When I first heard about Tetsuya Nakashima's It Comes [Kuru], I tried not to get too excited. That's not as easy as it sounds, Nakashima hasn't put out a bad film yet and his films show a clear upward trajectory in quality. Things didn't get any easier when I heard It Comes was going to be a horror film, a genre I am quite fond of. Then came the inevitable wait, which turned out to be even longer than I had feared. I was finally able to catch Nakashima's latest though and luckily it didn't disappoint in the slightest.
I'm sure there is some or other technicality that explains why this film wasn't picked up for wider distribution, but the crux of the matter is that it's just not easy for Japanese films to find their way out of Japan these days. If the latest film by the director of Confessions (a film that generated its fair share of international success) can't even make it, it means people simply aren't even looking at Japan any more in order to discover the latest masterpiece. I had hoped streaming was going to fix this annoyance, but clearly we're not quite there yet.
Looking at Nakashima's oeuvre, he's quite the genre hopper. He's done everything from drama to comedy, from children's fantasy to exploitation. It's maybe no surprise then that he would eventually end up making a horror film, but somehow I had a pretty tough time imagining what that would look like. After seeing the film it makes a bit more sense, as he did a stellar job of blending typical horror elements with his own characteristics, but it's safe to say that you shouldn't expect a mere genre exercise from this film. There's way more to it than that.
It Comes is really two separate films rolled up into one. On the one hand you have a rather basic folklore story about a ghost latching onto people, on the other hand you get a relationship drama that slowly reveals its ugly side. Hideki is a newly married guy who gets even more excited about his life when he finds out his wife is pregnant. So much in fact that he starts a blog, where he regularly posts about his feelings and baby-related activities. People consider him to be a model dad, but it's no surprise that the reality of his marriage is a little less rosy than Hideki's blog posts suggest.
Nakashima is known for making beautiful films and clearly he hasn't lost his touch yet. His use of color in particular is exemplary and the camerawork is well above average. No shot feels neglected or rushed, no scene looks dull or unfinished. That's quite rare for a film of 2+ hours, which tend to settle down into a more conventional, less demanding visuals in order to let the story and/or characters take over. There is none of that here, on the contrary. Nakashima goes full out for the ending, which is easily one of the finest looking pieces of cinema I've seen in a while.
The soundtrack is on the safe side. Nakashima sticks with familiar, genre-proofed music, which is why it doesn't immediately jump out. If you pay a bit more attention to the score though you'll find that he did use it very deliberately and purposefully. The timing is perfect, the effect of the music in combination with the visuals is maximized as much as possible. I often stress that directors don't make enough use of the score to do something original or give their films something extra, Nakashima proves that you can take a perfectly normal score and still make it work to your advantage.
The cast is simply exceptional. Nakashima has always been able to draw superb performances from his actors, looking at the cast of It Comes that meant expectations were pretty high. And luckily they were met too. Okada is a great lead, Nana Komatsu (I didn't even recognize her at first), Haru Kuroki and Takako Matsu are stellar in generous secondary parts. The rest of the cast is on point too, with no weak performances spoiling it for the others. Nakashima gives no sign of messing up his winning streak just yet, even though it's probably not even the main selling point of his films.
It Comes is a film that challenges conventional cinema in several ways, without venturing too far off the beaten path. The film definitely doesn't feel overly weird or experimental, but the plot structure is quite atypical and the rather graphic horror scenes combined with a ghost story slash relationship drama feels quite novel. Nakashima's work tends to appeal to both die-hards and casual films fans alike and I feel that's going to be the case for It Comes too. Apart from the ending maybe, where he ventures into full-blown horror territory. If you're a little squeamish, the finale probably won't really appeal to you.
Nakashima's latest is the kind of film that's hard to recommend to one specific niche, but is equally difficult to dissuade people from watching. It Comes is a film that delivers on its genre premise, is different enough to keep you on your toes and is impeccably executed, with beautiful cinematography, strong use of its score and boasting stellar performances. It's a film I'd advise everyone to see, even to people that generally dislike Japanese cinema. As long as you don't expect a straightforward genre exercise, there is plenty to love here. That is, if you can find the film of course.