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New Religion (Film Review)

2 min read

Premiering at FrightFest this September, Keishi Kondo's is a beautiful and unnerving which aspires to much and achieves most of it. With an opening akin to, and as jarring as, The Women in Black, the first scene depicts the tragic death of Aoi, the young daughter of our lead character Miyabi. The tone of the film is quickly established, and it sustains a sense of unease from start to finish. Homely scenes offer slight respite but there is something uncanny about the way Miyabi, a sex worker, goes about life both at home and work. When Miyabi meets a new, out of the ordinary client after her co-worker commits a crime, things start to change for Miyabi, and a sign of hope for her leaves the viewer disturbed and apprehensive.

The opening credits set you up well for what a stunning film this is. Each shot could have been a painting. From characters walking in the city or sitting at home, to eerie basement scenes, to artistic CGI sequences, every moment was visually spectacular, and the spaces of each scene careful thought out. It feels as though the camera is slowly panning out throughout the film, revealing more of each space with every shot being worth a thousand words, which is necessary given Miyabi isn't the most talkative.

While the story is compelling and easy to follow, some aspects didn't feel fully fleshed out, and the actions of some characters around Miyabi were questionable. Nobody seems quite real, and nothing feels natural. Which while unsettling made the plot less convincing at times. Her ex-husband and boyfriend stand out here, in that an altercation with her ex that seems important is never mentioned again, nor is he more than once. Her current partner does little in the way of supporting either Miyabi or the plot, although he is one of the more compelling characters.

New Religion also blends many different aspects, however it seems to make up for this complexity in other ways. A fantastical horror with supernatural, gory, and psychological elements, you are kept on your toes and the edge of your seat throughout. This mix seems a big undertaking, and some aspects could have warranted further consideration within its 100-minute run time, but Kondo expertly and creatively blends them. In particular, the psychological aspect would have been fascinating to see explored a little more, although Kaho Leto's excellent performance tells you what you need to know, and the moments that are there are harrowing.

While ambitious and relying heavily on the show-don't-tell filmmaking mantra, New Religion was a fascinating watch. The visuals were outstanding, powerful, and as disturbing as you would expect. With moments of brilliance punctuating the film and thoroughly sustained tension, there is something in here for every horror fan, and the cinematography is worth enjoying in itself.

New Religion aired at this year's Frightfest.