Dir. Ji-Yeon Jung
A famous news anchor receives a call shortly before going on air from a woman who says that she and her daughter are about to be killed by someone, and her last wish is that she cover their death on-air.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
I had no idea what to expect going into this one, whether it would be the typical J-horror (with the confusing plot nonsense and random ghosts) or if it could be something a little more. What I got was an incredibly well-told mystery thriller story with some great J-horror moments jammed in, like a cross between Network and Ju-On. Director Ji-Yeon Jung delivers a patient story without making the audience feel like their time is wasted and a beautifully shot film without feeling like it’s avant garde. With just his first feature film, he rockets himself into the names of some of the best Japanese horror directors working today.
There’s a lot to love about this film, starting with one of the more dread-building scores that I’ve seen in a while. While there aren’t a whole lot of out-and-out scares throughout the film, you feel like there’s gonna be some terrifying shit popping out at any moment because of that audible aesthetic choice. The contrast between the score (and sometimes the events unfolding on-screen) and the often clinically-clean sets make everything feel just slightly off, which makes total sense given the plot resolution (which I won’t spoil here.) The acting works very well for the film as well, the holier-than-thou rising superstar Se-ra (Woo-hee Chun) strutting around like she’s better than everyone else, while her mother So-jeong (Lee-Hye-yeong) steals the show with her slightly unhinged performance.
That dynamic, between mother and daughter, is really what makes the movie. I had shades of Black Swan throughout, as So-jeong is overzealous and overbearing at the same time, seeking the fame for her daughter that she was never able to achieve for herself. The blend between the fame and psychiatry presented in the movie is fascinating, a really interesting inside look at the psyche of people who get to appear on our screens. Makes you wonder what else is going on behind your local news desk…
All in all, this is definitely a great J-thriller that is a great introduction to Japan’s horror for someone who isn’t used to the bullshit that often accompanies those films. When you watch films like Ringu or Pulse, you know that there’s a certain level of J-horror bullshit that’s coming. If you’re a fan of the genre, be honest… there’s definitely some weird shit that just doesn’t culturally translate to the American audience, and I say that as an ardent fan of the entire history of film in Japan. The Anchor avoids all of this by presenting a plot that doesn’t depend on these old devices, because while there’s certainly a twist and more than one dead body, it feels very Americanized in a way that a lot of those other films don’t. I’m sure that that helped, but The Anchor was right up my alley, and I highly recommend it for anyone who would like to branch out into Japanese horror cinema.
Who this movie is for: J-horror fans, Mystery thriller lovers, Ted Koppel
Bottom line: A straightforward mystery thriller with some excellent moments, The Anchor is going to be streaming soon from Screambox and definitely has the THR Seal of Approval. Check it out if you’re already a fan of J-horror or have any interest in getting into it. It’s a nice starter to avoid a lot of the nonsense that you often find in those movies, and while the scares are few the ambience and aura the film presents are fascinating. Give this one a shot, and let me know what you think.