LAAPFF 2020 Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad “Bakemono?”

30 Sep

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By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Available to viewers in Southern California (excluding San Diego County) from Oct 1 at 12pm PT to Oct 31, 2020 at 11:59pm PT. Click here to watch the film on Eventive.

In South Asia, Hungry Ghost Month is over, but in America, Halloween will soon be here! I’m thrilled to watch Bakemono, a short film about Ayumi (Claudia Fabella), a very young girl acting out and wanting to accept the supernatural in her life, despite her parent’s fears. The word refers to a class of monsters who are shapeshifters, and they don’t have to be ghosts.

I found out in my research that writer/directors Sumire Takamatsu and Jorge Lucas are working on expanding this short into a feature length work. Thanks to Gus Wood of Pop Horror for this revelation, and I’m hopeful this can blow the beans away from how Paranormal Activity was made. In this short film’s case, the throwing of beans from the entranceway of a home during Setsubun is said to keep the evil spirits at bay. This spring ritual has no place during autumn, but I get where this belief comes from. It’s no different than the Japanese ritual of pouring beer over the gravestone.

Ayumi  isn’t really being bratty. I saw myself being like that too at that age. Oka-san (translation: mother and played by Shio Muramatsu) is very traditional–that forceful matriarch–and Oto-san (father, Daisuke Suzuki) is your atypical passive father. He knows his wife is wearing the pants here. Even at that age, I was ready to make ghosts my friends, but I digress. In Japanese folklore, as long as you give them the respect they deserve, they’ll leave you alone and be nice. They’ll hold their midnight festivals and as for the hungry ones, I expect just who the young girl meets might be someone the family knows!

We’ll never know though. This short is but a tease, and it’s a worthy introduction to the traditions a Japanese family generally follow. I can’t help but chuckle at how the parents are trying to get their only child to behave.

The setting is worthy of note. This family lives somewhere in the suburbs and not all the homes are that clustered together. They live near a park, and this detail may well suggest more spirits lurk nearby in those hills. Shinto is the religion practiced here, and the belief is that spirits exist everywhere in nature. Just how all of this relates will have to be expanded upon. Much like Evil Dead, you don’t want to go looking for danger. Also, you don’t want to get too attached to the mystery that’s associated with them.

The tone offered in this work is perfect for the horror genre. There’s uncertainty. Will Ayumi be free or is she just like the main protagonist in Neil Gaiman’s Coraline? Hopefully by 2024 (if not sooner) we’ll see the film that the producers plan on making, but until then, I’ll be reading between the lines in this work for clues in how this tale can be expanded upon.

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