Director Ken’ichi Ugana (Love Will Tear Us Apart; Extraneous Matter: Complete Edition) makes some often outlandishly bizarre horror shorts and features that set up viewer expectations in one direction and then go to quite unexpected places. In his latest feature Visitors: Complete Edition (Japan, 2023), he expands his 2022 short film Visitors, in which a trio of friends check on a companion (Shiho, Saki Hirai, Haruki Itabashi, and Ryuta Endo are the players) who has stopped all communication with them and find themselves immersed in goopy, grue-splattered, demented circumstances involving turning into demons that owe a lot to the Evil Dead franchise and even a head-revolving nod to The Exorcist.
This feature version starts off with that short, and then switches lanes to find a man (Kosuke Nozaki) bound in ropes in a place he doesn’t know, with the only other person there being a man missing the skin on half of his face. After having a chance to escape and leaving his rescuer behind, the man reflects one year later on what he would say to that person — and lo and behold, he happens to see her plowing a field with her two chainsaw arms, and she has turned into a monster. She takes him to meet her monster friends, and their decidedly odd meeting is violently broken up — after which Ugana throws another mind-boggling curve our way. Great looking practical effects including eerie makeup and gallons of the red stuff are on display throughout.
It’s between Visitors: Complete Edition and the jaw-dropping slasher take Love Will Tear Us Apart — also on this year’s film festival circuit — as to what might be Ugana’s most accessible feature so far, but this one arguably will pull at heartstrings more than his previous works. You never know exactly what you are going to get when you start watching an Ugana short or feature, and that’s part of the joy of his films. Anyone who has seen the first segment of Extraneous Matter: Complete Edition will know exactly what I am talking about — that is, if they made it through that entire segment.
Ugana is one of the most unique voices in modern horror cinema, and Visitors: Complete Edition is a solid place to jump in on his work if you haven’t done so before. If you have, you know to just sit back and expect the unexpected.
Review by Joseph Perry
Visitors: Complete Edition screens as part of Fantastic Fest, which takes place in Austin, Texas from September 21–28, 2023. For more information, visit https://2023.fantasticfest.com/welcome.