The Complex (2013) poster

The Complex (2013)


(Kuroyuri Danki)

Japan. 2013.


Director – Hideo Nakata, Screenplay – Junya Kato & Ryuta Miyaka, Producers – Masayuki Akieda, Chiaki Noji, Takashiro Suematsu & Tadashi Tanaka, Photography – Junichiro Hayashi, Music – Kenji Kawai, Production Design – Kyoko Yauchi. Production Company – Dentsu/Nikkatsu/Shochiko Company.


Atsuko Maeda (Asuka Ninomiya), Hiroki Narimiya (Shinobu Sasahara), Kanau Tanaka (Minoru Kinoshita), Masanobu Katsumura (Isao Ninomiya), Naomi Nishida (Sachiko Ninomiya), Ruiki Sato (Satoshi Ninomiya), Satomi Tezuka (Sanae Nonomura), Shiro Namaki (Takshiko Ninomiya), Megumi Sato (Hitomi Makimura), Taro Suwa (Detective)


Nursing student Asuka Ninomiya moves in to an apartment at the Kuroyuri Complex along with her parents and younger brother. Her fellow students warn her that the building is haunted. Asuka begin to hear noises coming through the wall of her bedroom from the adjoining apartment. She befriends young Minoru who plays in the playground and says he lives in the neighbouring apartment. However, when she goes next door, Asuka finds his grandfather dead and that the noise was him clawing at the wall for help as he lay unable to move. After the police investigation, Asuka befriends forensic cleaner Shinobu Sasahara but he soon realises that everything is not as it appears to be.

Hideo Nakata will always be the director who made the original Ring (1998) and its immediate sequel Ring 2 (1999). For a few years, Nakata tried to make a variety of original dramas and works but these failed to achieve much success. Mostly, Nakata has found regular employ by returning to the horror genre with the likes of Dark Water (2002), Kaidan (2007), L: Change the World (2008), Incite Mill (2010), Monsterz (2014) and Ghost Theatre (2015), as well as a couple of ventures into the English-language with The Ring Two (2005) and Chatroom (2010). (See below for Hideo Nakata’s other genre films).

Hideo Nakata’s path since the Ring films has been uneven. There was Dark Water, which climbed back up there, but the rest of his films have been hit and miss. I kept hoping that he might get it together again as I sat down to watch The Complex. Unfortunately, as the film sets in, it is dreary and uninteresting, singularly lacking in the atmosphere that you expect Nakata to pump into it. It is not helped by the presence of Atsuko Maeda who is possibly the least charismatic and most anonymous heroine in any Japanese horror film.

We start out thinking that we are dealing with is a standard ghost story about the dead grandfather and the mysterious boy, not dissimilar to Dark Water. However, about a third of the way in, the film does an about-face and pulls the rug from under us. Here [PLOT SPOILERS] we learn that Atsuko Maeda’s family, who have been interacting with her after she moved into the apartment, died in a vehicle accident some time earlier.

Atsuko Maeda comforts young neighbour Kanau Tanaka in The Complex (2013)
Atsuko Maeda comforts young neighbour Kanau Tanaka

It feels like this is Hideo Nakata jumping aboard the post-The Sixth Sense (1999) fad for ghost stories that conduct a last minute left field twist to reveal that everything we have assumed about the central character and situation is not true at all. Variants on these have been numerous to the point that such twists have now started to become tedious. (For other examples and more detail see Conceptual Reversal Twists). Nakata seems to be doing a similar sort of thing here – only he pulls the main twist well before the end of the film.

Unfortunately, this then leaves The Complex in confusion. From that point on, we forget about the old man and the little boy and spend the latter half of the film wondering what is going on with Atsuko Maeda and her family. We even get never explained flashes of her inside some sort of contraption with flashing lights, leading you to suspect that everything might be a hallucination being had while she is in a coma.

The great frustration of the film is that none of the rest of the plot seems that dependent on this big twist. Much of the rest of the show could have gone on as though the family were still alive. Certainly, the film does pick up somewhat towards the end with the scenes of Atsuko Maeda trying to refuse to let the little ghost boy in, followed by her family who do everything they can to ply her with guilt to get her to open the door. But the overall result is eminently forgettable.

Hideo Nakata’s other genre films include:- the ghost story Don’t Look Up (1996); Ring (1998) and its sequel Ring 2 (1999); the ghost story Dark Water (2002); the English-language The Ring Two; the ghost story Kaidan (2007); the Death Note spinoff L: Change the World (2008); the English-language Chatroom (2010); Incite Mill (2010) about a reality tv elimination game; Monsterz (2014) about a man with mind-control abilities; Ghost Theatre (2015); a return to the Ring franchise with Sadako (2019); Stigmatized Properties (2020); and It’s in the Woods (2022).

Trailer here

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