New Religion

#Review: New Religion – Japanese Film Festival Ireland 2023

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I don’t like body horror, I don’t like horror really. It’s not because I don’t like the genre, it’s because the genre hits me quite hard, especially when it comes to body horror. I can count on my hand the films that are under the subgenre of body horror that I have seen. However, with New Religion showing at the Japanese Film Festival Ireland I had to check it out. After all, in my opinion, the Japanese are masters at horror.

New Religion follows Miyabi, she’s a woman who 3 years ago lost her daughter in a horrific accident. After her divorce, she still lives in the same apartment and is getting by with her new job as a call girl. She lives with her new boyfriend and everything seems to be fine. Then one day she is sent to a new client and slowly her life collapses in on itself.

New Religion is a seriously unnerving film. From its subtle performances combined with its unnerving imagery, I was transfixed. There is a character in the film called Oka and from the word go you know he is bad news. From the mise en scene of his arrival to the very sound of his voice, he is an ethereal and disturbing individual that made my skin crawl.

The pacing of the film is slow, I didn’t understand what was happening to Miyabi until the third act of the film. You’re very much the frog in the pan, slowly being boiled until it is too late for you to escape.

The performances are fairly decent, easily the best one comes from the “antagonist” Oka. The highlights within the film come from him and the apartment he lives in. Some of the most intense and horrific moments happen there. The rest of the film is quite minimalistic with regard to outright horror which means that it has to rely on the strength of its story and cast, and the quality does waver at times. I felt it was a bit too long and at times was somewhat too abstract for my tastes.

Also, and this is a strange irk coming from me, the description of body horror is not particularly appropriate. I would see it as a psychological horror with elements of body horror.

Ultimately, New Religion is a disturbing look at trauma and how it can be weaponised against you to terrifying effect.

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