The Sylvian Experiments – A Review

The Sylvian Experimentsby Shannon Hilson,

If you’re one of the many film buffs out there who can’t get enough of Japanese horror, then you definitely won’t want to miss The Sylvian Experiments, the latest offering from the team behind such masterpieces as Ringu and Ju-On. The DVD will be available for purchase and rental via Lionsgate Films starting October 11, just in time for you to include it as part of your pre-Halloween celebrations!

The Sylvian Experiments explores what happens when a skilled neuroscientist by the name of Dr. Hattori and her husband stumble across an old black-and-white 16mm film in the basement of an abandoned hospital. The film turns out to be documentary-style footage of a series of controversial medical experiments conducted on a mysterious and little understood part of the brain know as the Sylvian fissure. When stimulated via electricity, something mysterious within the fissure causes hallucinations.

It is even possible that it is the key that unlocks a mysterious door to the realm between life and death – exactly what Dr. Hattori makes up her mind to explore as she attempts to recreate the experiments herself and solve the mystery once and for all using her own daughters as guinea pigs. However, it doesn’t take long before the experiments begin to twist and turn in macabre and bone-chilling ways as Hattori makes more and more discoveries that are far more than she bargained for.

When it comes to plot, visuals, core concepts, and similar elements, The Sylvian Experiments has lots in common with the likes of Ju-On and Ringu. In fact, I’d say that if you enjoyed either or both of those, you’ll be really glad you took the time to sit down and watch this. This is whole-heartedly frightening in a very believable (and classically Japanese) way. It doesn’t rely on cheap thrills or sudden shocks to get your teeth chattering. It gets the job done through skillfully-built suspense, superb acting, and top notch writing instead – something I really respect and actively look for in the horror films I watch.

This film also has a lot of depth to it. Like many Japanese horror films, it eventually delves into meatier subjects that extend well beyond simple chills and thrills. The afterlife is discussed, as is its connection to modern medicine, human biology, and the state of the human spirit. Some of the conversations in this were real gems, touching on subjects like eternal damnation and salvation in interesting ways that I really enjoyed. Even so, this is done without really pushing an agenda or trying to sell you on any particular idea of what is (or isn’t) waiting for us on the other side. It just gets you thinking and I really, really like that in a film.

I’m a critic, so it’s my job to point out ways that films fall short. However, it’s honestly really hard for me to find anything bad to say about this movie… like… at all. I suppose perhaps the spiritual subject matter that weaves its way through the film’s premise might not be for everyone, but that’s really about all I can say. Otherwise, this is a very good, very well-made film and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. I’d certainly recommend it to others who enjoy the classic elements of Japanese horror and are looking for something fresh to absorb. The DVD would make a terrific addition to any J-horror collection as well.

Overall, The Sylvian Experiments does justice to the legacy created by the films that came before it and doesn’t disappoint. Definitely make it part of your own Halloween movie countdown this month. I think you’ll be happy you did!


Submitted by Michael S (not verified) on Mon, 10/03/2011 - 17:17

Michael S's picture

Thanks for this. I'm fairly new to Japanese horror films myself and I really enjoyed both The Grudge and The Ring. I'll definitely have to check this one out.

Submitted by Shannon Hilson on Tue, 10/04/2011 - 00:23

Shannon Hilson's picture

I'm new to Japanese horror myself, but I've really been digging it so far. If you liked the other movies you listed, you will probably really like this, too. It has a lot in common with both!

Submitted by sally le (not verified) on Tue, 12/13/2011 - 03:14

sally le's picture

The acting and directing is good, but the story as a whole is not.

The movie had potential, but it really sucked because no understand what happened in the end. It was just very messy. I liked it halfway through, but seeing how the movie ended and I still didn't understand what the movie was about.. Well.. I'd say that the script ain't no good..

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