Review for Door 1 & 2
The warning that Adam Torel gave me with the first two Directors’ Company releases still resonates in my mind, that these films aren’t my cup of tea. And sure enough, horror is my least favourite movie genre, with only a few titles grabbing my attention beyond the usual clichés and tropes. But on the other hand, every October I do get a hankering to watch a horror movie. I suppose even I fall for the hype and atmosphere of the Halloween season. And rather than stare for a few hours at the few horror movie spines on my seemingly endless home video shelves, I’m actually grateful when the coincidence of the season strikes, and distributors start sending me horror movie check discs to review. Maybe if I’d watched The Guard From Underground this month, I might have had a different reaction. As it is, it’s the next Directors’ Company release from Third Window Films that gets the serendipitous timing. Door and its sequel Door 2 are presented on this single Blu-ray disc. Incidentally, the director of The Guard From Underground Kiyoshi Kurosawa went on to direct the next film in the series, Door 3, but as that was made outside the auspices of the Directors’ Company in 1996, it obviously won’t appear as part of this collection.
Yasuko Honda is a housewife who lives in a seventh floor apartment with her young son Takuto and her husband Satoru, although he spends days on end at work, leaving her alone to raise their son. What should be an idyllic lifestyle is marred by the plague of the latter half of the twentieth century, junk mail, cold callers, and door-to-door salesman, all pushing their wares, and typical Japanese politeness requires some degree of engagement before gently refusing their advances. One day of such incessant selling proves too much for Yasuko, and her stress and paranoia pushes her to take it all out on one rather forceful salesman, slamming the door on his fingers. She’s made an enemy, and so the intimidation begins, and quickly escalates...
Door gets a 1.85:1 widescreen 1080p transfer, with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo Japanese soundtrack with optional English subtitles. As usual, the film has seen restoration before its Blu-ray release and is presented here without any sign of age or print damage. However, it appears that the film stock used is that typical of the late eighties, a little softer, and a little more prone to grain when it comes to the image. Other than that, detail levels are good, colours are rich and consistent, and the image is free of signs of compression and the like. The audio is fine, effective in establishing a mood through some unsettling sound design. The dialogue is clear, and the subtitles are accurately timed and are free of typos. I particularly love the theme tune, with the most use of tabla in a non-Indian film since Roy Budd’s theme for Get Carter.
Well that is a turn up for the books. I really liked Door, despite my initial reservations. It’s quite a neat little psychological thriller, and very efficiently told at that. Four main characters, and the setting in and around an apartment means that this is a film with no fat to it. It’s just pure storytelling and character development. It effectively sets the scene, the claustrophobia of the apartment and the unsettling reflection of society at the time; the innate Japanese politeness coming into friction with the incessant selling techniques that cold callers and pedlars used to pressure people into buying. This is an apartment where her faceless neighbours respond passive aggressively by dumping her garbage back in front of her door, when she has the affront to put it out on the wrong day by mistake.
I’m sure everyone has had a bad day, and then the phone rings, some guy called James with a thick Indian accent informing you that there is a problem with your Windows installation. You lack the energy and wit to tell him that you’re a Mac user and simply tell him to go forth and multiply. Yasuko doesn’t have that luxury, conditioned to treat people with politeness. A day of this, while her son is at school her husband at work, and the pressure and paranoia builds to the point she responds by trapping the next poor salesman’s hand in the door when he gets too pushy.
And so war is declared. It begins with unsavoury gifts in her postbox, juvenile graffiti on her front door, but once he gets a good look at his target, retribution turns into an obsession for the attractive young housewife, and the stalking intensifies, the creepy phone calls begin, and Yasuko’s sense of paranoia and fear intensifies. The climax to the film is inevitable, a bloody and gory confrontation, but so energetically and creatively shot that it feels fresh and original. You could say that Door is a somewhat conventional thriller, but I found that it had a twist, a sting in its tail that elevates it.
It’s not perfect though. It could have used an action co-ordinator, to better choreograph some of that conclusion, and with modern sensibilities, I’m not too sure about writing the child Takuto into the conclusion of the film. Overall though, I found Door to be quite the surprise and the delight.
Ai is a call girl, but rather than working through an agency, or having a pimp, she uses a telephone messaging service to screen potential clients. It helps that she’s adventurous, but relying on her gut to tell who is safe and who isn’t is a recipe for disaster, especially as who might sound like gentleman on the phone, could be anything but on the other side of the door.
Door 2 gets a 4:3 pillarboxed transfer with DTS-HD MA 2.0 Japanese and optional English subtitles. It’s a solid, filmic transfer, with good detail and colour, and no sign of visible compression. The audio is fine, the dialogue clear, and the subtitles are timed accurately and free of typos.
Banmei Takahashi made his name directing pink eiga films, the Japanese erotic cinema genre, and while Door might have been a straight up thriller, with Door 2, Banmei Takahashi returns to more familiar ground, creating a piece of erotica with a dark, unsettling edge to it. It’s not exactly my cup of tea, so this review is better taken with a pinch of salt, more so than my other reviews.
It’s all about the kinkier side of sex, with Ai’s clients usually wanting more than just vanilla encounters. She’s confident, nigh on fearless, and adventurous in the bedroom, which certainly helps with some of the things she’s requested to do. It’s also always a risk, not knowing what her next client will actually be like. They are very rarely the same, polite voice on the other side of the phone line.
As the film unfolds, the bizarre nature of the clients only intensifies, occasionally unsettling, occasionally just hilarious, until the one client that crosses the line, and things go bad. Should Ai quit that life, can she quit? That is the question that is raised in the final act, but for me, the film couldn’t decide if Ai is exploited, or if she’s empowered. It felt like it was trying for both simultaneously. Then again, I’m not exactly in the target audience for this film, and your mileage may vary.
The disc presents both films with an animated menu, and you’ll find the following extras.
Director Banmei Takahashi Interview (24:42)
Door Audio Commentary with Jasper Sharp
Door Trailer (1:34)
Door 2 Trailer (1:28)
One of the biggest complaints about sequels, especially sequels of old was that they were little more than the original movie rehashed. Nothing could be further from the truth with Door and Door 2. All that remains constant is that the ‘door’ as motif is kept between the two films. Otherwise they are completely different genres. Door is about the psychological battle that is fought, with the door separating protagonist from antagonist effectively the battlefield. Door 2 is about the sexual perversities that can happen behind closed doors. I was pleasantly surprised by the first Door film, expecting the usual from my least favourite genre, but getting something quite compelling instead. For me, it’s worth the price of the disc alone, which is useful, given that Door 2 is aimed at a demographic of which I’m not a member.
Door & Door 2 is available from Arrow Video, from Terracotta, and from mainstream retailers.