Based on a true-life incident in 2014, a 5-year old boy was found decomposed in the apartment complex where his parents were supposed to live with him. Having known only three words at the time of his death, the incident caused a firestorm of controversy in the country as various groups try to forget the incident. However, director Naoyoshi Kawamatsu takes the incident to the forefront of the country’s consciousness by retelling it, in his latest short film.

After spotting a strange kid putting the trash out in front of his apartment, young Miyako (Noriko Kijima) decides to investigate him when she fails to see any adult nearby. Learning that the kid, Riku (Riku Oishi) doesn’t have any connection to the fabled apartment, she tries to help him but ends up stumbling upon a far more deadly situation than she imagined.

For the most part, there was a lot to like with this short. Director Kawamatsu creates such an imposing atmosphere from the start, that the intriguing storyline is quite enjoyable. The filth-stricken environment, with the mountains of dirt, used garbage and just general unkempt area that the boy lives in the apartment are enough to get an idea of his living conditions. That’s even before adding the decrepit location which is falling apart, completely overfilled with trash collected everywhere and on the verge of breaking apart. These are captured perfectly into creating a believable setting when the film starts to play with her psyche about whether or not the kid is even there. Playing nicely on the idea of the mother’s instincts to rescue trapped or endangered children, hearing the pleas for help or witnessing the texts messages on her phone creates quite an impression.

Where this tends to fall apart is the finale, which is quite surprising. Telling the story about the abusive parents who are fighting in the apartment while the kid struggles to stay alive, this part of the short is completely at odds with the rest of the segment. Supposedly based on the final argument between the parents who are too busy to notice their dying son taking their last breaths around them, this makes very little sense. That it takes place in modern-day surroundings showing the garbage pile-ups contradicts the ending scroll that retells the true history of what happened to the kid. That scroll leads into the belief that no one was home to witness the kids’ fateful last words yet that’s not true at the end of the short. The film gets by incredibly well on the heartbreak of the concept as well as the gruesome make-up on the dead child. However, this is a minor quibble and overall the short is disturbing and emotionally relevant.

On the whole, there is a lot to enjoy from this quick and chilling adaptation that might be somewhat confusing in how it concludes but still tells an important and quite dark story. Highly recommended to fans of socially-conscious horror or the genre in general, as there isn’t a whole lot of flaws to be found here.

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