"The Neighbor No. Thirteen" ("Rinjin 13-go") is a film absolutely packed with talent. Shido Nakamura, who plays the title character of No. Thirteen, is an acclaimed Kabuki actor who made his stage debut at age nine. He made his transition to film work, and has appeared in great films such as "Ping Pong" and "Letters from Iwo Jima". Yumi Yoshimura, who plays Nozomi Akai, is probably best known as one half of the pop duo "Puffy Amiyumi", and a cartoon character on Cartoon Network's "Hi Hi Puffy Amiyumi". And if the name Takashi Miike, playing the role of the angry neighbor Kaneda, doesn't ring any bells then you need to look a little deeper into the genre of Japanese horror.
But a lot of famous names doesn't always make a great flick, especially when among them are a pop princess and an avant-garde film director, and the plot of the movie is being adapted from a comic book. In this case, however, it works. All the pieces click together, and the result is an innovative and entertaining film. Not bad at all for first-time director Yasuo Inoue.
The story is very topical to modern Japan, taking on the subject of school yard bullying. More than one young child has murdered another in revenge for intolerable abuse, and even more have commited suicide rather than face another day as a constant target. "The Neighbor No. Thirteen" imagines a scenario where this revenge is repressed, and allowed to fester across the years, until it boils up to the surface taking on a life of its own.
Like most Japanese horror films, the pacing is slower and the story more subtle than a typical revenge flick. Of course, there is blood and plenty of it, but it isn't a case of trying to kill each victim in a new and more cruel way, or an attempt to shock and disgust the audience with gore. There is more psychology than psycho-killer.