I cannot fault Takashi Miike for what he did here. The ghost story “Yotsuya Kaidan” is widely known in Japan, and he probably thought that it wouldn’t be very exciting to make a straightforward retelling of the tale. However, since I actually don’t know it, and found the glimpses of it quite interesting and fascinating, I for one would have preferred a movie that simply tells this story, and drops the “play within a movie”-angle that in this case felt convoluted, and also made the movie unnecessarily confusing for me.
There’s definitely potential in the basic idea of life imitating art (Darren Aronofskys superb “Black Swan” – one of the best movies of recent years – is ample proof of that), but in this case, it just didn’t work for me. And I think that’s mostly due to the fact that I don’t know the ghost story that built the foundation of this movie; thus, I lack the basic knowledge that I would have needed to really get all those overlappings. I also would have preferred a more grounded approach to the “real world” stuff (e.g. the production of the play), since from the get-go, much about it felt rather surreal and weird to me (like the size of the stage, and especially all those desks of the production crew). “Black Swan” also gradually started to bring in surreal elements in the “real world” to show Nina’s slow descent into madness, but here, it’s less a gradual development than more like throwing us into cold water; which, unfortunately, prevented me from finding my way into the movie. It’s also a rather slow and, unfortunately, mostly dull affair, with few scenes that really managed to grip me.
My biggest problem though is a twist near the end. I don’t wanna spoil anything, thus I can’t go into detail, but let’s just say that I’ve seen similar twists in a couple of movies in recent years, and so far, I never liked it if they did that. It also raised the question what exactly really happened, and what was imagined, and at least in this case, that didn’t work for me at all. I’m especially confused concerning the scene with the woman in the shower, and everything that happens there. Did that really take place, or not? Unfortunately, that’s not something that can be discussed without getting into spoiler territory, so let’s leave it at that. What “Kuime” has going for it, tough, are the impressive visuals, some beautiful imagery, as well as a nice atmosphere. There also are a couple of great individual scenes that I liked. It’s not a complete failure, but at least for me, “Kuime” never really came together as a coherent, thrilling and convincing whole.