Knowing absolutely nothing about Masayuki Ochiai's Infection (aka Kansen) I popped the DVD in and expected yet another story of haunted appliances, evil kiddie apparitions, and a whole host of conventional J-horror trappings. It took only a few short minutes before I was wrapped up in the bleak, juicy goodness of Infection, and, barring the annoyingly obtuse finale, I think it's one of the coolest Japanese genre imports in quite some time.
The setting is a ridiculously grungy and worn-down husk of a hospital, and it's there you'll find a staff of employees who care more for their next coffee break than they do about the terminal patient in room 2. Among several lesser mistakes, the doctors accidentally cause the demise of one of their patients, and a stingy sense of panic begins to set in. Instead of reporting the mistake and facing the music, the doctors and nurses decide to stick the corpse next to a heater, thereby speeding up the cycle of rot and eliminating all traces of their life-ending blunder.
Needless to say, this is not the world's finest medical staff.
But these creepy bastards are about to get what they deserve, because a gurney is soon wheeled in and upon that gurney is, well, it's a big sloppy mess is what it is. Seems the new admission has some sort of flesh-rotting and infectious virus, and clearly this is not a patient you'd want to get real close to, regardless of what insurance he may be carrying.
Since the whole of Infection takes place inside one feculent little hospital, you can expect heaping helpings of unsettling surroundings, hollowed-out hallways, and wet, drippy danger. As each of the hospital staff members turn a corner to meet their inevitably icky demise, you'll be as creeped out by the atmosphere are you are grossed out by the grue. The flick almost has a smell to it, and needless to say, it's not a pleasant one.
Shabby hospitals make for a great horror setting, which is why the astute gorehounds maintain fond thoughts of flicks like Halloween 2, Hospital Massacre, and Visiting Hours. None of these movies, including Infection, is a grade-A classic of any sort, but as far as exploiting an unsettling atmosphere goes, they all do a pretty slick job of it. This is one where you'll crank down the lights, turn off the phone, and be very, very grateful that your local emergency room doesn't feel like this one.
One-half of Lions Gate's wave of J-Horror titles (along with the equally impressive Premonition), Infection hits Region 1 DVD with a rather lovely widescreen transfer, with audio delivered in Japanese 5.1 or 2.0 (with English subtitles, of course). Extras are limited to a pair of trailers for Premonition and the original Ju-On: The Grudge.