Premonition – Based on the 1973 manga “Newspaper of Terror” by Jiro Tsunoda, Premonition was the first in a planned series of 6 “J-horror theatre” films organised by Takashige Ichise, the producer of the Ring trilogy, the Grudge series and Dark Water, in order to capitalise on the overseas success of Japanese horror from the late 90s onwards.
On a dark country road, Hideki Satomi is waiting for an e-mail to transmit from a phone booth. He finds a piece of newspaper detailing his daughter’s death in a road accident, and after realising what is about to happen his wife Ayaka joins him, as their car with their five year old daughter Nana inside is hit by a lorry. Three years later Ayaka and Hideki have divorced, but Ayaka’s research into the paranormal has led to her finally believing her ex-husband’s story of the supernatural newspaper, and after rejoining him they uncover a number of others who have been cursed by the newspaper’s premonitions.
Whilst a number of movies start well only to lose it by the end, Premonition actually spends the first two acts going through the motions, before suddenly injecting a lot more invention and ideas into the mix. Unfortunately, it comes too late to rescue Premonition from the curse of the average.
A number of films have dealt with the idea of predicting the future or cheating death, but rather than the bombastic approach of the likes of Final Destination, Premonition focuses on the effect on the characters rather than the event of death itself. Perhaps for this reason, Premonition feels much less like a horror movie than a supernatural drama, following our characters as they try and work out what is happening to them much in the same way as in the original Ring. Unlike the Ring, however, there is no evil protagonist who has caused the descent into terror, and the abstract nature of the newspaper makes it a less scary prospect. Rather than something being out to get you, you’re just being told about what’s going to happen anyway. Consequences are revealed for attempting to alter fate and save lives, but again these are creepier than Final Destination’s show-stopping set-pieces.
As I said earlier, the last part of Premonition is out of keeping with the earlier investigation-with-shocks template, coming across as a more hellish Groundhog Day as Hideki is made to repeat the event that started everything, trying in vain to alter fate to a more positive outcome, but the jump in style and the short running time of this section makes it feel rushed, or as if the producers were unsure of how to finish the film.
Amongst the extras are Tartan trailers, the Premonition trailer, a digital effects featurette and a brief snippet of a Japanese press conference announcing the new J-Horror series. Also included are interviews that give little insight, but the behind the scenes feature is relatively good, showing how scenes were approached in different ways during filming, and how one stunt scene used a lorry with a mattress taped to it to hit a stunt double suspended on wires. Nice.
Premonition is well made and well acted, but ultimately as a horror film specifically made to continue on the path that the likes of the Ring created, it fails to live up to expectations. One for the most die-hard Asian horror fans only.