Premonition (2004) / Fantasy-Horror
aka Yogen

MPAA Rated: R for disturbing images and language
Running Time: 95 min.

Cast: Hiroshi Mikami, Noriko Sakai, Hana Inoue, Maki Horikita, Mayumi Ono
Director: Norio Tsuruta
Screenplay: Noboru Takagi, Norio Tsunuta (based on the manga, "Kyofu shinbun" (Newspaper of Terror) by Jiro Tsunoda)
Review published March 10, 2007

Hideki Satomi (Swallowtail, Parasite Eve) is a high school teacher who, shortly after seeing a stray newspaper clipping depicting the death of his five-year-old daughter (Inoue), sees it play out in reality before his eyes when a runaway truck smashes into the car, exploding shortly after impact. Days later, still grieving, Hideki continues to receive messages shortly before other fatal tragedies, and becomes increasingly distraught that he hasn't been able to stop any one of them. He develops an obsession with helping the victims, but denying fate carries consequences, the worst of which includes his own possible death in exchange.

Premonition is another gimmicky Japanese horror film (no. 2 in the "J-Horror Theater Series") where events transpire that cause the protagonists to become stuck in a fateful situation that they can find no easily solution out of. Similar popular entries in the genre include the Ringu films (director Tsuruta directed one of them, Ringu 0), Ju-on, Kairo, and several others, although American films like Final Destination are also quite similar in execution, albeit not nearly as somber in tone.

The performances are typical of these sorts of films, with characters either emoting very little, walking through life as though empty shells of their former selves, or entirely too much, gasping and shrieking at things that are only mildly scary. Premonition employs both styles, sometimes effectively, sometimes just a bit overboard in either direction. However, when the tone is just right, the film can be effective, especially during some of the more harrowing moments where Hideki is out to try to stop fate.

Although the manga serial upon which this film is based came out before, "Newspaper of Terror" from the early 1970s, the events within Premonition bears some similarities to the Stephen King book and film, The Dead Zone, although the signs here are physical, and the events much more personal. Coming out afterward, the American film, White Noise 2, also follows a similar path by having the protagonist receive signs as to who is going to die shortly before it happens. This causes the main character to turn hero and try to save people from certain disaster, often coming at a heavy price. In all cases, the films are rather contrived, in that you know that those near and dear to the hero will be people he will try to save, usually at the climax of the film, when the hero must choose between self-sacrifice and a continued tortured existence with the "gift" he possesses.

Tsuruta's direction is stylish and atmospheric, but it lacks a certain distinction within its subgenre.  It certainly is on par with other J-horror films, and should go down easy for those that enjoy them, but the feelings of deja vu are too substantial to call this worthwhile for those looking to see something they've never seen before.  The expressions of guilt and despair are effectively handled, but the main story is nonsensical and often predictable, Like the premonitions within the film itself, you'll probably  know what's going to happen before it happens, but the only thing that gets killed will be your time in this intriguing but ultimately ordinary entry in atmospheric Asian horror flicks.

Qwipster's rating:

2007 Vince Leo