(A.k.a. KURIPI: ITSUWARI NO RINJIN - original title)

We first meet Takakura (Hidetoshi Nishijima) as a police detective, interviewing a prolific murderer in one of the station's holding cells. A break in concentration prompts Takakura into a conversation with colleague Nogami (Masahiro Higashide), giving the killer a chance to escape. Catching up with him in the station's foyer, Takakura attempts to quash the hostage situation he's happened upon, only to wind up being stabbed in the back moments before Nogami can shoot the murderer to the ground.

The main story then picks up one year down the line. Takakura's injury has led to him quitting the force and taking a job as a college lecturer teaching criminal psychology. We catch up with him as he's busy settling into his new home with wife Yasuko (Yuko Takeuchi) and dog Max.

While Yasuko busies herself trying to meet the neighbours, Takakura finds himself intrigued by a colleague's research into an unsolved crime of old at work.

Yasuko's experiences with the neighbours are odd enough. One household refuses outright to fraternise with her - or anyone else on the street for that matter - while explaining the wailing emanating from within their home as coming from their elderly, bedridden mother. The other neighbour, Nishino (Teruyuki Kagawa) is a true oddball. He reluctantly accepts Yasuko's gift of handmade chocolates while effortlessly managing to put the creeps up her with his complete lack of social skills and penetrating stare. He's a little more sociable upon their second meeting, where he introduces Yasuko to his schoolgirl daughter Mio. However, when Yasuko suggests she's looking forward to meeting Nishino's wife, he goes all surly and standoffish again...

Meanwhile, Takakura is visited at work by Nogami, who has learned of his former colleague's interest in the unsolved disappearance of three family members which occurred six years earlier. Nogami suggests that Takakura's psychology skills could help him finally solve the case, if only Takakura were willing to accompany him on a visit to the family's former home and meet the one family member who was left behind at the time, daughter Saki (Haruna Kawaguchi). Saki was young at the time and, when interviewed by cops, her testimony changed so many times that her evidence became inadmissible. However, now that she's older and Takakura's skills are available, Nogami hopes she may be able to shed more light on what happened to the rest of her family.

The film alternates for some time between these duelling plotlines. Nishino gets closer to Takakura and Yasuko, though both still feel uncomfortable in his presence. He claims his wife is a housebound depressive. In the meantime, Saki meets with Takakura and Nogami on several occasions; each time her memory returns a little more, revealing that she was away on a school trip when her family vanished, and that the event seemed to her to revolve a mystery man who'd got close to the family in the weeks leading up to it.

The plot thickens when the skeletons of five bodies are found in the house next door to Saki's old family home. This coupled with a revelatory claim from Mio one afternoon provokes Takakura into suspecting Nishino may be connected to his old partner's unsolved crime...

CREEPY is the latest film from Kiyoshi Kurosawa, who previously gave us horror hits CURE and PULSE. After branching out into more genteel territory with the likes of JOURNEY TO THE SHORE and TOKYO SONATA, this marks a most welcome return to the genre that made him a name to be reckoned with.

It's long at 130 minutes in length and is in no rush to deliver the action - indeed, after an hour or so, you may start wondering if anything is EVER going to happen. But CREEPY rewards patient viewers: its strength lies in its deliberate, considered build-up. This way, we get beneath the skin of all characters while an intriguing mystery is afforded ample time to tantalise us with drip-fed clues. Plus, it's a joy to watch consummate actors like Nishijima and Kagawa bounce off each other.

Meticulously shot, utilising wide framing to create some beautiful but paradoxically claustrophobic moments, CREEPY is also an aesthetic pleasure. Kurosawa and Chihira Ikeda's screenplay, based on a novel by Yutaka Maekawa, is astute and articulate. It concerns itself primarily with social mores, the concept that we never know what our neighbours are doing behind closed doors, and the various connotations of the word "family" (unfortunately I can't elaborate on that latter point without delving into 'spoiler' territory). All the while, it never forgets that this is a crime thriller which will, if you give it time, escalate into the realms of horror during its final third.

So, stick with it. It's never dull nor is there a moment that feels padded out. On the contrary, CREEPY is extremely well-made and will most likely grip you from the start. I was certainly hooked from the off. But for those who've been raised on formulaic slashers which provide carnage every 10 minutes in a bid to hold attention, it's only fair to warn that this is a film more preoccupied with plot and characters. And it's all the better for it.

CREEPY comes to the UK as a dual-format blu-ray and DVD package, courtesy of Eureka! Entertainment. This release is another title in the label's celebrated "Masters of Cinema" range.

Presented in 1080p HD as an MPEG4-AVC file, the film is correctly framed at 2.35:1. The 16x9 picture boasts clean textures, sharp detail and warm, true colour schemes. Blacks hold up well, while there's a keen sense of depth evident throughout. There are passages where the look of the film is cooler, with less prominent colours, but these are undoubtedly stylistic choices on Kurosawa's part: the opening scenes in the police station, for example, seem deliberately drab and unwelcoming.

Audio is provided in two mixes: Stereo LPCM and a sturdy DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio proposition which makes excellent use of the additional channels at its disposal. Optional English subtitles are well-written and easily readable at all times.

The disc opens to a static main menu page. There is no scene selection menu but the film does come equipped with 10 chapter stops.

Bonus materials are kick-started by a 38-minute interview with Kurosawa. He sports a well-groomed beard and focused eyes as he speaks with warmth and intelligence, responding to thoughtful questions which are presented as text on screen. Kurosawa explains why he chose to adapt this novel, the instances of light and dark within his canon of films, how he prefers to work with largely different casts and crews with each new project, his admiration for Hitchcock and much more. Interspersed with the occasional clip from CREEPY, this makes for a well-edited and engaging piece.

We also get the film's original 92-second trailer. This is presented in HD and does a fair job of both conveying this film's linear plot and making events look awfully exciting.

There's also a booklet included with this release but unfortunately this wasn't available for review purposes.

CREEPY is an excellent return to horror for Kiyoshi Kurosawa. It builds and builds, looks beautiful while doing so, and is anchored by two outstanding leading performances from Nishijima and Kagawa.

Highly recommended.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Eureka! Entertainment