Haze (2005)

An intense exercise in basic fear and dread.
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Haze - An intense exercise in basic fear and dread

Director of Tetsuo, Shinya Tsukamoto, takes a diversion from body horror with Haze and instead attacks the consciousness with the concept of isolation and confined space horror and ups it to a level that makes The Descent seem like a quiet holiday retreat commercial for claustrophobics. Combine this with the maze like uncertainty delivered by Cube and the self harming sadisticness of a Jigsaw contraption and you are thrown headfirst into a situation that would make even the most severe agoraphobic describe it as a walk in the park. Haze is a short and plot simple movie and whilst compared to numerous other movies in the previous sentences still manages to combine concepts into an original and daunting chunk of movie terror. The isolation of the main character and the torment he must force himself to endure to escape a situation he doesn't understand the motivations for immediately create a harrowing scenario for the character which is expertly projected onto the viewer through some graphic visuals and a spine chilling series of sound effects.

The terror is created with a cast of five and three of the five are on screen for no more than 6 minutes in order to be hacked to pieces by an undisclosed dismembering device. The victim is pushed through a number of traumas ranging from depression to cringe inspiring harm onto quick fire friendship and friendship loss via pool of dismemberments. This is an amazing feat for a director to achieve using such minimal resources and expertly draws the watcher into the traumatic situation from the offset and maintains the high levels of anxiety throughout.

A man wakes up in a dark and spatially confined concrete room, he has no idea why, no idea how he got there, no idea where there is and no idea why his intestines are trying to escape from a wound on his stomach. After the initial panic he starts to manoeuvre his way around the cramped maze but the maze makers have not made it very comfortable and have left a multitude of sharpness and rustyness all over the shop. He discovers that he is not the only person in this predicament but his only companions are just as befuddled or soon to be gut-piles.

For such a minimal cast and crew (including lead actor, director and writer implementing the unholy trinity design pattern) there is still ample horror ranging from simple self-inflicted mutilation to a sea of body parts. The option to inflict the blood and pain on the victims without needing to finish them off in an explosion of guts makes the pain seem so much more tormenting, real and excruciating, and the scenes are set up in a way where the unfortunate targets of the seemingly cruel prank know what adversity they must put themselves through before they do. Much of the movie scares are based on the foreboding notion of what is to come and when it comes it is never a let down as the mutilation and suffering is shown in graphic, up-close and personal detail and embroidered with loud, gut-wrenching sound to make the horror almost a struggle to watch.

Haze is a short movie (49 minutes and there is even a 25 minute cut that did its rounds on the festival circuit) but this works to its advantage as to pad it out would ruin the seamless momentum of the directional execution. The friendship and love aspect is used sparingly as a plot device to make the impending torturous doom more of a gut punch as the desperation of the characters propel themselves to undergo acts of uninformed heroism which would make the average person curl up into a ball and wait for the comfort of death.

Confined spaces and destruction of teeth are some of my personal fears so this movie has probably had a more dramatic effect on my psyche than the kind of freaks that go pot-holing with only pork scratchings for sustenance. The "dragging teeth along the rusty pipe" scene was pure agony for me to watch as well as a fascinating experiment in maintaining my sanity.

Haze is a simple yet beautifully executed desperation movie with some intense scenes of hopelessness and pain and is an exploration into consciousness with a very human aspect making the trauma so much more engrossing.
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Categories: Asian Horror Movies
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