“The Booth” – A.J. Hakari

Ever hear the story about Studio 6? Back in the good old days, it was just another broadcast booth in a Tokyo radio station. But during a call-in show, creepy circumstances ended up pushing the host to hang himself right there in the booth. Some say the booth is still haunted to this day. Some say it comes with a curse. But ever since that terrible night, the studio has remained abandoned…until now.

 

The premise behind Japan’s “New Generation” thriller The Booth is the stuff of urban legends. As opposed to the familiar approach of depending on long-haired ghosts to scare audiences, The Booth plays with the viewers’ minds, toying with their expectations and leading them down an intriguing road where one is never quite sure what turns the story will take next. This is a breezily-paced little chiller that keeps you engaged in what’s going on, simultaneously telling an atmospheric horror story and giving you front-row seats to a man’s slow descent into paranoia.

 

Shingo (Ryuta Sato) is the host of a popular, late-night love line radio show in Tokyo. On the night the show’s theme involves “unpardonable words,” Shingo and his crew have to broadcast from somewhere else while their new studio is being finished up — and that somewhere happens to be Studio 6. Just barely familiar with the studio’s spooky reputation, Shingo goes on with what starts as just another show, fielding calls from lovelorn souls about words that ended up dashing their romantic hopes with others. But the calls take a turn for the unusual when a voice calling Shingo a liar breaks in from time to time. The listeners eat it up, and his producers want to switch to a horror show format, but the situation only becomes scarier for our puzzled DJ. The calls seem to be echoing events that took place in Shingo’s own life, slowly turning him onto the possibility that the curse of Studio 6 might be targeting him next.

 

Less of a horror film than genre relatives like Ringu or Ju-On, The Booth embraces a style reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe, specifically calling to mind “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Both relate the story of a man whose past sins come back to haunt him one by one, the mood within the film intensified by the supposedly supernatural surroundings he finds himself in on this fateful night. The Booth dances on that delicate line separating the paranoid thriller with the ghostly chiller, with director Yoshihiro Nakamura deftly telling a simple but crackerjack story with atmospheric skill. Bit by bit, the film adds a touch more dread and ambiguousness to the story, touching upon each revelatory call as if it could be either an incredible coincidence or the work of forces beyond the grave.

 

Much of the time, horror movies tend to cheat the audience by not being sure regarding what it’s about or what kind of story it wants to tell, but The Booth remains focused, comes across as swift and suspenseful rather than muddled and confused. Rarely does the film lose its urban legend charm, even as it arrives at a conclusion that, if you’ve seen your fair share of Asian horror, you’ll see coming. And although Sato doesn’t sound terribly convincing as a DJ, just kind of saying his radio dialogue with a slight inflection (though I’m unfamiliar with Japanese radio, so maybe this is how it is over there), he does a solid job of keeping the audience engaged in seeing how his character will react to each new, eerie call.

 

At a slim 74 minutes, The Booth wastes no time in stirring up mystery and intrigue. Though it reaches a few repetitive points, such instances are few and far between, as The Booth proceeds to deliver a crisp and creepy campfire story for the cinema.

 

Rating: ★★★☆

 

-A.J. Hakari

One Response to ““The Booth” – A.J. Hakari”

  1. Patrick Galloway Says:

    I really enjoyed The Booth. Fresh and lively, yet creepy in the dark corners. You captured the vibe nicely.

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