Review © Mandi Apple, 2003.

Directed by Masayuki Ochiai, 1999, 110 mins. starring Goro Inagaki, Miho Kanno, Ken Utsui, Takeshi Masu, Yuki Watanabe, Shigemitsu Ogi, Ren Osugi, Kenta Satoi, Noborou Shirai, Tadao Nakamura, and Katsumi Takahashi.

Hypnosis (aka Saimin, aka The Hypnotist), directed by Masayuki Ochiai (who also adapted the screenplay from the original novel by Keisuke Matsuoka, and whose previous cinematic offering was the sci-fi horror success Parasite Eve, which also starred Goro Inagaki) is a highly odd film, and no mistake. From the psychedelic and wildly colourful style of the movie, you might well have thought that the story had started out life as a manga; but that''s actually not the case, which is a surprise, given its lurid, two-dimensional feel and cartoony, unreal characterisations.

That's not to say it's a bad film, by any means: some of the best films of late have boasted the same kind of beautifully bizarre manga-type visual aesthetics, including Ichi The Killer and Uzumaki, both of which were, of course, manga-based movies. Certainly elements of other horror movies appear here, particularly in reference to Uzumaki in a few places, but also the occasional nod to Ring and Cronenberg's Videodrome in the use of creepy messages and strange goings-on being projected via the TV screen.

However, Hypnosis is not really a scary film, despite its horror-genre status and delectable visuals. Packed to the brim with slightly silly and glib characters, including the obligatory cynical old cop with a dark-ish secret (played by Ken Utsui), the good-looking young doctor of hypnosis (who you can spot as the film's love interest within the first two minutes, played by Japanese pin-up Goro Inagaki), the hammy-evil TV hypnotist (Takeshi Masu) and, of course, the multiple-personality victim of the hypnotist, with a much darker secret than the old cop (essayed by the ever-shrill-and-barely-watchable Miho Kanno), Hypnosis is hardly an exercise in gritty reality from the get-go.

That said, it's a very entertaining, trashy freak-out of a movie, as long as you don't take it too seriously. There's nothing profound about it: this is no Cure, despite dealing with the same kind of subject matter. It's way too predictable to scare the crap out of you or give you nightmares - quite apart from anything else, if you can't spot the real villain of this piece within the first half-hour then I suggest you haven't watched enough Scooby Doo on TV - but it's lightweight, weird, and fun, and that's its true merit.


The film opens with several scenes of bizarre and inexplicable suicide. A happy wedding party is somewhat ruined by the groom, who strangles himself with his own tie despite just getting married; an old man, celebrating his wife's birthday, goes into a weird trance and jumps through a plate-glass window; and a pretty young athlete, already under pressure from her coach to perform better, goes crazy and runs until her legs break and the bones pop out of her calves. All of the cases have only one thing in common: none of the victims were unhappy enough to commit suicide - in fact, two of them were celebrating very happy occasions - and all of them mentioned something about "a green monkey" before they wigged out and died.

Of course, the local police are called in to investigate all three strange cases: an old detective named Sakurai (played really well by Ken Utsui) is put in charge of the investigation, along with his somewhat jumpy young female assistant (who seems to spend the entire movie alternately screaming and puking, to much comic effect), a young doctor of psychology whose speciality is hypnosis, Toshiya Saga (Goro Inagaki), and a cynical and unhelpful detective from the drugs squad. It's not until the assistant mentions that all three victims were overheard mumbling nonsense about a 'green monkey' before their deaths that Sakurai realises the three were somehow related.

And when the cases of Green Monkey-related suicide start coming in left, right and centre for no apparent reason, finally Saga makes a connection between the victims and hypnosis: his theory is that somehow, all the victims have had a hypnotic suggestion implanted in their subconscious minds so that, at a given sign, they would all make a reference to the same green monkey before killing themselves in numerous horrible ways... and it's not long before the team make another possible connection, this time to a popular hypnosis show on TV called 'Contact', led by a completely over-the-top evil hypnotist named Jissoji (Takeshi Masu) whose favourite pastime seems to be picking out attractive young ladies from his audience, humiliating them in public on national TV, and then taking them back to his hotel room and raping them while they're still under his mesmeric influence.

However, what the team don't yet know is that Jissoji has been approached by a mysterious, timid young woman named Yuka Irie (Miho Kanno) who is in desperate trouble and begs him to help her, offering him lots of money to cure her affliction. She is haunted by strange images of green monkeys, and thinks she is possessed by the spirit of an alien named Andria from the planet Fatima: in fact, under stress, she changes her personality entirely to become Andria, sitting bolt upright and chanting in a peculiar wooden voice.

Naturally, being the kind of nice, kindly chap he is, Jissoji agrees to help her... but in fact his ulterior motive is to use her bizarre alterego as the star performer of his TV show. And when she mentions her delusional green monkey on air, Sakurai and Saga are shocked, and go straight to the TV studio to talk to Yuka. But Jissoji has other plans for them, and puts Saga under hypnosis; however, the young doctor has taken quite a fancy to Yuka, and is hellbent on proving that Jissoji is not only the man behind the suicide wave, but also that he's holding Yuka prisoner against her will.

But when Saga spots Yuka wandering the streets in a trance and follows her to the red-light district, he makes what he thinks is a breakthrough discovery about the girl: she disappears into a seedy nightclub, and when she reappears at the bar, she manifests a completely different character. Dressed all in red, wearing an eyepatch and laughing like an extroverted banshee and calling herself Rieko, it becomes obvious to Saga that she's suffering from multiple personality syndrome, and decides to check her up at the local psychiatric hospital, where he discovers some interesting facts about her mental breakdown...

But exactly how right are Saga and Sakurai about Jissoji's level of influence over Yuka, and who is the mysterious 'Mouse' that the nurse at the psychiatric hospital refers to? Why are so many people killing themselves and talking about green monkies? If it truly is due to hypnotic suggestion, what on earth could be triggering off the trances? And will they discover the truth in time to save their own skins?

Overall, Hypnosis is a slick, stylish, great-looking, highly entertaining film, bags of fun with some truly gruesome death scenes - one in particular comes to mind, involving the young runner who runs until her legs break and the bones rip out through her knees, which made your humble reviewer shriek with mixed laughter and sympathy on first viewing - and some awesome, dark-humoured imagery. And the acting quality is pretty decent throughout, despite the major underpinning role of the movie being played by Miho Kanno, who does a fairly competent (if occasionally irritatingly hysterical and over-the-top) job of playing her half-pathetic, half-psychotic character.

When all's said and done, you could do worse than buying a huge bag of popcorn and sticking Hypnosis on the DVD player on a Sunday night. Just don't concentrate too hard on it, and please - I beg you - if you're at all vulnerable to the power of mesmeric suggestion, do not focus too much on the spiralling wheel during the hypnosis scenes or... well, you might get a personal visit from Miho Kanno - don't say we didn't warn you ;-)

Snowblood Apple Rating for this film:
Entertainment value: 7/10
Chills: 1/10
Violence: 9/10
Sex: 2/10
Laughs: 7/10
Gory Suicides: rivals Suicide Circle and possibly wins out through the sheer body-count alone
Recipe for Miho Kanno: 25% frumpy sad sack, 25% wooden alien, 25% extra-shrill red-light slapper, 25% Sadako-style spirit of evil - pop in microwave for 2 minutes, then add powdered Molly Ringwald and Gorgonzola to taste
Red Herrings: 1, and if you can't spot it after the first 30 minutes, shame on you ;-)
Litres of Tomato Ketchup: several tankers' worth


This film is currently under discussion here at the Snowblood Apple Forums.

Hypnosis Wallpaper

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Wallpaper credit: Alex Apple, 2003

Snowblood Apple Filmographies

Masayuki Ochiai
Goro Inagaki
Miho Kanno
Ken Utsui
Takeshi Masu
Shigemitsu Ogi

Links - you can buy a Region 2 PAL DVD of Hypnosis online here at Artsmagic's official movie page; also features reviews, images, special info, and a very nice wallpaper, based on the DVD cover and originally from the poster you can spot behind Miho Kanno in the nightclub scene of the film - do I win a prize for spotting it?! (er, probably not ;-D) - Bazz's great and (as ever) highly insightful review of the movie, with a synopsis, lovely images and comments - official Chinese distributor's site with downloadable trailer, photos, and useful info about the cast [Chinese only] - page with downloads, links, cast pics, summary and info - official Toho page featuring downloadable samples from the soundtrack - information concerning the soundtrack, with a short plot outline from the movie - a short review of the Saimin drama series that followed on from the movie's success in Japan - there's a short review of the movie here, along with a huge amount of reviews of other great movies

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