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ADV Films presents
The Hypnotist (Saimin) (1999)

"Special talents can become sharper when reason fades."
- Saga Toshiya (Goro Inagaki)

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: July 30, 2001

Stars: Goro Inagaki, Miho Kanno, Ken Utsui
Other Stars: Takeshi Masu
Director: Masayuki Ochiai

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (graphic violence, language, sexual themes)
Run Time: 01h:49m:10s
Release Date: August 14, 2001
UPC: 702727002922
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- C+BB+ D-

DVD Review

The Hypnotist opens with three bizarre, apparently unrelated suicides - a seventy-year-old man throws himself through a plate-glass window, a teenage track star runs herself to death, and a groom strangles himself during his wedding reception. Witnesses refer to a "green monkey" mentioned by each person, and aging police detective Sakurai (Ken Utsui) is called in to investigate. A young psychologist named Saga Toshiya (Goro Inagaki) becomes interested in the case and suggests that it might be the work of a hypnotist. When Saga and Sakurai meet Irie Yuka (Miho Kanno), the beautiful, troubled young subject of popular television hypnotist Jissoji (Takeshi Masu), the case appears to be solvable even as more "suggested" deaths occur. But unexpected developments threaten the lives of everyone involved in the case.

Japanese live-action films often suffer from a certain claustrophobia associated with a shortage of studio space, and director Masayuki Ochiai does a wonderful job of keeping this film open and alive. His active camera makes the most of interiors and narrow streets, with crane shots and racked focus creating movement where physical motion is constrained. The Hypnotist also benefits from creepy, briefly-glimpsed special effects, with prosthetics and disturbing sound effects creating the impression that more is seen than is actually shown. Blood looks stagey and artificial, with even dried blood remaining bright red, but perhaps this was an intentional stylistic choice.

The Hypnotist is at its best when it shocks - a shot of the young runner's stressed-out legs breaking in mid-stride simultaneously disturbs and evokes empathy, and young Yuka's plight is made more poignant when she switches personalities on command. But the story meanders more than it ought to - the detectives spend as much time dealing with their own bureaucracy as they do solving cases, overlooking critical evidence and following dead-end leads ad infinitum. The nature of the hypnotic threat is mysterious, but nebulous - it's only a real danger to the heroes when it takes physical form, losing much of its hidden power in the process. And as the detectives close in on its source, the movie inevitably becomes more conventional than its surrealistic opening sequence seems to promise.

Ultimately, this Toho production is an imperfect but intelligent horror movie, exploring the psychology of regret with several unforgettable visual moments, stylish if slightly muddled. It's worth checking out if the subject matter appeals - for a dose of X-Files-ish horror, you could certainly do worse than to visit The Hypnotist.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: ADV presents The Hypnotist in its original 1.85:1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio, with an anamorphic transfer drawn from a clean source print. The single-layer transfer exhibits noisy reds in a few early scenes, and moderate grain now and then; the film has a generally soft look, though this results in a very stable DVD image, and detail doesn't suffer too badly in the process. Color is subdued in most scenes, with occasional garish highlights. Overall, the film looks quite nice on DVD, and the anamorphic transfer is much appreciated.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japaneseno

Audio Transfer Review: The Hypnotist retains its original Dolby 2.0 Surround audio, in Japanese with optional English subtitles. Imaging is active across the front soundstage, with the surrounds called into service for occasional "hypnotic" sound effects; music is sparse but effective. Frequency range is competent, there's a bit of low-end bass activity, and this is a simple but effective 2.0 surround mix, accurately presented on DVD.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 8 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Parasite Eve
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: ADV's The Hypnotist DVD features no substantial extras - the package consists of a scant 8 picture-menu chapter stops, optional English subtitles, and a handful of trailers. The disc includes two versions of the Hypnotist trailer, both in 1.85:1 anamorphic format - one appears to be the original Japanese trailer, with a music-only soundtrack, while the second version is tailored to the United States market, with English voice-over narration intercut with critical raves from Fangoria magazine. Oddly, the disc opens with a semi-forced trailer for Parasite Eve, a movie based on the popular Japanese horror novel and videogame, in 1.85:1 nonanamorphic letterboxed format. All trailers feature Dolby 2.0 Surround audio and competent (if slightly grainy) video transfers.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

The Hypnotist (Saimin) is an unfocused but tremendously stylish Japanese horror movie, with some wonderfully disturbing paranormal moments. ADV's disc features a solid transfer, and horror fans will want to investigate this recent effort from the Land of the Rising Sun.


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