As some of you will already be aware, my favourite horror films are from Japan. I’m not entirely sure why this is, perhaps it’s the fact that they are subtitled and it’s more immersive to read than simply watch?
Either way today I want to talk about one of my all-time favourite films of all time, Premonition. Not the Sandra Bullock remake, as that film was completely different to the original, it didn’t have the same story, characters or anything really, it had a similar premise, I suppose, but that’s about it.
If you’re new to horror films, or if you’re a veteran and looking for something a little bit different to widen your pallet then I cannot recommend this film strongly enough. It’s creepy as hell, with well-developed characters, a great setting and genuinely chilling moments. That’s not even mentioning the tragedy involved.
For those of you who haven’t seen the film and would like to without having it spoiled then you might want to give the below a miss as it’s difficult to talk about the best aspects of the film without giving away elements of the plot.
Hideki Satomi, Ayaka his wife, and their five-year-old daughter, Nana are in the car returning home from vacation. Hideki is working in the back seat with Nana and gets the family to pull over when his network connection is a bit shit. He uploads a file using a phone booth across the road from their car. While in the phone booth he sees a newspaper which contains an obituary for his daughter Nana, who dies in a car crash. The crash happens moments later, killing Nana. Hideki distraught (because of course, you would be) tries to find the newspaper but fails.
The story picks up three years later, Hideki and Ayaka have divorced, unable to cope with the loss of their daughter.
Ayaka is interviewing a psychic about the Newspaper of Terror and is invited to visit the psychics home. She does so and finds many newspapers predicting/foreshadowing future events, all of them tragic in nature. She also finds the psychic dead surrounded by photographs. She tries to contact Hideki but he doesn’t answer due to the rift between them.
Hideki, working as a teacher and with obvious PTSD with regard to newspapers is having premonitions (literally this evil newspaper is basically stalking him at this point) and spots a newspaper predicting the death of one of his students, he tries to prevent her death but fails. He meets with Ayaka and tells her about the premonitions and his students’ death. Together they visit Rei, a chap who’s been researching the newspaper, they find his house empty of people and some videotapes which show what happens when you try to stop the newspaper’s predictions.
Hideki has the moral issue of trying to stop the premonitions, Ayaka begs him not to and they reaffirm their relationship. The following day Hideki sees a paper predicting Ayaka’s death and while he saves her lots of other’s die. This act causes him to start to have the same fate as Rei.
Things get a little weird at this point (because it wasn’t weird before) and Hideki starts seeing the victims of the papers premonitions, he then seems to go back in time (not sure how he managed that) and learns that in order to save his wife and child he has to die. The film ends with Nana, alive after the accident which now killed Hideki seeing the newspaper predicting Hideki’s death.
The main reason I love this film is because of the atmosphere, it’s truly creeping considering that it’s basically an evil newspaper. It’s well acted and a well told story, mixing the very human element of grief, with the moral question of should you act to save lives when the fate for doing so it pretty grim.
But my absolute favourite thing about this film is that nothing is explained. I mean this in the sense that we never learn what the newspaper is if it’s self-aware, does it know what it’s doing? Is it just predicting events or causing them to happen? Why does it latch n the Hideki the way it does? How the hell did Hideki get back in time? Why was he able to change fate? Was the newspaper not bothered as long as someone died? Was it his fate to die in the car accident all along?
This unknown element to the story would normally drive me a bit nuts, to be honest. I like to understand things, but the way it’s done in this film is so good that I find myself enjoying not knowing. It increases the creepy vibe when you have no way of knowing or relating to the main antagonist because it’s a bloody newspaper. It’s so alien, newspapers don’t think, or feel, they don’t have motivation the way we do, but this one seems to act and control fate.
I honestly think that if it was explained it wouldn’t be as effective, if we found out that there was a demon with a printing press in hell it’s not going to be as effective as this unknown sinister force (if it even is sinister, after all, we never find out if the paper causes the events or just warns of them).
What I don’t like about the film
While it’s lovely that Nana (who is utterly adorable) isn’t dead, the sudden introduction of time travel and Hideki’s sudden groundhog day like experience where he relives the accident multiple times until he gets the outcome he’s satisfied with felt a little out of place.
Personally, I’d have been happier if Hideki went the way Rei did, changing fate and suffering the consequences.
But this is a moot point as the ending, while a bit different in tone to the rest of the film doesn’t ruin anything by a long shot.
Go watch this film.