"...the hardest kind of film to review: it's not terrible but it's not that good either. It's stuck in that negative zone where all you can do is say "meh" in response."

- Raging Gaijin

Premonition (2004)

AKA: Yogen

Director: Norio Tsuruta 

Writer: Noboru Takagi and Norio Tsuruta (screenplay), Jiro Tsunoda (manga series) 

Producer: Takashige Ichise

Cast: Hiroshi Mikami, Noriko Sakai, Hana Inoue 

Running Time: 95 min.

Plot: See review below.


RAGING GAIJIN'S  REVIEW: To be sure, "Premonition" has an interesting premise: what would you do if you were given a glimpse at a newspaper from the future? If you knew that a train was going to be derailed the next day, how would you go about trying to stop this disaster from happening? Following the events of 9/11, Americans have an added perspective on such a scenario. Not surprisingly, there is seemingly limitless potential here to create a solid horror flick. Unfortunately, a great premise doesn't necessarily result in a great movie. This was demonstrated as recently as "White Noise", the tepid American thriller that "Premonition" somehow feels similar to. 

The opening of the movie is compelling enough. While on a road trip with his family, a husband pulls off to the side of the road to use a pay-phone. In the telephone booth he finds the clipping of what looks like an old newspaper. Upon inspection, it is revealed to be a paper from the next day ? and there's an article about his daughter dying in a car crash. He checks the reported time of the crash...and it's only a minute away. What happens next? I don't want to spoil it for you as this is probably the best sequence in the entire movie. 

After the opening scene, however, we jump ahead three years and the pace slows down tremendously. The movie seemingly tries to structure itself like "Ringu" with a divorced husband and wife attempting to solve a mystery. The problem is that the mystery is never that interesting and it fails to reach a satisfying conclusion. I'm not sure if the phenomenon of a future newspaper is some kind of ancient superstition for the Japanese but the movie acts like it is; and as Americans, we don't really have a similar urban legend so the movie lacks any kind of cultural relevancy for the West. It may not be fair to knock the film just because Westerners can't relate to it but, at the same time, there are plenty of other Asian horror flicks that play with base human fears and are scary to all people, regardless of their culture. Thus it's hard to recommend one that isn't. 

The performances are decent all around, although Hiroshi Mikami (who plays the husband) is a little over the top. I somewhat blame the script: towards the latter half of the film, his character has a lot of experiences that require an extreme emotional reaction. Mikami's answer to these moments is to become bug-eyed and weak-kneed and start shrieking like a child. I don't think it's a good idea for most actors to have more than one scene where they cry, at least not in a genre movie. It's not that the audience can't handle it or that stories shouldn't have male characters that shed tears. It's just when you have a string of scenes of extreme emoting one right after the other, for a good thirty minutes, it becomes more than a little over-bearing. Hiroshi's character experiences a lot of personal tragedy but after awhile you become numb to it, and more than a little annoyed, especially when his eyes bulge out of his head and he drops to his knees for the third time in ten minutes...

"Premonition" is probably the hardest kind of film to review: it's not terrible but it's not that good either. It's stuck in that negative zone where all you can do is say "meh" in response. It's hard to feel one way or the other about this movie. If you love all things Asian horror you'll probably be more forgiving. By the time the third act rolls around and Hiroshi starts traveling through time, the movie had lost all relevancy and started to feel like a Japanese "Butterfly Effect" (never a good sign). There are some decent car crashes and moments of disaster and terror, which is why I give it that extra half point, but overall this is like "Ringu" without the pay-off. "Premonition" is a mystery that builds to a whimper instead of a roar and ultimately leaves its audience unsatisfied. Stick with your tried and true Asian horror flicks for now.