The 17-volume horror manga Karadasagashi (Shōnen Jump+, 2014-17) began life as a web novel of the same name. With a story from Welzard and art by Katsutoshi Murase, it concerns high school student Asuka who, along with some classmates, is tasked with reassembling the dismembered corpse of a fellow student. Transported to their empty school and stalked by a bloody child, they are doomed to repeat this body search until all the pieces have been found. Reworked by screenwriter Harumi Doki, Eiichiro Hasumi’s adaptation became the third highest-grossing Asian horror film of 2022. In this version, high schooler Asuka Morisaki (Kanna Hashimoto) is entreated by the spirit of a murdered child to find the scattered pieces of her corpse and finally let her rest.

original poster for Re/Member (Karadasagashi)

There are elements of Re/Member that feel familiar. The premise is reminiscent of Yukito Ayatsuji’s 2009 novel Another, which concerns a group of highschoolers embroiled in a supernatural mystery. By extension, then, Re/Member owes a lot to Stephen King’s 1986 novel It, whose fingerprints are all over Another. In all three, a group of children finds themselves trapped in a cycle of supernatural terror. Bound by love and trauma, they are nevertheless fated to forget the horrors they endure. Re/Member adds a time loop, a corpse that must be reassembled, and a creepy little girl as an antagonist, none of which is unique to this story. Despite this, Re/Member never feels tired or artificial. The chemistry of its ensemble cast, the earnestness of its emotional beats, and some great practical effects make this a rewarding experience.

At its core is Asuka, a girl who exists on the periphery of high school life. Her classmate Shōta (Kotaro Daigo) may be bullied, but at least he is not invisible. Morisaki gives an understated performance, relying initially on facial expressions and body language to broadcast her isolation. A mention of Asuka’s non-existent friends is met with an unseen, wry quirk of the mouth. Later, Asuka hesitates a moment too long and thus misses out on an interaction with a classmate. These moments are brief, but powerful enough to make later scenes more effective: a new friend braiding Asuka’s hair; laughter bouncing off the tiled walls of a swimming pool. The depths of her loneliness cannot truly be understood until she no longer feels lonely, and the tragedy of the situation cannot truly be grasped until her newfound happiness threatens to be ripped away.

Asuka’s companions in the grim task also suffer in solitude. Confident Takahiro (Gordon Maeda) missed out on an opportunity to advance his basketball career. Rumiko (Maika Yamamoto) tries to convince herself and others of her older boyfriend’s qualities. Shut-in Atsushi (Fuju Kamio) had his confidence knocked and now struggles to leave the house. Committee leader Rie (Mayuu Yokota) feels isolated despite her popularity. Shōta becomes the target of bullies simply for existing. The film’s emotional narrative – that of shared trauma and recovery – is somewhat clunkily exposited, but that does not make it any less important. In one loop, the friends skip school and head to the beach. Yusuke Ichitsubo’s sun-drenched cinematography offers a painfully sweet and wistful counterpoint to the horrors to which these teenagers must inevitably return.

At its heart, Re/Member is a monster movie. Horror fans who have grown weary of creepy little girls in horror films would be remiss not to give this one a chance. For one, this skinless, eyeless tot offers something new visually, but she is not the only monster lurking in the time loop. Without spoiling anything, Asuka and her friends meet their grisly ends each night at the hands of this ‘Red Person’ only to face the same school day again, before plunging back into the body search. Some less-than-convincing CGI in a few death scenes is more than made up for by unexpected and welcome practical creature effects. Throw in some scenes of teenage detective work and trap-setting that recall the antics of Mystery, Inc. (chainsaw-wielding notwithstanding), and Re/Member cements itself as an endlessly imaginative, inventive horror film.

For some viewers, the familiarity of Re/Member – from emotional beats to plot points – may be difficult to overlook. Going back to the Stephen King comparison, Re/Member’s Netflix trailer makes sure to mention that Warner Bros. Pictures also distributed the recent It films, and one of the film’s early scares is deliberately reminiscent of a moment from It Chapter Two. This reviewer’s only real qualm, however, was the film’s somewhat rushed conclusion. Otherwise, Re/Member is a compelling, deceptively simple film with a strong emotional core.

Re/Member is now streaming on Netflix.

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