A Single-Location Thriller That Doesn’t Stink [Fantasia Fest 2023]

Single-location thrillers are a tough subgenre to handle. Stars must perfectly align to keep a character stuck in one place without boredom overtaking, but events must also be plausible enough to believe. “#Manhole” impressively balances excitement-stoking tactics using social media satirization and vengeful reveals to explain Shunsuke’s suspicious actions (and obliviousness). Why no police involvement? Why doesn’t his only successful phone-a-friend, Mai Kudô (Nao), sound worried and frantic? Kumakiri uses mysterious foreshadowing more than physical danger as Shunsuke relies on his “Manhole Girl” account followers — knowing a woman in peril will be found much faster than “Manhole Guy.”

Pecker becomes an integral aspect of “#Manhole” — the film’s knockoff bird app — as on-screen tweets … I mean, “post” bubbles expose the white knights and trolls alike who populate social media timelines. As desperation sinks in and Shunsuke pleads for users to solve his broken GPS conundrum, we’re treated to self-obsessed livestreamers who hunt “Manhole Girl” for fame, or justice seekers easily manipulated by “Manhole Girl’s” siren cries for heroism. Shunsuke so effortlessly amasses an army through blatant lies, which Kumakiri’s screenplay cleverly wields like a double-edged sword. Who says Shunsuke isn’t falling victim to the same manipulation by another user who sees through his ruse?

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