BiFan 2023 Review: DOOR, Magnificent Home Invasion J-Horror Classic Makes an Impression
A nervous housewife gets a frightful visit in Banmei Takahashi's little-seen psycho-sexual J-horror gem Door. With flashes of giallo inspiration and memorable sound design, this marvellously entertaining 1988 production debuted internationally with a new 4K remaster at BiFan this year.
Yasuko (played by Takahashi's real life wife Keiko Takahashi) lives with her young son and workaholic husband in a modern apartment. Since her husband is seldom at home and she is constantly accosted by male salesmen on the phone or the intercom aggressively trying to push their wares on her, she doublelocks her door with almost religious intensity every time she walks through it.
One day she makes the crucial mistake of not flipping the door lock, only the chain. When a salesman (Daijiro Tsutsumi) then won't take no for answer, he cracks open the door and reaches in with a pamphlet. Yasuko slams the door on his arm and as he grips his trembling hand outside it begins to swell in tandem with the seething rage within him.
Much like in a Dario Argento or Lucio Fulci film, Takahashi slows down time as he extends and heightens crucial moments. With lingering shots, unbroken gazes and a hypnotic synth theme that frequently invades the soundtrack, his style deepens the story's paranoia and weird aura. What it also does is uncover a rich and perverse sexual tension between stalker and stalkee.
When the salesman returns to Yasuko's door and proceeds to kick it loudly and repeatedly, the housewife cowers in the foyer. The man's foot keeps pounding on the door and the shot remains on Yasuko until the fear in her face turns into twisted arousal. Anyone who has read Natsuo Kirino's masterpiece Out may recognise the deranged psychosexual link that builds between the female protagonist and male antagonist.
Takahashi ratchets up the tension by turning Yasuko's pleasant family neighborhood into a maelstrom of urban fear. Barriers exist everywhere, separating her from strangers, from her family and even from herself. Police stations are drowned out by next-door train crossing signals, she struggles to spot her son through wire school gates and most important of all is the door to her home and thus to her deepest fears and desires.
After magnificently and unbearably building up tension, the film truly explodes in its final act when it turns into a gleefully grotesque home invasion thriller. This demented and gory B-movie denouement closes out a tense, unsettling and deeply involving tale that feels remarkably fresh 35 years after it was first released.