Ryouhei Watanabe’s Shady is a fantastic and ambiguous creature. It is a psychological thriller by way of character study and that’s what gives it such strength. The seeds of Shady's horror also lie in a bedding of philosophy and startling rationalizations that Watanabe injects into his script, which are chilling when they come off a young girls lips. Isn’t it always more terrifying when an evil person uses intellect to blur the lines of their amorality and justify acts of cruelty? On the surface, Shady is about the curious rise and fall of a High School couple. But it is really about its protagonist Misa Kumada. She has an obvious social maladjustment that makes her an easy target for bullying, so she stays hidden in her shell, hugs her backpack, trundles through the halls and sidewalks, and only opens up to her pet bird and the fish she cares for as the only member of the school's science program. “Unattractive” introvert Misa and her complete opposite, attractive extrovert Izumi strike a sudden friendship amidst the news that a fellow student has gone missing. The two commiserate at how that bullying girl’s absence has brought them both a sense of calm. Izumi is a vital, sensual, and vibrant person and is a spark that starts to crack open Misa's barriers. Shady is a true “post gay” film in that no conflict or controversy arises from the fact that this budding relationship is lesbian. Rather the conflict stems from the natures of the individuals involved. Izumi’s “shadier” inclinations and Misa’s confidence begin to show in tandem as their connection grows, fractures, reforms. Watanabe captures this relationship, its most joyful and its most terrifying aspects with great intimacy and precision.
Through a fast friendship, Ryouhei moves the story in patient strides and develops the girls’ unlikely connection through meaningful interactions, both empowering and toxic, sentimental and nihilistic, small and profound. The tension is distributed in this way as well, because again, it derives from the same source, character…and also a sense of place.
Shady is part of the New Wave of J-Horror series curated by Tetsuki Ijichi, who is making a great impact on the Philadelphia area by being an ambassador for modern independent Japanese Cinema in the US. Shady plays at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute on October 23rd! On October 30th will be the slasher-esque It’s A Beautiful Day.
check out the trailer here!