It calls in the yakuza when the municipal office in charge of demolishing an old building and replacing it with a modern complex fails due to paranormal activity. The employee in charge seeks out a girl who can assist only to find her laying on the ground and bleeding. Soon they band together in search of a spirit who needs to be retrieved.
Starring: Nozomi Bando, Aina Yamada, and Naoto Kataoka,
Directed by: SABU
A New York Asian Film Festival Review
“Dancing Mary” isn’t the scariest movie, but people are surely scared of Mary (Nozomi Bando). Mary is a dancer, who has died and now haunts an old dance hall. The dance hall needs to be demolished, but no one real wants to take on this assignment in the government offices. The task ultimately falls on Kenji Fujimoto (Naoto Kataoka), who might not be the best employee around. Soon enough he realizes that this is going to be much harder than he thought because of Mary.
Kenji gets wind of a young girl, Yukiko (Aina Yamada), who has special abilities that might be able to solve his problem with Mary. He finds her just in time to save her life from an apparent suicide attempt. She decides she’ll help him by talking to ghosts, and find out what Mary wants. The pair do some investigating, and eventually end up searching for another ghost named Billy, who has some connection to Mary.
The first thing that stands out about this film is how Kenji and Yukiko interact with the ghosts. She can see them whenever she wants, but Kenji has to be touching her in order for him to see and interact with them as well. The film changes to black and white when this happens almost putting the characters in the ghost’s world. There’s a interesting scene where they're showing a picture of Billy to the ghosts in different places around the city, including a beach of ghost soldiers, and a graveyard. They also get put in some positions with other ghosts, and Kenji happens to ask timely questions about the ghost being able to do what it’s doing. It almost mocks the movie for putting the ghost in that situation in the first place.
Another thing the movie does well is slowly drawing the audience into the investigation, and even the characters. The pair gets more involved with specific ghosts, including an awesome one with swords stuck in him, and manage some good action sequences. There’s also some drama between Kenji, and Yukiko along the way as expected. The audience will learn more about Yukiko’s past, and her struggles with her abilities. However, there will be nothing that draws the audience in more than what Billy has to do with Mary, and the last second demolishing of the dance hall.
“Dancing Mary” has a little bit of everything for audiences. It has comedy with Kenji’s awkardness, and questioning of ghosts. There’s also some comedy with what’s happening with the government office. There’s some action here and there, and a dramatic rush to make it back to the dance hall before it explodes. It has a touch of horror in the opening with Mary, and of course just having ghosts around. While Yukio’s past is intriguing, the big payoff here is finding Billy, and unlocking the secrets of the past. Because they were able to suck me into this story and made interesting use of the ghosts, I give it 3.5 pools of blood.
More info about this film at: www.nyaff.org/nyaff20/films/dancing-mary