G: Gui si (Silk) (2006)

Letterboxd ♠ Master List

Somewhere in my questionable writings about questionable media I was about to write that the key to Japanese genre movies is that you are asked to accept one extraordinary thing, and the story moves on from that basis. I believe that was about the original Battle Royale – then I realized this was true of almost all genre fiction, and put that in the Stupid Stuff You Came Up With file, and didn’t say it. (This why I would never make it in the world of political punditry, and also why I still have a shot at getting into heaven.)

In any case, the Extraordinary Thing this time around is the Menger Sponge, an artificial substance that traps electromagnetic energy. In a sequence of newspaper clippings, it is revealed that the Sponge’s developers were hoping to use it to achieve anti-gravity, but that production of a large-scale Menger Sponge failed.

However, that is only after a sequence where a Canadian photographer (Kevin S. Smith) is given an envelope of money to take photos with Menger Sponge-treated Polaroid film in a deserted apartment in a dilapidated building. It’s not the first time he’s done this, but this time he is surprised to find an image of a ghostly child in a corner where there should be none. He dies almost instantly with a look of terror on his face.

The crippled scientist Hashimoto (Eguchi Yôsuke) has been heading the Menger Sponge development team for several years, and the Director (Tsukayama Masane) has had enough of his wasting funds, until Hashimoto reveals he has made the largest Menger Sponge ever – although it will still fit in his pocket. What the Director doesn’t know is that Hashimoto has spent the last few years ghost hunting – and he has finally found one, in that apartment. He asks the Director to pull some strings to assign the Special Forces operative Tung (Chang Chen) to his team.

Hashimoto wants Tung because he has exceptionally sharp vision and the ability to read lips – both necessary as he has trapped the ghost of a young boy in that room with Menger Sponge material. The teams has also developed Menger Sponge eye drops allowing people to actually see the ghost, but only Tung can see an eerie strand of energy – the silk of the title – that connects the ghost to other locations. Hashimoto hopes that Tung can discover the boy’s identity, how he died, and where he is buried – because, of course, Hashimoto has other goals beside developing anti-gravity.

Gui si is a well-developed mystery wrapped in a ghost story with some remarkable horror movie moments, since it is discovered that if you look a ghost in the eyes, they can then see you, and inevitably kill you – and the eye drops make that much more likely. Although the eye contact’s not really necessary if a ghost suddenly turns vengeful – and the events of the movie will ensure that a really ticked-off ghost will start tracking down the members of the team with murder on its spectral mind.

An extra layer of meaning is laid on by Tung’s backstory – his mother has been in a coma for years, apparently, but Tung refuses to turn off her life support, even if the doctors say she is suffering. Like Hashimoto, he, too, needs some questions answered about the afterlife.

It’s these layers in Gui si that surprised me, and the fact that the climactic ghost sequences launched into the operatic, and even the heartbreaking, that completely sold me. I had to make an effort to seek this movie out, and having now seen its quality, that surprises me even more.

 

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