“Graveyard Apartment” Novel Review

On the upcoming movie adaptation of Graveyard Apartment. Does the 1988 horror novel make for good movie material?

Last year word got out that Takashi Shimizu (of Ju-On fame) is working on a movie adaptation of Graveyard Apartment. The novel by popular mystery writer Mariko Koike (original title “The House Overlooking the Graveyard”) was first published in 1988 (contrary to common internet knowledge), predating Ring by three years. It was re-released in 1993, but didn’t get an English release until 2016, and still remains one of relatively examples out of the massive ocean of Japanese horror novels that got translated at all.

The Kano family move into Central Plaza Mansion on the outskirts of Tokyo for a fresh start. Though the building is less than half-occupied, the only visible drawback seems to be the buddhist cemetery and crematorium located right in front, giving the place a somewhat eerie atmosphere. It starts with little things: A dead bird, the elevator malfunctioning, bad vibes in the dark basement. But it doesn’t take long before things start getting more sinister. The rumors regarding the building don’t make it any better. Teppei, a rationalist to the core, keeps dismissing everything as coincidences. Meanwhwhile his wife Misao feels increasingly left alone, as paranormal incidents threaten to put their safety at risk. But having invested all their savings into the place, moving out is not an option for the Kanos. Strange shadows on the TV, voices coming from the wall, inexplicable accidents and other things make the family and building’s other tenants feel increasingly uncomfortable. Could the occurrences have something to do with the cemetery and its planned relocation for redevelopment of the area? It seems only a matter of time before something serious is going to happen…

So much about the story. Graveyard Apartment might have been groundbreaking in 1988, but how well will it hold up as a movie in 2022 or later? That obviously largely depends on Takashi Shimizu’s directing, but given the source material, there is hope that he might deliver something close to his masterpiece Ju-On. As for the story itself, is there anything that sets it apart from other haunted house stories? Now that we have all seen Dark Water and the aforementioned Ju-On? Yes and no. The novel is genuinely creepy and contains some original and memorable ideas. Tension is slowly built up as paranormal occurrences escalate, until the entities launch an all-out attack on the unsuspecting residents. Throughout the story, perspective switches between different characters, mainly Teppei and Misao, often also letting us know their subjective thoughts. Thanks to that writing style, the atmosphere and emotions are conveyed pretty well.

However, if you take out the characters and condense it to its basics, the whole things is really not that different from other haunted apartments. There isn’t one vengeful spirit per se, and the origin of the hauntings are never exactly explained. But the basic idea remains the same. The main point in the novel’s latter half is that the tenants are doing their utmost to get out of the place, while the haunted building tries to trap them inside.

As for the movie version, it is apparently going to be English-language, with Kazunari Ninomiya (of idol group Arashi, also seen in Letters from Iwo Jima and Gantz) starring as Hazuki Kano, who moves into the apartment with his wife Brooke and son Shiro. From that we can see that there have been some major changes to the characters, though I expect it won’t end there. Of course, deviations from the source material are to be expected. At the very least, I predict there will be changes to the climax and ending. Those aren’t the novel’s strong point and would be hard to pull off convincingly on the big screen (laser beams… ahem). One thing that worries me is the decision to go for an international cast and involving Hollywood in the production. Sure, they could still be a good job, but examples such as the Shutter remake or The Grudge remakes don’t exactly inspire confidence. Anyway, let’s hope for the best, and the rest remains to be seen.

(Note: Information on the movie adaptation first appeared on Horrornews)

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