Pablo Absento’s Shi: A Chilling Take on Japanese Horror

THIS IS A TWO PART REVIEW. FIRST PART DOES NOT CONTAIN ANY SPOILERS, THE SECOND PART IS MOVIE ANALYSIS AND DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS. BOTH PARTS ARE SEPARATED SO YOU CAN AVOID SPOILERS IF YOU WANT TO.

NO SPOILERS REVIEW:


Shi (2015) (
Japanese, death)  is a short horror movie directed by Pablo Absento. It lasts almost 7 minutes and will leave you wanting to see more.

The beginning of the movie shows a father getting fired from his job for a reason unknown to both himself and the viewers.  He explains to his employers how he cannot lose his job because he needs money to pay school bills for his daughter and hospital bills for his son.
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The movie is set in Japan but it is not a copycat japanese horror movie. Aesthetically, the monster does not look like a typical japanese horror movie monster and gives a western vibe. In my opinion, this works very well, it is refreshing and a welcomed mix of Western and Japanese horror cultures.

Although there is a detailed shot of the monster’s face it still manages to stay scary and threatening. It moves fast and its mission is to catch you but not before it plays a game of cat and mouse game with you.

The ending leaves a lot of place for more than one interpretation which is something I like a lot in horror movies. I hope the short will eventually become a full length feature.

WATCH IT HERE & READ THE INTERVIEW ON THE FANGORIA WEBSITE.

WARNING! FOLLOWING MOVIE ANALYSIS CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!!!

Two things caught my attention the most. First, the monster is fast enough to catch the father but instead it plays a game with him. The father stops for a while to catch a breath and to see if the monster is still following him. The monster flashes in front of the camera but the father does not seem to notice. Thus the monster could already attack him here but it didn’t.

Instead, we see the father managing to reach his apartment. Here, he bangs on the door and begs his wife and then his son Sam to let him in. Finally, he finds his keys and tries to open the door. Finally, the viewers can see Sam in front of the window, the monster as it moves quickly from right to left, screaming can be heard and then what is probably a sound of closing doors.

The main question after the first viewing was what death in the title refers to. Is it the monster? Or is it something else? The movie is called Shi which in Japanese means both “death” and “four”. The title is written in hiragana, the japanese alphabet, and not in kanji which supports the double meaning of its title. More importantly, there are four members of the family: the father, the wife Yoko and their two children. The death can thus refer to the monster itself, or it can refer to the deaths of the characters in the story.

In the beginning I said that there were two things that caught my attention. I already covered the first one. The second is the question regarding little Sam but it actually opens up a bigger question of the meaning of this movie.

When the father sees the monster for the first time, he sees it dragging a human body which appears to be his own. It it possible to argue that he has already died. However, this might only be a dream or a premonition. One way or another, there is a connection between him and death.

As was mentioned, Sam is seen being at home. However, in the beginning of the movie the father hints that he might actually be in the hospital. The sentence remains unfinished but serves as an evidence to support this interpretation:

“I need money for Mona’s school and Sam’s hospital bills. My child is in the… .”

Death of children and parents is a common theme of many Japanese horror movies (One Missed Call, The Grudge, The Ring, Dark Water …). So, little Sam might be the second dead character besides his father. Yoko, his wife does not come to open the doors and the location of his daughter also remains unknown.

The movie is shown primarily from the point of view of the father and is full of emotions that take over when death threatens to take away the happiness. The main emotions are anxiety and fear which are present from the beginning until the very end. The last sound of the movie is the sound of closing doors which leaves you with a question: who is going to be next?

***

What is your interpretation? Did you like the movie? 🙂 Let me know in the comments.

My rating: 4,5/5

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