This month’s Tokyo releases are strangely dominated by horror, so if your looking to escape the coming heat, get to your local picture house where it will be more than just the air-con leaving you with a chill…

by Christopher O’Keeffe

Stoker (On release May 25th)

This is the latest film by Korea’s biggest name director, Chan-wook Park, the man behind the unforgettable Oldboy. The director’s first attempt at an English language film sticks to his signature style of intricate, brutal plots and sublime images.

Alice in Wonderland’s Mia Wasikowska stars as India Stoker, a young girl living with her unstable mother (Nicole Kidman) and uncle after the death of her father. At first India is cold towards the mysterious uncle, who until recently she didn’t know existed, until eventually a relationship of sorts develops between the two. Foreign directors can have mixed results when they make the leap to the US but with this dark thriller Park has retained the high quality of his previous work with the added gloss of a Hollywood product.

The Place Beyond the Pines (May 25th)

The Place Beyond the Pines stars the hugely popular Ryan Gosling (pictured above), who it seems is impossible to escape at the moment – he’s also in this month’s Gangster Squad, though with somewhat fewer tattoos. Also featuring here is Bradley Cooper, who is riding high after the success of Silver Linings Playbook.

Gosling plays a motorcycle stunt rider, Luke Glanton, who tries to settle down when he discovers he has a son, but things are never simple. Drawn into committing a series of heists by using his bike skills to escape the crime scene, the young man comes under the attention of ambitious rookie cop, Cooper’s Avery Cross.

Eva Mendes stars as Glanton’s lover and Ray Liotta plays a corrupt detective in a crime thriller that also looks at the nature of the father-son relationship. The film explores around 17 years of the lives of two families whose paths cross and influence one another and director Derek Cianfrance has been called ambitious for bringing to the screen a ‘trilogy’ of a movie with distinct parts that have been brought together into one 140 minute work.

Part of that distinction comes from stylistic cinematography and smart design and acting – this will be an engrossing watch for those interested in the technicalities of movie making as much as for fans of crime drama.

The Complex (May 18th)

As Chan-wook Park (Stoker) is to Korea, Hideo Nakata is, internationally, one of his native Japan’s most famous directors, particularly due to his contribution to the J-Horror boom of the late 90s. The director made a generation terrified of Japanese kids with his films Ringu and Dark Water before heading to America to make The Ring Two.

Since then he has worked both home and abroad, diversifying with documentaries and thrillers. Here Nakata has returned to the horror genre with The Complex (Japanese title, Kuruyori Danchi). Starring former AKB48 golden girl Atsuko Maeda and popular film and television actor Hiroki Narimiya, it tells the story of Asuka, a girl who moves into a new apartment building but is disturbed by strange noises coming from the apartment adjacent to her room.

Things take a supernatural turn when its discovered the elderly owner of the apartment has died, and a spooky young boy makes his presence felt. While A-chan makes a decent show of herself, this unfortunately isn’t up there with the directors best.

Oblivion (May 25th)

After super heroes dominated 2012, this year will be huge for sci-fi fans. There are four blockbusters up for release, all original stories starring some of the biggest names on the planet: After Earth, starring Will Smith, Elysium, starring Matt Damon and director Guilermo del Toro’s giant monster vs. Gundam-esque mega-robot beat-em-up, Pacific Rim.

Tom Cruise and Olga Kurylenko in 'Oblivion'

First is Oblivion, with action veteran Tom Cruise. After an almost apocalyptic war, the earth has been evacuated, except for Cruise’s repairman, Jack. As the end of his shift approaches – with it the chance to get off the abandoned planet – a spacecraft carrying a beautiful woman crashes, leading him on a journey of discovery. The film also stars former Bond girl Olga Kurilenko and Morgan Freeman.

Antiviral (May 25th)

Antiviral is the first feature film from Brandon Cronenburg and it looks as if the young director is following in his legendary father’s footsteps. In a celebrity obsessed world where people will do anything to emulate their favourite star, a bizarre sounding clinic caters to odd desires by harvesting sicknesses from the famous to be injected into clients who wish to feel closer to their idols.

Into this set-up comes Syd March, a young man who hosts and smuggles diseases to sell to pirates. He gets more than he bargained for when infected with the disease that kills superstar Hannah Geist. As he begins to experience the bizarre effects of the mystery disease, he must race to discover just what, exactly, he’s suffering from.

Gangster Squad (May 3rd)

Set in 1940s LA, when the mobsters from the east coast were beginning to make inroads in Nevada and southern California, this thriller stars Sean Penn as Brooklyn-born mob king Mickey Cohen. He’s a ruthless killer who seemingly cannot be stopped, such is his control over local government and the police, but this film brings us the story of how one supposedly secret group of “LAPD outsiders” forms a challenge to his authority.

There’s the expected corruption, plenty of murders, some fairly stylish hats, of course, and a little ‘bending’ of history here. The film looks more at the cops than the men who chased the money and finally did for Cohen and Al Capone, but that will not be enough to bother fans with an insatiable desire for this kind of thing. As well as Penn, the talented cast includes Ryan Gosling as Sgt. Jerry Wooters, Josh Brolin as fellow cop, Sgt. John O’Mara and Emma Stone as Grace Faraday.

The Evil Dead (May 3rd)

Sam Raimi’s classic horror yarn The Evil Dead was made on a shoe-string budget back in 1981 and told the tale of four young people terrorised by demonic forces in a cabin in the woods. The film was a huge success, spawning two sequels and kick-starting the career of the director, who would go on to make the Spider-man trilogy, creating a B-movie star of fan-boy favourite, Bruce Campbell.

This remake, for which Raimi and Campbell act as producers, takes the original plot and aims to put a new spin on it. There’s been a lot of remakes of horror classics in recent years – it’s hard to keep track of all the versions of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that have been put out – but this one looks a cut above. Director Fede Alvarez has been scoring praise overseas for his gory and terrifying return to the woods. A must see for all Deadites.