Hide and Seek [2005]

Shuhei Morita's 25-minute Kakurenbo (2004), which has received favorable attention on the festival circuit, is a moody film, appropriate for Hallowe'en. In a corner of modern Japan stands an empty, demon-haunted city where children who play hide and seek disappear. Eight children enter its portals one night: Hikora and his friend Yaimao are looking for his lost sister; the other six are looking for excitement--which they find. Daisuke Sajiki's designs for the mechanical-looking monsters and crumbling buildings are striking and effective. But the characters remain ciphers, with no recognizable personalities. Morita, who co-wrote the script, uses long, slow camera moves for mood, but ends almost every scene with a blackout. Kakurenbo feels more like an exercise than a finished work, especially its weightless CG figures and weak ending derived from the Matrix movies. Like Makoto Shinkai's Voices of a Distant Star, Kakurenbo suggests that it's becoming possible to create small, personal CG films in Japan. (Rated 13 and older: violence, grotesque imagery) --Charles Solomon

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