Marronnier (2004)

Faces of angels... minds of killers.
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Marronier - Faces of angels... minds of killers

Marronnier is a zany low budget Japanese horror that comes off like a cross between Puppetmaster and After Death (or Zombie 4: After Death or Zombie Flesh Eaters 3... or whatever you know it as). Before the opening credits begin to roll we are treated to some full-on gore enticing the viewer into thinking that they are in for a blood-soaked 80 minutes but unfortunately this is by far the most extreme scene of the whole movie. This is not a typical horror and does not follow the rules created by the current commercially available J-horror's. Despite the obvious low budget, director Akira Kobayashi makes good use of the limited resources available with some surreal scenes, creative camera work (despite being quite home video looking) and some bizarre Japanese humour. Thrown into the mix are some exaggerated and over the top personalities, a fantastical storyline with zero regard for realism and numerous psychotic dolls which all adds up to a purely entertaining yet obviously amateur B-movie horror.

The star of the movie, Marino, is an avid doll collector and obsessively loves all of her toys in an unnaturally childish way for a seemingly adult female - she especially loves her favourite marronnier. This particular doll came to be in her possession when her soon-to-be stalker gave it to her as a gift, but the doll has a mysterious past and was once the wife of murderous wife-beater, Iwata, who threw her corpse in the backyard pond only to discover that the reason his Sea Monkey breeding business failed is due to the ponds magical waxifying abilities. After retrieving his waxed wife's cadaver from the miraculous pond and whittling away her imperfections with the skill of Christian Troy he sells her and soon becomes a renowned marronnier manufacturer.

As business starts to boom, Iwata hires an assistant who has a rather more direct approach to doll making by plucking potential dolls from the streets and applying the magical wax power (now harnessed in a machine as there was probably hygiene issues with the pond and no business wants the feel the wrath of the Health and Safety Officer) to the freshly harvested victims. It also just so happens that the new assistant is Marino's stalker but his plans to dollify the object of his obsession are soon scuppered when the marronniers start to come back to life (or become undead... whatever floats your boat).

The storyline is quite all over the place with a number of seemingly irrelevant scenes thrown in to increase the confusion and the holes in the saga are just ignored which is easily overlooked at the beginning of the movie but becomes a bit unfulfilling as the gaps are not plugged.

Criticisms aside, Marronnier is an ambitious project for a low budget horror movie and to be honest this apparent lack of funds probably adds to the overall appreciation of the project than if a small fortune and tons of CGI had been thrown its way. There were plenty of missed opportunities for goring up the place but it seems that Kobayashi wanted to create the scares from the half-human, half-wax abominations but they unfortunately fail to deliver. The concept of a magic pond that turns people into wax may seem a bit too far-fetched for Western audiences but if Godzilla movies have taught us anything then it's that flights of fantasy can still be entertaining and that storyline can take second stage to a story concept.

Personally I think Marronier showed a whole lot of potential for giving your typical doll horror and innovative Japanese twist but missed the B-movie charm of buckets of blood. Very rarely will a low budget horror succeed to impress the fans of crappy movies without an abundance of gore as it takes a very talented director to create an atmosphere of dread with very few resources. Marronier is a valiant attempt at doll horror with a sense of humor reminiscent of a gaudy Uzamaki but not as far-out or as calculated as Stacy, it cannot fail to amuse the hardcore fans of Asian horror but probably won't reach a much wider audience.
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Categories: Asian Horror Movies

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