the film would have been a bit more cohesive had they spread that out more smoothly across the story rather than jam it all in right there. It makes the movie feel a bit more like a bait and switch as it suddenly changes direction halfway through. But really that’s a pretty minor complaint in a film with as much creativity as this one.
So I didn’t get my wish for a campy schlock-filled comedy; I got something better. An intelligent and creative psychological sci-fi horror film with a strange visual style. And hey, maybe if you’re the type who does get goosebumps from horror thrills, then the claustrophobic environment and those serial killers on the loose just might give you some scares, too.