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Museum [2017]: Fantasia Film Festival Review

A somber, bewitching tone that often switches between a nightmare of shocking horror and a detective procedural runs through Keishi Ohtomo’s “Museum” (A.K.A ‘Myujiamu’). Though not as neatly done as David Fincher’s fascinating serial-killer film “Seven” (which it obviously borrows from), the film keeps unhinging its mystery around a psychological horror that only loses some of its amazing early footings late into the third act.




Things aren’t going quite as expected for Detective Hisashi Sawamura (Shun Oguri). He is unable to sleep properly as his wife recently left his home with his young son calling him ‘A terrible father.’ Hisashi is a workaholic who has almost always put his work ahead of his family. The recent developments at home have left him a little cold and there’s also a serial-killer on the prowl in the city.

There’s a certain pattern to the gruesome killings – A rain soaked day, a shade of ugliness in the human body and the choice of how a person is to be killed. The killer seems to leave no trace whatsoever but after investigating deeper, all the murders seem connected to a trial a few years ago. As the killings get more gruesome, the reasons for the murders get even weirder. The killer leaves a note with every killing and Hisashi, who is trying his best to figure everything out, is unaware of the fact that things are going to get really personal – real soon. 




Based on Ryosuke Tomoe’s 2013 manga “Museum: The Serial Killer Is Laughing in the Rain”, the film, in spite of it utter closeness to Fincher’s “Seven”, manages to peak your interest from the word go. Why is Hisashi’s family plucked as an essential allegory? Why does the killer wear a frog-mask? Why does one of the detective keep puking at every crime scene? Why is rain an essential part of every murder? What is the real reason behind the killings? Is this a revenge story or a morality tale – or both? Keishi Ohtomo masterfully keeps you judging throughout the greater half of his film. The pieces of the big puzzle fit together only to leave a single piece that dissolves into a bigger puzzle. 

The procedural part of the film keeps you in awe. Like many other Japanese films that succumb to over the top bloodshed and human cutthroats, Keishi’s film also loses itself somewhere in the third act. The whole morality tale that revolves around flashbacks serves as a cheesy trigger point to an otherwise intriguing psychological horror. In trying to give his two main characters a backstory, Keishi loses the kind of necessary restraint he showed throughout the film. Making the whole morality, grief and innocence angle seem a little too underdeveloped and underwhelming. 

Viewers looking for a game of cat and mouse will be pleased by “Museum.” It has all the elements of a Japanese B-Horror and a suspenseful psychotic serial-killer film. The film, albeit not a complete winner, fascinates to a certain degree. 

★★½

“Museum” PREMIERED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL.
CLICK HERE FOR OUR COMPLETE FANTASIA COVERAGE

Production Companies: Warner Bros Japan, Museum Film Partners.

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