English Review: The Woman Who Keeps a Murderer (Nakata Hideo, 2019)

Original title: Satsujinki Wo Kauonna – 殺人鬼を飼う女
2019 – Japan
Genre: Thriller / Erotic
Director: Nakata Hideo
Music: Sakamoto Hidekazu
Screenplay: Yoshida Kaori d’après le roman de Ôishi Kei

Actors: Asuka Rin, Hamada Shin’ya, Matsuyama Airi, Mizuhashi Kenji, Nakatani Hitomi and Negishi Toshie

Story: Kyoko was sexually abused by her stepfather when she was a child. As a coping mechanism, Kyoko developed dissociative identity disorder. She has multiple personalities to protect herself. Kyoko now lives with Naomi, Yukari and Haru . Naomi is a lesbian who likes Kyoko. Kyoko begins to have feelings for her novelist neighbor. Since then, Kyoko’s fragile balance in her mind collapses.

Nakata Hideo really has a strange career, you can find good or even really good films next to bad films, or even incredibly bad films. Of course, when he made his third film, he changed the face of J-horror and created a icon, all eyes were on him. Except after Ringy, Nakata did the rather unknown Chaos, and then a Ringu 2 the same year (remember that, because Nakata likes to do two films per year). But Ringu 2, it wasn’t that good. After that, and after a pretty good Dark Water, the rest is… weird, with some pretty good films and finally really bad ones. For the good part, there is The Complex or Ghost Theater, but next to those, there were The Incite Mill or Monsterz. But after coming back again to the classical ghost film in 2015 with Ghost Theater (and I liked this one), Nakata changed, with some TV Thrillers (Stolen Identity 1 and 2, in 2018 and 2020) and some Pinku films, with White Lily in 2017 and now this The Woman Who Keeps a Murderer in 2019, sold like a scary or horrific thriller, but make no mistake, it’s an erotic thriller. Actually, Nakata even films again the same actress after White Lily, Asuka Rin, lovely girl. Her face always reminds me of something. And it’s not surprising, because even if she’s pretty rare on screen, I discovered her at her beginnings, in 2008, with the pretty good Carved 2, and then the two adaptations of Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni (Shrill Cries of Summer), as well as the little V-Cinema’s flick Uniform Survival. Since she met Nakata, she goes nude a lot on screen. Nakata, who actually did again two films in 2019, this one, clearly a pinku, and… his ultimate come back to J-Horror and the monster he created in 1998 with the pathetic and shameful Sadako. So has Nakata been on autopilot for years, releasing shameful movies and every now and then nice movies out of sheer luck? Difficult to say as it is difficult to see a common thread in his filmography nowadays.

Especially when you finally think he escaped the haunting aura of Ringu, and he goes back in it like a little boy for Sadako, delivering the worst of the franchise (yes, it was possible). The Woman Who Keeps the Murder then, it’s a bit like White Lily, but with a very TV cachet reminiscent of recent works like Stolen Identity, all for a plot that is initially surprising then predictable until the end. Far from being a great movie, but far from being a bad one, while ironically, the footage has horrendous lengths, despite its very short 82 minutes length. Nakata is adapting a novel by Ôishi Kei, not unknown to the world of cinema, since these novels have been adapted several times since 2005. And that’s good since the same year was released on the screens Under Your Bed by Asato Mari, a great movie. But unfortunately Nakata has lost some of his talent on the way, and his film is far inferior to Under Your Bed. This is about Kyoko (Asuka Rin), who suffers from a trauma personality disorder since her youth, due to her father’s abuse. Okay, her mother is not better, but let’s move on. She lives in an apartment she shares with three roommates. That’s what the story wants us to believe anyway, but we understand really quickly that the roommates are in fact Kyoko’s other personalities. Kyoko still seems living a normal life despite that. Until she notices (and decides to love) her neighbor, a novelist whose work she greatly appreciates. Which will turn her life, her mind a bit, and make her personalities more violent. The sudden appearance of her mother is not going to help the young woman’s mind. A simple story but it can brings some very beautiful things, with good actresses (and naked too), the promise of a thriller, bloody murders, aesthetic erotic scenes. Only here, The Woman Who Keeps a Murderer, despite yes an invested cast and a certain touch visually, has trouble convincing over time.

Its main flaw actually is the big imbalance between what it says and how it tells it, how it shows it to the viewer. Nakata enjoys filming naked bodies, after all he filmed White Lily for the Pinku’s revival for Nikkatsu, and besides, unlike many, I loved his film. Except here, at least in the first part, he’s dragging his plot out to do more and more sex scenes. With men, between women, it doesn’t matter. The footage relegates its concept and plot to the background, and with its 82 running time, we get the impression that half is dedicated to history, but the other half is entirely dedicated to erotic scenes. Suddenly, the lengths are there, especially as said, the film has a very smooth rendering, very TV movie in fact. A lot of screen time for sex, and less for the plot and the psychology, which seems strange given certain choices of the film, such as not showing the title until 20 minutes, despite being a short little film. Fortunately, The Woman Who Keeps a Murderer is not a failure. At least not a total one. Nakata wakes up during a few scenes, then delivering much more beautiful, more successful moments. The scenes of violence remain very soft, which reinforces the TV movie side of the business, but some are nicely staged. Likewise for sex, if sometimes Nakata is too frontal and uses some noisy tongue’s sounds (like in White Lily), in the last third of the footage, he delivers more inspired moments, better filmed, quite simply prettier. Finally, we had to be patient. And the end, although relatively predictable, works quite well and concludes everything on a positive note. As if Nakata didn’t quite know where to go at first, moving forward timidly, lengthening his scenes, before finding the right path and applying himself more in the second half. Recommended especially to fans of the genre, or to the curious ones, but not bad either way.

The Good

Asuka Rin is here again, and nude again
A few beautiful scenes
The finale

Les moins

Bad rhythm
Too much sex in the first part
It often looks like a TV movie

So: The Woman Who Keeps a Murderer was sold like a horrific thriller, but it’s in fact an erotic thriller. Not always interesting, but with a few assets. It’s short (82 minutes), despite a few long moments in the first part, before a better second part.

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