Barbet Schroeder’s thriller about a French author’s obsessive rivalry with the Japanese novelist he imitates, far from unrolling a cinematic hall of mirrors, merely stacks successive layers of make-believe, each flabbier and phonier than the last. Schroeder’s ace in the hole was always his ability to inject a startling dose of documentary realism into the most locked-in genre tropes. Here, however, artifice reigns supreme, and with a remarkable lack conviction or craftsmanship. “Inju: The Beast in the Shadow” seems headed for equally disaffected receptions both West and East.
Loosely based on a classic detective novel by the Japanese master of the perverse, Edogawa Rampo (a phonetization of Edgar Allan Poe), pic tracks smug pretentious young French writer, Alex Fayard (the always smarmy Benoit Magimel), bound for Kyoto. There, he tries to save a beautiful geisha (Lika Minamoto) from the clutches of his mentor/rival, the mysterious horror scribe Shundei Oe. Mock samurai films in which heads literally roll, haunted houses full of eviscerated cats, a gorgeous geisha fatale and last-act revelations fail to arouse the slightest frisson or visual shock, pic’s uninspired imagery matched only by its inexplicably amateurish thesping.