A tale from the ghost story "The Tunnel" reps a TV-movie that wants to be in the major leagues with horror helmer Hideo Nakata ("Ring," "Dark Water"), but plays like Rod Serling on an off day. Berthed in Cannes Directors Fortnight where it looked washed-out on DigiBeta projection, pic met decidedly underwhelming reception and looks unlikely to get much theatrical play beyond Nipponese shores apart from horror fests.

A tale almost literally from the crypt, musty ghost story “The Tunnel” reps a so-so TV-movie that wants to be in the major leagues with horror helmer Hideo Nakata (“Ring,” “Dark Water”), but plays like Rod Serling on an off day. Bafflingly berthed in Cannes Directors Fortnight where it looked washed-out on DigiBeta projection, pic met decidedly underwhelming reception and looks unlikely to get much theatrical play beyond Nipponese shores apart from horror fests.

Nuclear Taketori family — father Takeshi (Nomura Hironobu), mother Misako (Minamino Yoko) and son Akira (Okada Shouyo) — are still grieving over the accidental death of their youngest son Shigeru (Sakaguchi Jun). Takeshi hears from a dying uncle (Okayama Hajime) of an abandoned tunnel where ghosts cling to car windows. Akira resurrects his dead bro by dripping blood on his still unburied bones, and before long the family is taking a trip down this haunted memory lane, cueing cheesy special effects and deafening synth chords on the soundtrack. Potentially rich subtext about mourning and domestic implosion are marred by cliched script and direction. Scary beats, particularly the resurrection of a dead cat, are more laughable than frightening.

The Tunnel

Japan

Production

A Nagoya Broadcasting Network, Rumble Fish presentation of a Rumble Fish production. (International sales: Rumble Fish, Tokyo.) Produced by Ueno Kazuhiro, Nozaki Hisaya, Fukuyama Kensuke, Sato Kumi. Executive producers, Sento Takenori, Arikawa Suguru. Co-producer, Fukushima Kouichiro. Directed Manda Kunitoshi. Screenplay, Ikawa Kouichiro, Kunitoshi.

Crew

Camera (DigiBeta), Honda Shigeru; editors, Nakamura Kenchi, Oshige Yuji; music, Nagashima Hiroyuki; production designer, Sawashita Kazuyoshi; costumes, Suga Miwa. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors Fortnight), May 20, 2004. Running time: 69 MIN.

With

Nomura Hironobu, Minamino Yoko, Okada Shouyo, Sakaguchi Jun, Okayama Hajime.
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