I’ve only covered trailers for director Kazuyoshi Kumakiri’s films in the past. My first go nowadays is his latest, #Manhole, which released in Japan back in February and has already taken off at festivals. Storied and written by Michitaka Okada, what follows is an unnerving look into the life of an office worker whose perfect life is turned upside down, in a story that takes an equally intense and chilling tumble.
Affable real estate broker Shunsuke (Yuto Nakajima) has a seemingly perfect life. He’s got a great job, a loving fiancé with a baby on the way, and co-workers who support him. Within the first five minutes, Shunsuke arrives to a surprise party at a local bar, joined by his colleagues in celebration of his upcoming marriage the next day. Many a drink is had, with tons of photos and videos taken before Shunsuke and the others leave for the night.
As the inebrieated Shunsuke treads into what looks like a darkened alleyway, his drunken stupor takes over before he can realize he’s just fallen into an unsecured, and unused manhole. A while passes before Shunsuke is awakens from unconciousness and realizing what happened. As if falling down a manhole wasn’t enough, Shunsuke is now bleeding from a leg injury caused during the fall, remnants of the access ladder are broken and too unstable to climb, and a mysterious foam is slowly oozing into the manhole.
Hours and minutes pass with Shunsuke trapped and with no way out, most of his friends unavailable and the police giving him the runaround. Alas, Shunsuke takes matters into his own hands, using the power, influence and human nature within social media at his disposal to create a misleading social media account to drive attention.
Kumakiri and Okada each take their respective inspiration from the previous works of directors like Oliver Stone and new wave director Hiroshi Teshigahara to name a few. Residually, as the story progresses #Manhole becomes an almost entirely different film than what its lead synopsis would have you believe. Social awareness and acts of idea good Samaritanism are woven into the entropic undertow of social media vigilantism as #Manhole slowly transforms into an almost-menacing whodunit mystery with a psychological bend, and gruesome results.
I found myself tapering off just a little bit at times. Nevertheless, Kumakiri does manage to pull a few things off in #Manhole that kept my attention for the most part. Watching actor and J-pop singer Nakajima’s performance becomes a trip all its own. His character’s typically normative lack of patience when it comes to the lag in response from anyone he calls for help is totally understandable and you wind up with him through and through, even as the story reveals some of the most minor, albeit imperfect aspects of his character.
The way #Manhole brings this aspect of the story full circle through its evolution was pretty clever. The only few things that sat a little unclear with me was how our main character was able to attain enough battery power in his phone to last him the whole ordeal, as well as survive a gas explosion. I guess that’s what escapism is for, but if you’re into suspenseful cerebral thrillers that unravel into something more multilayered and horrific than guessed, to say the least, #Manhole just about covers it.
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.