Monday, July 16, 2018

Fantasia ’18: Aragne—Sign of Vermillion

According to this film’s mythology, people once believed “insects that affected our subconscious lived inside us”—sort of like Scientology, but not as creepy. Unfortunately for Rin, there might be something to that superstition. In fact, it might be part of the perfect storm of bad karma she must weather in Saku Sakamoto’s short-in-length, but long on weirdness Aragne: Sign of Vermillion (trailer here), which premiered during the 2018 Fantasia International Film Festival.

Poor Rin has a lot more to worry about than just her university exams. She was duped into renting a flat in a truly sinister apartment building. In addition to horrendous Feng Shui, it just might be built over something horrific. As if that were not enough, the neighborhood is also being stalked by a serial killer, who arranges his victims in a highly ritualistic manner. Rather ominously, there were earlier cases of his MO, dating back decades.

Aragne is a wildly eerie film, but we wish Sakamoto had developed the insidiously intriguing backstory more before lighting off into a maelstrom of woo-woo spectacle. Sakamoto did digital effects for Mamoru Ishii’s Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, so it is not surprisingly that we can see a bit of visual kinship between the two films. Sakamoro crafts some wild imagery as well as some extraordinarily atmospheric set pieces. It just seems like he rushes the film too much, because he also created some genuinely inventive narrative elements.

Still, the artistry that went into this film is immediately apparent. He particularly capitalizes on the grotesque nature of the insects to give the film a uniquely textured feel. It is not just style, there are plenty of inventive narrative elements—we just wish there had been more time to explore them. (You won’t hear us say a film should be longer very often, so savor the moment).

Of course, it could very well have been a factor of budget constraints. The fact that Sakamoto independently produced such an ambitious and aesthetically distinctive film is quite a feat. Real animation fans will surely appreciate the accomplishment. Recommended for horror and anime connoisseurs, Aragne: Sign of Vermillion screened as part of this year’s Fantasia, up north.