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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Above average, but could have been much better
In the aftermath of the 1995 Kobe earthquake, Yukari (played by Yoshino Kimura, a very popular actress in Japan) wanders the ruined streets and eventually washes up at a shelter for the homeless. She is able to read people's thoughts, a skill or curse which has made her emotionally homeless for many years.
Dr.Nomura, a school psychologist, takes Yukari home and it's...
Published on 25 July 2005 by Budge Burgess

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric and interesting but lacking in great scares.
I like the premise of the film but in some ways it feels a little misleading. The murdered victims seem in some ways a little beside the point, incidental rather than central to the story. I would describe the film as ghost story rather than horror film, there is a difference! The result is that the most interesting elements of the story are the psychological implication...
Published on 15 Jan 2007 by Aisha I'm Vibrating


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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Above average, but could have been much better, 25 July 2005
By 
Budge Burgess (Troon, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Isola [1999] [DVD] (DVD)
In the aftermath of the 1995 Kobe earthquake, Yukari (played by Yoshino Kimura, a very popular actress in Japan) wanders the ruined streets and eventually washes up at a shelter for the homeless. She is able to read people's thoughts, a skill or curse which has made her emotionally homeless for many years.
Dr.Nomura, a school psychologist, takes Yukari home and it's while there that the psychic learns of the case of a schoolgirl - Chihiro (Yu Kurosawa) with multiple personalities. One of these, it seems, is capable of inducing people to kill themselves. As Yukari investigates, she discovers that Chihiro had an out-of-body experience during the car crash which killed her parents.
The pretext of the film is what if your mind is fragmented during an out-of-body experience: supposing a part of it is left homeless, unable to return; supposing the pieces never quite gel, remain separate characteristics. Could that evil side - the Mr.Hyde - find a way to live beyond your body, to find a means of striking back at those who transgress against you?
The concept of multiple personalities is one fraught with controversy. Do they exist or are they created in unconscious collusion with the therapist - like recovered memories or other life experiences? Clearly, we all have different characters living within us, different aspects of our persona. We maintain an inner dialogue with self, maintain a coherent narrative of who we are and what we are at any given time or situation. What happens if we unravel those strands - can each become a coherent persona in its own right?
Based on a novel by Yusuke Kishi, "Isola" opens with great atmosphere and potential. Disjointed, enigmatic, it requires some concentration to knit the various strands together and understand the immediate logic of the film, but throughout the first half you are emotionally and intellectually engaged and moved to the edge of your seat. Yoshino Kimura is riveting in her psychic role. But the multiple personalities turn out to be something of a red herring.
It's not a bad film. It has plenty of atmosphere, plenty of potential, but somehow it just doesn't quite knit together as it approaches its denouement. The notion of the vengeance spirit is, by now, familiar in Japanese movies, but while "Isola" sets up all the logic and backstory for this, the conclusion doesn't quite build enough tension to make it a wholly satisfactory film. It's stylish, it's enjoyable, it's well made, but it just lacks that vital punch.
Good picture and sound quality on the DVD, but the extras are seriously limited - a couple of very brief interviews with two of the actors, and that's about it. Like the film itself, the extras just lack that little bit of punch. Worth watching, but you'll feel it could have been better.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric and interesting but lacking in great scares., 15 Jan 2007
This review is from: Isola [1999] [DVD] (DVD)
I like the premise of the film but in some ways it feels a little misleading. The murdered victims seem in some ways a little beside the point, incidental rather than central to the story. I would describe the film as ghost story rather than horror film, there is a difference! The result is that the most interesting elements of the story are the psychological implication of Chihiro's multiple personalities and how they came into being, and ultimately the central character's own demons that she fights to surpress. I liked the setting amidst the ruins of the earthquake and an abandoned derelict hospital is always going to be atmospheric and disturbing. The characters also were sympathetic (mostly) and I did find myself routing for them. But what stops this film being scary is that although it manages the shadows lurking in corners and being watched aspect well enough, when the chost of 'Isola' actually graces us with her visual presence it feels very unintimidating. Why Ring was so great is that the slow tension had us scared all the way through, but the actual big bad nasty was ultimately terrifying when we did face it. In Isola the ghost lacks that impact. But overall the film was quite stylishly done so I did enjoy it and feel I will get something by watching it again.

My biggest complaint though has to be the missed opportunities. As I said the derelict hospital was a very atmospheric setting and rather creepy, but it offered potentially great set pieces that were barely used. A sensory deprivation tank plays a vital role in understanding the presence of Isola, but why oh why did we have no scene of our central character trapped inside of this tiny cramped coffin like box with only Isola for company. It could have worked exceptionally well and could have easily fitted into the story, but alas instead we had a transparent unscary ghost floating around instead. The other thing is I never really understood 'Isola's' manicness, when we find out about her origin it never really makes sense to me about why she is like she is, there doesn't seem much reason or thought behind it. It feels as though it is convenient to make the ghost a bit nuts but with not enough backstory to explain it.

A bit more attention to Isola's backstory and better use of a great setting would have allowed this film 4 stars but it's still a valiant attempt and better than some offerings in the same genre. Don't expect a great film but enjoyable nonetheless.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What?, 9 Feb 2009
This review is from: Isola [1999] [DVD] (DVD)
I have passed the age where all I wanted from a horror film was excitement. Now I can use a bit of substance as well -not much mind you but just an ounce helps.

This is a dark atmospheric film that for western viewers has the added spice of exoticity that makes it appear more menacing. But the story is ludicrous, there is a woman who reads minds and a girl who keeps splitting in more and more personalities (I think she reaches 40 at some point) and then gets therapy. The horror is what happens before the girl gets therapy and her menacing 13th personality Isola is in the loose.

I couldn't buy it for a moment. I watched it with a Japanese friend and we just kept giggling and making fun of it the whole time -and it's not as if we were partial to giggling fits. It did not convince me for a moment. Contrary to 'The Ring' which had a completely imaginary story but sold it perfectly Isola was uneven and spoiled the sensitive balances a horror film must keep to save it from being laughable.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth a Watch, 1 Feb 2006
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This review is from: Isola [1999] [DVD] (DVD)
This review is for people who are just getting into world cinema, as I am. I have watched a few films now so I feel I have some comparisons. Isola is what would seem to be a typical Japanese horror film, it tells the story in small episodes that you have to wait for them to make sense or piece together yourself.
The film itself is well explained by the other reviewer, so I will not go all over the story and plot again, but would like to add my personal view.
I did enjoy the film and at times it delivered the scary moments that you would expect in a horror film, and again enjoyed the acting and cultural difference to the western films. I did manage to piece together the sequence of events and it did come to a logical conclusion.
If like me you are just getting into Japanese (World Cinema)films, this is a low priced film that is worth a watch.
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Isola [1999] [DVD]
Isola [1999] [DVD] by Toshiyuki Mizutani (DVD - 2005)
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