In his debut feature, director Tanaka Jun takes an original idea and runs with it.
Director Tanaka Jun’s debut feature Bamy tackles J-horror in a similar vein to Kurosawa Kiyoshi, concerning itself as much with the relationships between the living inhabitants of the film as it does with their connection to the dead.
A couple of old university classmates, Ryota and Fumiko, are reacquainted one day when an oddly behaving red umbrella is blown between them on the street. One year later and the pair are engaged to be married. Ryota moves into Fumiko’s modest apartment but is distracted by something he seems to see in one of the rooms. This distraction is not limited to the apartment, at work he pauses, frozen, staring into empty spaces, receiving a not unwarranted reputation for being odd.
Unbeknownst to even his fiancé, Ryota can see ghosts. They don’t appear to threaten Ryota, or anyone else for that matter, but they’re an ever-present source of fear. Ryota's constant distraction soon impacts upon his relationship, which begins to break down, while at the same time he meets another woman, Sae, who has the same ability, allowing Ryota to finally start to enjoy his ‘gift’.
Opening with a solid horror set-up, the film’s supernatural figures are effectively chilling, only visible as dark impressions lurking on the edge of the frame, just out of focus, or hidden in shadow. They resemble the intangible apparitions of Kurosawa’s Pulse, a subtly creepy infringement of the unexplained into our tangible world; not frightening because of any threat they offer but for their very presence.
That presence quickly becomes an irritation for poor Ryota, who eventually snaps and takes to pushing the ghosts around, bashing them with a hammer, and throwing them out into the light. This is where the director shows a more playful attitude to the genre and his ghosts take on an air of ludicrousness as we see them slapped around like dumb, docile lumps.
Bamy is a film is about connections. It’s the red umbrella that Fumiko retains as a keepsake from their first meeting that Ryota uses to chase away his first ghost. After the incident, when he ditches the umbrella, their relationship soon begins to break down. The idea of connection is not lost on Ryota; he realises all the ghosts are rooted to a particular spot because of some deep and sad connection from their past life, but that doesn’t stop him messing with them when he’s found a partner with which to do so, their futile connection to this world means nothing to a man who wants to get his life back, and what does their connection have to do with him anyway?
Despite some flaws, the heavy-handed music cues being the most jarring, Bamy offers an interesting addition to the J-horror genre. Tanaka takes an original idea and runs with it, incorporating enough originality and invention, along with a few solid chills, to make the film well worth a watch.