Claimer: Case 2 (Japan, 2008)

The sequel to Claimer: Case 1, Claimer: Case 2 is a more conventional J-horror film than the first, as is made clear by the title sequence with its images of long black hair, ghostly hands and blood red typeface. As in the first film, Claimer: Case 2 is set in the Customer Service department of Yamade Food and Drink.  However, while male violence and aggression frames the first case, it is female oppression and victimization which frames the second.   A young woman rings up to complain about Yamade Food’s “Moon Tea” which she contends has made her miscarry. The new supervisor, Natsumi (Nao Nagasawa) takes the call from the distraught woman, and goes to see her manager to investigate the complaint.  Although she discovers that in fact the “Moon Tea” was labelled inaccurately and could have caused the miscarriage, she is told not to admit responsibility when the woman rings up again, as the company’s image takes precedence over customer care. This denial of culpability leads to tragedy as Natsumi’s colleagues mysteriously die. Their deaths are preceded by a phone call from the woman who made the initial complaint, in which she asks plaintively ‘where are you?’ Yet, the woman who made the complaint is purportedly dead.  So are the calls from a ghost? Or someone else? Who is the mystery claimer? Natsumi must find the answer before it is too late for her and her young son.

While Claimer: Case 2 is a more typical example of J-Horror cinema than its predecessor, it shares with Claimer: Case 1 a sense of quiet horror as it maps Natsumi’s slow mental disintegration as she is faced with an insurmountable conflict between wanting to provide proper customer service and the needs of the company that require her  to put aside her feelings and instead tow the company line. While in the first film, it is not clear whether or not the company is responsible for the contaminated water, in Claimer: Case 2, there is absolutely no doubt that the company is negligent and that there is a casual link between the incorrectly labelled ‘Moon Tea’ and the miscarriage suffered by the woman.  As such, Claimer: Case 2 is an explicit indictment of misconduct and malpractice by large consumer companies in contemporary Japan.  Instead of serving the customer, Yamade Foods serves its own interests, putting financial greed over business ethics.

The cinematography is exceptional and the scenes with the ghostly mother and aborted child exquisitely realised foregrounding female suffering as consequence of patriarchal and institutional oppression. Kaneko wisely chooses to focus on the impact and aftermath of the death of Natsumi’s colleagues rather than concentrating on the death scenes themselves. This is something used to great effect in Nakata’s Ringu (1998) in the opening scenes when Tomoko is killed while her friend, Masami, watches with horror. By focusing on the aftermath rather than the event itself, Claimer: Case 2, like Ring, is more shocking and disturbing as it leaves room for the viewer’s imagination as to what happened rather than explicitly showing the manner and mechanics of the death itself.

Claimer: Case 2 is by far and away one of the better contemporary J-horror films, both in theme and execution. With its long haired female ghost, a signifier of untrammeled patriarchal capitalism, and evocative atmosphere and visuals, Claimer: Case 2 reminds us of how good J-horror was at its peak and I hope will herald the way for a renaissance of the genre.

Colette Balmain is a lecturer in film and media studies and writer whose research specialty is East Asian horror cinema and popular culture. She is the author of Introduction to Japanese Horror Cinema (Edinburgh University Press: 2008) and the editor of Directory of World Cinema: South Korea (Intellect: 2011). Currently she is writing a book on South Korean Horror Cinema.