Best Wishes to All, also known as Mina ni sachi are, is a 2023 Japanese horror film, written and directed by Yuta Shimotsu. An up-and-coming writer/director, Shimotsu is known as the creator of the short this film is based on, Best Wishes to All (2022), which won Kadokawa’s 2022 Japan Horror Film Competition.

A young woman’s visit to her grandparents’ home leads to the discovery of what’s brought them happiness, a revelation that will lead her to question her choices, sanity, and reality itself.

A modern example of slow-burning J-horror, Best Wishes to All certainly incorporates this enigmatic genre’s classic hallmarks. With a focus on the abject horror of the mundane aspects of life, the protection of innocence, and tradition vs modernization, the film undoubtedly sits comfortably with some of the greats in terms of narrative. However, the film diverges from the typical with some horrifically inventive means to circumvent the seemingly widespread social problem of depression and isolation. While others in the genre lean into these aspects, the film, instead, focuses on the lengths our characters, and society, will go to overcome such problems. Yet the narrative still maintains an enigmatic air throughout the majority, slowly drip-feeding the narrative to the audience and keeping them in a similar level of ignorance as the protagonist.

Providing an engaging portrayal of this atypical narrative, the entire cast delivers an austere performance of their respective roles–embodying the gradual descent into the bizarre with earnestness. Our protagonist, played by Kotone Furukawa, gives a standout performance as a young nursing student thrust into a world she was unprepared to discover. Being kept in the dark for the majority of the film, the shocking relations throughout the film deliver a shared experience between the character and the audience. Furthermore, the systematic decline of each character’s seeming normal veneer delivers an air of the uncanny. As the film progresses and their actions become all the more confusing (and alarming), the slow revelation of the plot through the characters still keeps a layer of mystery.

Though limited in its utilisation, the film’s score (or lack thereof) creates an impressive level of suspense throughout. In the handful of instances that the score does make an appearance, the use of low, rising drones and heartbeat-esc thuds undoubtedly creates an anxiety-inducing tension reminiscent of 2000s J-horror classics. Furthermore, the film’s use of silence is equally terrifying, masterfully creating an atmosphere of uncomfortable sensibilities through other means such as its visual design.

The implementation of slow zooms and pans, when combined with the unsubtle silence of the film, undoubtedly exacerbates a scene’s unsettling nature without the use of its score. Furthermore, as the film’s focus is situated from that of our protagonist, highly kinetic scenes are represented from her perspective–honing in on her reaction to the situation at hand rather than visulising the event in more detail, further compounding the mysterious undertones of the film.

An idiosyncratic piece of J-Horror cinema, Best Wishes to All is certainly a distinctive and stylish entry to the genre. With its atypical exploration of the quintessential aspects of this type of film, brilliant use of the score, and congenial performances from the entire cast, director Yuta Shimotsu displays an acute knowledge of creating an unhurried narrative of rising tension.

We watched Best Wishes to All (2023) as part of this year’s Nippon Connection Film Festival 2024.

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