Director: Kazuyoshi Kumakiri
Starring: Yuto Nakajima, Kento Nagayama, Nao Honda, Haru Kuroki
Horror really has embraced the hashtag. From #HoldYourBreath, #Alive, to literally #Horror, the genre has swept up the metadata tag, and, now, #Manhole is the next to adopt the typographical symbol. Truth be told, #Manhole is more of a thriller, however, the idea of being stuck at the bottom of a stinking, decrepit abandoned manhole sounds pretty horrifying to me - and that is the central focus of the film and, yes, the need for a hashtag is relevant and receives a full and satisfying explanation.
"Smartphones have become a hindrance to horror and its subgenres in recent years, but here, #Manhole embraces the technology craftily."
After a night out on the sake’s to celebrate his impending marriage, Shunsuke (Nakajima) ends up stumbling toward and falling down an open manhole, damaging his leg during the fall. He’s a man who seemingly has it made, he’s getting married in the morning to his CEO’s daughter and he is also due to become a father not long after, so it would be a reasonable assumption to assume he’d have a cavalcade of people willing to help him escape his predicament. The problem is, no one is answering their phone except his ex-girlfriend, and the GPS location he provides to her (and later the police) is incorrect. Shunsuke, therefore, turns to social media in the hope that the internet sleuths can assist him.
#Manhole is a film that sounds simple in its premise, and, truthfully, it is. However, there are a handful of twists throughout that come out of leftfield that would prove too spoilerific to go into or hint at, therefore I won’t. I did really enjoy the major twist as I just did not see it coming, though in hindsight it felt slightly thoughtless (you’ll have to watch the movie for further context!). Another positive aspect is the use of smartphones. Smartphones have become a hindrance to horror and its subgenres in recent years, but here, #Manhole embraces the technology craftily. Yes, Shunsuke’s smartphone had neverending juice but that’s not the point, his use of social media, and his reasonings for it, point to intelligence, but also to his character and potential negative traits (swerving spoilers as best as possible!) but with social media pleas comes social media sleuths - AKA a bane of society. Whilst most people are honestly trying to help, there are some who think life is but a game and act without consequence, and #Manhole is all too aware of this.
Being marooned down a manhole and confined to suffer in a claustrophobic environment sounds like no one’s idea of fun, however, #Manhole lacked a real sense of atmosphere, yes the mystery element is strong, but the film prides itself on its reliance on realism…until it doesn’t. When the swerves start to come, it may prove too silly or too much for some and they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong in dipping out. Everything about the setting feels grimy, disgusting, but authentic, unfortunately, the narrative decisions later in the film cannot truly sit with the latter.
Despite its rather large narrative stumbles and lack of true tension or peril, #Manhole is nothing if not entertaining. Yuto Nakajima carries the film on his shoulders with confidence, and it must be said, whilst the film falls apart by the end, it too carries a confidence that is to be admired. If you’re willing and able to overlook a hefty leaping of the shark, or just fancy a snappy thriller, #Manhole will provide plenty of positives. If not, you may find yourself frustrated by the time the credits roll.
August 1st 2023