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cast: Goro Inagaki, Miho Kanno, Ken Utsui, Masu Kakeshui, and Watanabe Yuki

director: Ochiai Masayuki

Eastern Cult Cinema
DVD Region 2 retail
Also available to rent or buy on video

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Jeff Young
In present day Tokyo, an old man celebrating his elderly wife's birthday jumps through a plate glass window, a supposedly happy groom manages to strangle himself at his wedding reception, while a female athlete runs so fast around the track that she somehow breaks both legs and dies. With no clear evidence of foul play, the city's top cops decide these are just "incidents beyond comprehension" where people have lost all hope in lives, but homicide detective Sakurai (veteran actor Ken Utsui, returning to the screen here after nearly 25 years in retirement) investigates these apparent suicides further when he learns each of the 'victims' mentioned a 'green monkey' before they died.
   Consulting young psychologist Saga (Goro Inagaki), the aged policeman soon becomes convinced that some form of mind control is responsible, and he begins to suspect wickedly manipulative TV hypnotist Jissoji (Takeshi Masu), who be sexually abusing his tacky programme's female guests. Jissoji has a baleful stare and a cigarette lighter with a green flame, and arrogantly proclaims that his work performs "spiritual communication" that is more important than Saga's scientific studies in psychoanalysis. Meanwhile, Saga has fallen in love with much-troubled Yuka (Miho Kanno), a victim of Jissoji's show, where her multiple personalities (especially her blank-eyed claim of "I am a friendly alien") are exploited for cheap laughs. When more freaky suicides occur, the cop and shrink begin to realise that the public is at risk from the pervasive use of hypnotic techniques in advertising, and there's a race against time to uncover the nature of whatever merciless force seems to have possessed Yuka...
   With its mysterious deaths, mesmeric atmosphere, threatening media aspect, and talkative characters with a surprising variety of theories about bad memories being like 'bruises on the heart', Hypnosis (aka: The Hypnotist) is comparable to the eerie Ring movies. Its fascinating plot device of post-hypnotic suggestion, recalls more prosaic forerunners, such as Siegel's US thriller Telefon (1977), while the character of Yuka is reminiscent of Drew Barrymore's disturbed heiress in Avi Nesher's Doppelganger: The Evil Within (1992). Yet, there's a great deal more to this film than such knowing references imply, as Hypnosis features an abundance of clever visual compositions based on the eye theme. This leitmotif is repeated in every major sequence where characters are hypnotised, especially if the character is unaware of what's happened.
   Hypnosis emerges, in the end as a subtly powerful science fiction movie with a social conscience. And yet, director Ochiai Masayuki manages to sneak the moral of this tale into our minds by flying under critical radar, so to speak, and conveys its simple humanitarian message with astounding dramatic skill.
   DVD extras: cast list, biographies and filmographies, Warrior label artwork.