Shinya Tsukamoto’s “Haze” is a compact (50 minutes), harrowing, Beckettian mind-f**k. The director stars as a man who awakens to find himself trapped in what appears to be a concrete maze. Some of the maze allows him to barely stand, other parts are so tight he must crawl on his belly. Spikes and barbed wire line some of the walls, lacerating him as he goes along. He cannot recall his name, where he was before waking, or how he got the deep bleeding cut on his abdomen. He eventually discovers he is not alone: a hole in a ceiling reveals a group of young people writhing and screaming in agony, and the maze is also home to a woman (Kaori Fujii) in the same state of body of mind. She is also lying amidst a scattering of severed limbs, and convinces him to escape via a ditch filled with blood and bodies.
What any of this means and how it ends up offers the ultimate fear: the unknown. For those who demand connect-the-dots storytelling, this film will baffle and disappoint. But for those who want to keep their brains in motion after the final credits roll, it is an amazing game to consider.
Tsukamoto, who is best known in America for his “Tetsuo” cult favorites, frames “Haze” brilliantly. Working in incredibly cramped quarters, he aims for close-ups that are so extreme that it gives new meaning to the _expression “in your face.” Gore and violence is kept to a bare minimum – the scariest thing here are the close-ups of his terrified eyes as he surveys the dark hell in desperate search for an escape and an answer. It is not every film artist who can generate genuine chills using a gaze.