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Review: Room Laundering gives up the ghosts with heart and humour

As far as organized crime goes, the practice of room laundering sounds pretty darn harmless.

Since it’s difficult for an apartment to attract new tenants after a person has died there, criminals will “launder” the address by sending an underling to live at the place until enough time has passed that future tenants don’t legally have to be informed about the apartment’s bloody past.

A minor underworld figure named Goro (Joe Odagiri) likes to send his niece, Miko (Elaiza Ikeda) to do the job. The landlords eventually get a fair price for their property, the tenants are none the wiser, and in the meantime, Miko gets to live rent-free. Everybody wins! After all, superstition needn’t affect the housing market, because ghosts aren’t even real!

Except in Room Laundering, ghosts are real, and Miko can see them. She’ll sadly move in to a new apartment, glumly take note of the ghost of a suicidal punk rocker in the bathtub, and try to ignore the apparition when it starts saying stuff like, “Wait; you can see me?!”

A shy girl, Miko is fine with the mob’s “Don’t talk to the neighbours” rule, and resists befriending the ghosts. She does allow them to befriend her, however. (There’s a difference.) The ghosts have nobody else to talk to, and will chatter away about their thwarted hopes and dreams, or their demands for justice. Miko seems to enjoy these interactions, but she knows that eventually she’ll be assigned to a different apartment, and she’ll never see that particular ghost again. Her sketchbook contains pages full of drawings of dead people she’s spoken to. It’s an impressive, yet tragic memento.

This is all starting to sound quite grim, but there is comedy and sweetness to be found in director Kenji Katagiri’s film. It has more in common with Beetlejuice than The Grudge.

With its original premise and engaging characters (both alive and undead), Room Laundering is worthy of your attention.

Room Laundering screens Saturday, Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. at Eau Claire 4, and Monday, Sept. 24 at 9 p.m. at Eau Claire 1. For tickets go to calgaryfilm.com.

John Tebbutt is the Video Vulture. He has been writing about obscure and ridiculous cinema since 1997. You can keep up with his nonsense on his websiteFacebookTwitter and through episodes of a program he’s doing with NUTV.

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