THE FORBIDDEN PLAY (禁じられた遊び) (2023)

Genre: Horror/Thriller
Director: Hideo Nakata
Cast: Kanna Hashimoto, Daiki Shigeoka, First Summer Uika, Minato Shogaki
Runtime: 1 hr 51 mins
Rating: NC16 (Violence and Horror)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Official Website:

Opening Day: 22 February 2024

Synopsis: A young boy makes a wish after losing his mother Miyuki in an accident. He buries her finger in the ground and chants everyday to bring her back from the dead! Mysterious phone calls, cracking glasses, piercing gazes, and possession... Resurrected through the breaking of a taboo, Miyuki conjures an onslaught of eerie phenomena, and her monstrous determination sees her rise again and again to attack the living!

Movie Review:

If you have seen enough horror movies, you will realise that the charcaters aren’t usually portrayed as the most intelligent beings. Take the male lead of this Japanese production for example. After his wife dies in an accident, why would he not sense that something is wrong when his son buries the dead woman’s finger in the garden? And it doesn’t take a genius to know that something sinister is going to happen when the kid chants a scary sounding phrase hoping that his mother would come back to life. Call us unsympathetic, but even if we want to empathise with the grieving family, you know something bad is going to happen if such occurrences are taking place right in your household.

But that’s what we as audiences love about horror flicks – to see characters involving themselves in the unwise circumstances, so that we can be spooked when unfortunate supernatural incidents take place on the big screen.

In this story, Naoto (Daiki Shigeoka from Japanese idol group Johnny's West) is the ill fated chap. When we first see him, he seems to be leading the perfect life with his demure wife Miyuki (First Summer Uika) and their cute son Haruto (Minato Shogaki). You’d think all’s good until she whispers in his ear and warns him not to betray her. You know something bad is going to happen. And before you know it, Miyuki and Haruto are seriously injured in a car accident. The mother dies while the son miraculously survives.

Elsewhere, we get to know an online reporter Hiroko (Kanna Hashimoto) who turns out to be Naoto’s ex colleague. Thing is, Hiroko had a crush on Naoto and beings being haunted by unexplained apparitions. When she learns about Miyuki’s death, things begin to get out of control and you can expect quite a number of chilling sequences and gruesome deaths.

Adapted from a 2019 novel by Karuma Shimizu, the pioneer of Japanese horror movies Hideo Nakata (the guy behind classics like 1998’s Ring and 2002’s Dark Water) knows how to visually tell a tale of revenge and hate. Bit by bit, he reveals back stories like Miyuki’s troubled past and Hiroko’s encounter with Naoto. There’s even a somewhat hilarious but disturbing segment involving a shaman who tells Hiroko that the evil being disrupting her life is not a ghost, but a living wraith.

Efficiently told in 111 minutes, the story progresses in a predictable fashion, but you are constantly intrigued as the characters gape in fear and disbelief as they progressively learn more about the vengeful being that is upon them. This is an old school horror tale that is perfect for the Japanese setting, and Nakata competently draws the performances from his ensemble cast. Hashimoto makes you fear for her character’s fate, and Uika is terrifying with her cold stare. Shogaki exudes an uncomfortable vibe (which is proven towards the end of the movie), and Shigeoka makes you question whether you’d make the unwise decisions as his character if you were in his shoes. 

Movie Rating:

(J-horror master Hideo Nakata delivers a chilling tale of revenge and makes you think twice about displaying affection to anyone other than your partner)

Review by John Li


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