Color, 1999, 109 mins.

Starring Goro Inagaki, Miho Kanno

Format: DVD - ERA/Carnival (Hong Kong)

Letterboxed (1.85:1) / Dolby Digital 5.1

Hypnosis, a stylish fusion of hoary '40s thrillers like The Amazing Dr. X with the modern Japanese shocks of The Ring, offers a decidedly different take on the use of hypnotism as a gimmicky movie device. Deliberately uneasy and burning far more on style than sense, the film hits the ground running with a serious of gruesome, imaginative murders and barely stops to catch its breath for the following two hours.

A series of bizarre suicides in Tokyo have left the police bewildered. A female sprinter runs until her legs fracture apart, a groom strangles himself with his tie during his own wedding ceremony, and a distraught elderly man hurls himself through a glass door. An experienced cop, Sakurai, teams up with a wet behind the ears psychoanalyst, Saga (Goro Inagaki), who theorizes that the misuse of hypnotism could be causing the inexplicible events. A local television program, in which a creepy host uses subliminal suggestion to cause guests to perform all kinds of outrageous and silly functions in front of the camera, could be behind the deaths, all of which share one factor -- the victims spoke of a "green monkey" immediately before taking their lives. Saga believes an outside triggering device, like an image or sound, could be responsible, but he soon discovers that hypnosis may be even more prevalent and insidious than he had previously imagined. Yuka (Miho Kanno), a young girl from the program, goes to the police for help and believes her life is in danger from the "green monkey." Unfortunately, a hypnotic suggestion causes her to suddenly behave like an alien at the most inconvenient moments, and during one especially creepy scene an entire room of policemen is even rendered unconscious. As Saga delves deeper into the mystery, which also involves a mysterious one-eyed club girl named Reiko, he finds that his life and the well-being of everyone around him could be in mortal danger.

Drawing inspiration from seemingly every genre available, from Italian gialli to a concert hall assassination straight out of Hitchcock's The Man who Knew Too Much, the film attempts to cover a tremendous amount of ground and often feels more like a patchwork of elements than a coherent narrative. The final swerve into possibly supernatural territory during the final twenty minutes offers some especially memorable, skin-crawling moments, though the filmmakers don't skimp on the gore, either. While the splatter ranges from effective (a cranial close encounter with a coatrack) to completely absurd (death by hard balls), the film derives most of its power through the force of suggestion, appropriate considering the subject matter. Several images of the hypnotically induced Yuka work particularly well (lovely pinup idol Miho Kanno is especially good in this), and the manipulative Dolby 5.1 soundtrack provides some gleefully manipulative shocks. Disregard for logic and coherence aside, Hypnosis should satisfy even non-Asian film fans looking for a good chill, and the efficient DVD presentation makes for an ideal viewing showcase. The sharp image quality features rich color reproduction and a smooth compression job, though some darker scenes curiously suffer from those pesky "glowing blue" shadows often found in older, poorly preserved films. Optional Chinese and English subtitles are included; the English translation, done with a heavy reliance on British spelling and slang, is more awkward than usual, with a number of presumably important plot points unfortunately garbled in the process. The disc also includes the rapid-fire Japanese trailer (only subtitled in Chinese) and a silly "photo gallery" that must be seen to be believed.

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