The Stare (2016) by Miki Koichiro

After witnessing a bizarre death, Ayano Mishima (Tomomi Itano), who works at a television production company, is drawn into an historic mystery and comes face to face with an ancient curse. Individuals are being troubled by disembodied eyes that peer at them from gaps in furniture, vents, or between curtains, their paranoia spiralling until they are eventually killed by an unseen force. After seeing this Mishima sets out to discover the cause, leading her to the mysterious 9 mountain pass where an ancient village has been submerged beneath a reservoir. Mishima’s boyfriend is admitted to an institution when he too begins to see the mysterious presence, forcing Mishima to find a solution to the curse.

Based on a novel by Shinzo Mitsuda, “The Stare” (Japanese title: Nozokime) is a good old fashioned ghost story, with a fun folkloric ghoul as the primary antagonist. Whereas usually horror will focus on fear, here the spectre provokes paranoia, leading characters to tape over any cracks or gaps they find in their apartments. This hidden eye is chilling in its inexplicable nature and for the fact that there is very little the victims can do to avoid being harassed by it. For the most part the film avoids straight-up gore or violence, with only a few instances of bloody deaths, and one character gouging their eyes out. These restrained uses of special effects work to the film’s advantage. Like much horror of this genre, part of the fun is the unravelling of the central mystery: of who the spirit is, why they are upset, and how they might be appeased. Ex-AKB idol Tomomi Itano does a good job in the central role of horror heroine.

“The Stare” is a fairly by-the-numbers horror with solid direction from Miki Koichiro and a unique antagonist. Japan has a wealth of folkloric monsters to pick from, so its always interesting to see a ghost with a unique angle to their kills, and this is about as unique as they come.