After years spent as assistant director on numerous Roman Porn/Pink movies for the Nikkatsu studios in the late 70s, Shusuki Kaneko would later turn to the monster/fantasy genre directing “The Cold” segment of producer Brian Yuzna’s hit and miss Lovecraftian tribute NECRONOMICON (1994), resurrecting the flying giant turtle for GAMERA: GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE (1995) together with its sequels, and HAUNTED HOUSE 3 (1997).
Despite the unpromising titles, Kaneko’s work displays in-depth characterisation, interesting sub-plots, and a maturity that allows his films to transcend the intended juvenile audiences and appeal to adults too. Many of his characters display psychic powers and in PYROKINESIS / CROSSFIRE (2000) these abilities are brought to the fore.
Based on Miyuki Miyabe’s 1998 novel “Crossfire” the film concerns Junko Aoki (Akiko Yada), cursed with a form of ESP called ‘Pyrokinesis’ which enables her to start fires and incinerate anybody who threatens her. Following an early encounter in which she killed someone who tried to molest her, her mother encouraged her to keep her distance from the public and so Junko grows up with a warped sense of community and a self-serving nature. She befriends male office colleague Tada (Hideaki Ito) and when his younger sister Yukie is kidnapped and murdered by a young gang of snuff film-makers, known as ‘The Guardians’, Aoki has no qualms about enacting her own form of revenge when their gang-leader Kogure is released due to a lack of police evidence.
Despite initially craving the death of Kogure, Tada comes to realise that Aoki’s powers are destructive to all concerned and the film subtely utilises his character to argue the pros and cons of right-wing ideals. It is only when the couple eventually realise that the gang were involved with producing snuff films for a high flying financer that Tada decides that an eye for an eye is appropriate justice. Most interesting is the way that the character of Aoki hearkens back to the complexities of the sympathetic cursed classic ‘monsters’ such as Frankenstein, The Phantom of the Opera, Hunchback of Notre Dame etc, ridiculed and ostracised by society; a victim through no fault of their own, and, whose menacing powers lead to dark deeds due to alienation from society and a lack of love and understanding.
Featuring excellent stunt-work, CGI and Special make-up effects, PYROKINESIS is an innovative example of Japanese sci-fi/horror. The film does feature the almost obligatory romantic development, but it doesn’t get in the way of the main plot – which includes several twists and a spectacular FX laden climax, combining elements of Cronenberg’s SCANNERS (1981), THE DEAD ZONE (1983) and Mark L. Lester’s FIRESTARTER (1984) but in a far more polished way.
Carl T. Ford
Directed by Shusuke Kanedo
Japanese Language with Optional English Subtitles
JAPAN / 2000 / 115 minutes.
SPECIAL DVD FEATURES
An Artsmagic DVD release
Region 2. PAL. Dolby Digital Stereo. Widescreen 1.66:1 / 16:9
PYROKINESIS (aka Crossfire)