Dir. Banmei Takahashi (1988)
A homemaker is trapped inside her apartment after she is afraid to answer the door after receiving a series of threatening calls.
Advancements in technology have eliminated a lot of the scary that used to exist in regular, everyday life. Back in the day, when traveling salesmen could knock on your door at any time of the day, life for a stay at home wife and mother must have been terrifying. Nowadays, we have Ring doorbells that can show you who is at your door whenever you choose, and security systems can call the police before you ever know you're in danger. Smarthomes can turn lights on and off at predetermined intervals, fooling even the most discerning would-be robbers into thinking there are more people home than there are. Before those advancements, however, the other side of the door could be as horrifying as anything you could imagine. It's within this context that Door, the 1988 film from director Banmei Takahashi, plays on the fears of housewives and anyone who doesn't particularly appreciate visitors.
Yasuko (Keiko Takahashi) is one such housewife, and she's been receiving annoying sales calls from the salesman Yamakawa (Daijirô Tsutsumi). After she inadvertently slams his hand in the door after one persistent visit, the calls she receives become of an increasingly threatening nature. With her husband gone for a three day shift at work, she's left alone with this new intrusion in her life. Determined to protect her child from the unwelcome visitor, she must defend herself and her home from whatever is on the other side of the door.
Door plays on the fears of a disconnected society, one in which neighbors don't pay attention and anyone you meet could be your worst nightmare. Director Banmei Takahashi utilizes sound and vocal patterns, often overlaying a digitalized voice as if the person in front of Yasuko is speaking to her on the phone, to emphasize the separation that she feels from everyone around her. It's a brilliant strategy, keeping the audience on their toes as much as his characters, even though the audience knows what her stalker looks like.
This late 80's synth soundtrack, occasionally interspersed with a frenetic cacophony of synth during the tenser moments, is repetitive but somehow never feels monotonous. The acting is a little stilted, but it feels more cultural than it does poor acting choices. Keiko Takahashi does a great job as the harassed Yasuko, and Tsutsumi is genuinely scary as her attacker. Some of the shots, like the vertical one-shot that follows Yasuko as she runs from Yamakawa through the house, are incredible, giving the film a stageplay-like appearance and creating some visual interest during a room-by-room fight for survival.
The scariest part of the film is the realism, this possibility that someone could be watching your every move while you have no idea why he's after you. Yasuko continually makes stupid decisions, but that's nothing new for a horror movie. The brutal attacks are genuinely unsettling, and this is not a film that I'd be wanting to watch if I was a stay at home mother. Despite the relatively tame first 2/3 of the film, the final act is excellently gory, helping to remind the audience that this is an 80's Japanese horror flick after all. While it's certainly not among the best the country has to offer, even from that period, it's an excellent unseen entry into the home invasion genre that more people should watch.
Who this movie is for: Home invasion lovers, Japanese horror fans, Traveling salesmen
Bottom line: Door is a film I had never heard of before receiving the screener from Screambox, and now that it's streaming, I hope it's one that others will check out. A brutal and genuinely frightening home invasion thriller that preys on the true fear of being home alone with nowhere to run, it's a film that drags at time but is worth sticking through. I definitely recommend giving this one a watch on Screambox, it's a film that earns a lot more recognition than it has received.