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Halloween is upon us! Throughout the month various streaming services have been updating their libraries to accommodate everyone’s desire for films in a spookier register, this weekend being no different. That said, just because it’s supposedly the time for such terrors, there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of counter-programming. As such, this writer would suggest turning your eyes toward the currently ongoing Scotland Loves Anime film festival, which this year, as with many other film festivals, has a digital selection to go with the in-person screenings, all courtesy of Screen Anime.
Rather than horror, the service is providing a wide look at various Japanese animated sci-fi adventures – including the recent Penguin Highway and the smash hit Weathering With You – as well as a fun retrospective in miniature of the various adventures of beloved character, the gentleman thief Lupin III. In the case of the latter, there’s a handful of his films – including the odd but entertaining The Secret of Mamo, as well as the whole series of Sayo Yamamoto’s mature and modern update of the characters with The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, and its various spin-off films focused on each of the main characters. Those who find any of these works entertaining, I would beseech you to watch The Castle of Cagliostro as soon as possible – one of the earliest Lupin III films and an incredible caper, directed by none other than Studio Ghibli co-founder and Spirited Away director Hayao Miyazaki. Back on the more seasonal side of things – MUBI and Shudder alike are displaying the work of Kiyoshi Kurosawa in his 2016 detective thriller Creepy, while Netflix is releasing the new horror film His House, which builds its ghost story upon foundations of a harrowing and all-too-real experience of immigration and asylum.
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His House - Netflix
Despite its being a ghost story, writer/director Remi Weekes’s feature debut His House begins on a set piece that hits particularly close to home this week, as it follows Bol Majur, his wife Rial and daughter Nyagak during their flight from war-torn Sudan, an exhausting trip that culminates in the three boarding an overcrowded boat to make a night crossing, before disaster strikes and everyone ends up separated in the water. That opening sequence is a nightmare, the film taking place a year after the events depicted, Nyagak already lost to the sea and Bol and Rial now having found asylum in England, moving into an assigned residence on a council estate. Once they move, the two find themselves haunted by spectres of grief and survivor’s guilt as well as more literal spectres powered by an untold evil, the supernatural and the personal combining to make a horror film that presents the debilitating process of immigration and assimilation with empathy and great emotional power.
Also on Netflix: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Weathering With You - Screen Anime
Following on from the astounding international success of his intense, romantic animated fantasy Your Name, Makoto Shinkai builds upon his natural disaster-inclined melodramas with Weathering With You, a film perhaps more closely tied to our current moment as it’s set amid a backdrop of catastrophic climate change. Taking place in an alternate reality Tokyo (not far off from where we stand) where the rain hasn’t stopped for several months, the film is about the 16 year old Hodoka Morishima, a runaway fending for himself in the city. He soon meets a girl named Hina, blessed with a mysterious power to change the weather, and as they develop a scheme to bring patches of clear skies to people who request it, Morishima of course falls in love with Hina, and things only get more complicated and emotional from there. For those who loved Your Name, this film will likely please, with breathtaking backgrounds mixing with emotive and exuberant flourishes of animation. For those who haven’t seen Your Name, this is just as good an entryway into a broader palette of anime.
An adaptation of a novel by Morimi Tomihiko (known for his works The Tatami Galaxy and Night is Short, Walk On Girl), with its peculiar title Penguin Highway suggests absurdist, otherworldly and hyperactive fun, and while it does often take that tack, it’s a little more grounded and mature than one might expect. In some respects the film is also reminiscent of the blockbuster works of Makoto Shinkai, through its heavily detailed backgrounds and merging of magical fantasy and childish crushes with impending disaster. But Penguin Highway’s photorealist art direction later gives way for more abstract surrealism, its more deliberate depictions of process giving way to joyous spectacle. While there are definitely a lot of penguins, the film is also a lot more than its title suggests.
Also on Screen Anime: Lupin III: The Secret of Mamo, Patema Inverted
Creepy - Shudder
Directed by modern Japanese horror maestro Kiyoshi Kurosawa, this film follows an ex-detective named Koichi and his wife Yasuko as they move into a new house with a deeply strange new neighbour, the “creepy” Mr. Noshino. But when Noshino’s daughter reveals something shocking to Koichi, he realizes the strange goings-on next door may have something to do with a missing person cold case he’s investigating. Like a lot of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s filmography its unsettling, merging macabre evil with mundane everyday existence in a fusion that somehow only gets, well, creepier the more plainly he depicts the two elements together. As with his other foundational J-horror films, it’s must-see work.
Also on Shudder: I Am Not A Serial Killer, May the Devil Take You Too
Watch: His House stars Wunmi Mosaku and Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù on how making TV differs from film