Something special for you today, folks–you’re not going to be able to get hands on this one until Tuesday, so settle in with us so we can fill you in. We’ve got a movie called The Sylvian Experiments today, and the folks out at Lions Gate sent a copy over for us to review for you. And while this won’t be the best movie we’ve seen in a while, it’s going to represent something much more important, and still provide a worthwhile show in the process.
The Sylvian Experiments follows a neuron scientist and her husband who, while in the basement of an old hospital, find a 16 mm film print. And when they go to see what’s on it, they discover that someone was staging experiments into the Sylvian fissure of the human brain in a bid to access something called the “forbidden territory”, a realm between life and death. And now, the neuron scientist has decided to take up the gauntlet dropped with this 16 mm film print and begin her own exploratory surgery. Her guinea pigs of choice? Her own daughters.
It’s reasonable to assume that this will not end well. In fact, what caught me most by surprise on this one was the trailers before the movie began–a whole slew of old, like five or ten years old, Japanese horror flicks. It proved later just why all these old trailers were running; as it turns out, The Sylvian Experiments is a rare treat indeed, the resurgence of a line that I had thought long since dead: the Lions Gate J-horror importing system. For background’s sake, after The Grudge (the remake of the Japanese film Ju-On) hit theaters, there was a bit of a surge in Japanese horror. People wanted to see what else these guys could bring out, and so we got stuff like Infection, Isola, Premonition, St. John’s Wort, and a host of other titles under various banners going direct to video in the United States but having survived Japanese theaters.
As I discovered after watching several of these, there are really only two kinds of Japanese horror film: the bombastic, thundering nightmare with loads of kills and action, and the chatty, slow sludgefest. Most Japanese horror fits into one of these two, and this one falls into the chatty and slow pile, though admittedly, it does do a reasonably good job of building suspense. Thankfully, unlike many slow and chatty Japanese horror titles, it also has some moments in which that tension gets released. Not the best releases, of course–they’re very subtle in the normal Japanese style–but they’re still releases of tension all the same.
Still though, as someone who deeply missed the crap shoot that was Japanese horror importing, I was glad to see The Sylvian Experiments, and more than ready to give them a try. The end result could have been better, but it was still relatively welcome nonetheless.
The Screenhead Ten Scale gives The Sylvian Experiments a seven out of ten–it’s not the best movie you’ll see, but if you’re a fan of subtlety in your horror, it’s definitely worth a rental if nothing else.