Asuka is an aspiring model who has just moved to the big city. She finds lodgings with a rather abrasive woman named Kasumi. One night in the flat Asuka witnesses a brutal murder at the Hotel Bats across the street together with Kasumi. They call the police who begin to investigate but the case proves to be very strange indeed. Playing on bizarre coincidences, occultism, supernatural elements, and family drama, the investigation take a number of surprising turns on the path to finding the killer.
Black Kiss is an odd blend of crime drama and horror. In the naming of Hotel Bats and the constant thunderstorm raging outside it seems to be paying homage to macabre horror tales. Early in the film we have a sex scene and the gory disembowelling of the victim, however these elements are not really continued throughout. Unfortunately, much of the film is shot, written and acted more like a daytime drama, which is at odds with some of the better film-making on display. The film’s story begins with Asuka witnessing the crime, but soon we are introduced to the detectives and other side characters who also carry a part of the story. The film may have benefitted from a clearer focus on a single character to sustain the mystery. This would mean there are things that this character would need to find out. Instead the film attempts to confuse the audience with red herrings and inexplicable twists, such as references to the number 9 that are all but indecipherable. The film is certainly not without merit. There are some very well shot sequences. In particular the scene between the two flatmates on a rooftop, with one acrobatically cartwheeling along a ledge against the city lights in the background. The music here is also at its best. The score features some great moments, such as during the sex scene with a strange but oddly fitting choice to use an amelodic screeching, and the aforementioned scene on the rooftop evoking a calm. Other parts of the film are fairly standard action tunes that seems to be in keeping with the films wildly divergent quality.
The film outstays its welcome and seems a little directionless at times. However, there are moments that are worth watching for and it is clear that the creators intentions were to create a thrilling mystery with twists and turns, referencing both hard-boiled crime dramas and traditional horror stories. It is a film that seems not to know it’s own strengths and so lingers too long on the more tedious characters or elements.