The murder of Emili, a young girl, leaves the inhabitants of a small Japanese village in shock. The body of Emily is found by the four classmates with whom she was playing. The murder is never solved. Emili’s mother Asako (Kyoko Koizumi) is torn by grief and puts a curse on the four girls when they claim that they don’t remember the killer’s face. Each of the girls, in their own way, will do their penance for their silence. Deeply struck by the words of Asako and burdened with her curse, the four girls are forced into adulthood which eventually triggers a tragic chain of events.


“Penance” has arrived in America in two forms. There’s the theatrical cut and then there’s the limited TV series that ran in Japan about two years ago. It’s pretty clever to give a horror movie the “Fanny and Alexander” treatment. That being said Japan has real issues with water, ghosts and burden. Watching how these elements play together to create an Eastern riff on something like “Drag Me to Hell” is amazing. That being said, I only have the director’s previous work on “Cure” to compare it.

Kiyoshi Kurosawa isn’t my preferred director for J-Horror, but I like what I’m seeing here. While some have criticized the fact that the film’s setup only exists to make the girls apologize, I don’t fault with it. What are these people supposed to do? Hit emotional highpoints where they make sense of what happened and deal with it? You know what we did in America in a similar scenario? We cut Betsy Palmer’s head off on the shores of Crystal Lake. Then, Americans demanded that we shot a sequel that put her severed head in a fridge. American fans have got your back, Kurosawa-san.

Music Box has done something quite incredible. The DVD comes with no substantial special features that I saw. But, that doesn’t matter. I appreciate the chance to see more unique films like this in North America. It feels like too many outlets are skimping out on the specialty releases. Be thankful that we have Music Box to bring the goods.

RELEASE DATE: 11/18/2014

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