Haze is a short (40 minute) horror film from Japanese director Shinya Tsukamoto, who also perpetrated that most harrowing of Asian horrors, Tetsuo (1989) about a man whose flesh sprouts metallic tentacles.
Haze has a similarly nightmarish quality. A man wakes up to find himself incarcerated in a subterranean concrete maze in almost complete darkness. The maze he works his way through is made up of a series of tortuous (and torturous) crawlspaces, which force him to contort himself claustrophobically, often at danger of injury. In one sequence, for instance, he has to shuffle sideways through an extremely narrow corridor. Barbed wire has been laid where his heels would naturally fall, so he has to do his shuffling on tiptoes. And, as if this weren’t enough, a thick metal pipe runs along the corridor, and the only way he can fit into the space is by opening his mouth as wide as possible and grinding his teeth along the pipe as he moves.
This last detail seems a bit forced, as surely all he’d have to do is turn his head? But the best way to watch a film like Haze is discard logic and accept it, just as you’re forced to accept one of your own nightmares till you wake up. At various points the man catches glimpses, through small apertures, of a room where people are being chopped up. He finally meets a woman who’s also trying to get out and the two are forced to make their way down a corridor almost fully submerged in water and floating body parts.
As a brief nightmare, the film works, but is let down by its attempt at an ending. The man speculates on why he’s in this horrific situation, wondering if he’s being punished after some terrible war, or if a millionaire has constructed this underground dungeon for his own perverse amusement. This speculation just serves to get the viewer expecting some sort of satisfying explanation, but in the end (if I’m interpreting the very brief & tacked-on ending right) it turns out to be a sort of pain-induced semi-conscious dream as the man struggles his way back to consciousness having been injured. So it was all “just a dream”, which is hardly satisfying. But I think the best way to enjoy (if enjoy is the right word) a film like this is to forget the ending and just accept it for the Pit & Pendulum-style nightmare that it is.