Homunculus (Japan 2021) - Movie Review

A homeless man meets a stranger who promises to unlock a sixth sense, providing he is allowed to drill a hole in his forehead.
Director Takashi Shimizu
Starring Go Ayano, Ryo Narita, Yukino Kishii, Anna Ishii
Alternative Names ホムンクルス

Well here is a strange one,  another Japanese movie that makes you feel behind the eight ball if you know nothing about its source material

Like so many recent modern Japanese movies, this is an adaptation of a manga of the same name, printed back in 2003 and quite well-loved, meaning it has a fan base ready to dive into this film.

But what about those of us who don’t know the source material? Can we get something out of it?

What’s this movie about?

Nakoshi is a homeless man living out of his car, parked between a homeless camp and a luxury hotel. Unexplainedly not short of money, he is approached one night by a medical intern with a wild proposal.

He wants to drill a hole into the front of his brain as an experiment, where Nakoshi will hopefully unlock a sixth sense in his brain to allow him the ability to view someone’s subconscious mind.

My Thoughts on this Movie

Sounds like a great storyline for a movie, right? And it starts off particularly strong. Specifically, I really enjoyed the character of Ito, the medical intern who approaches Nakoshi with the proposal.  First impressions are important, and when we first see Ito he looks like a punk. Little did I realise, he is the person with the power to unlock Nakoshi sixth sense.

Without knowing anything about this film, I tend to find that’s the best way for me to approach movies like this, I was fully prepared to be immersed in the world this movie was about to create. Specifically, I very much enjoyed the first scene of Nakoshi witnesses the monsters for the first time as he is stumbling down the street of Kabukicho.

For those used to the glitzy CGI effects of Marvel movies, you won’t like the effects used in this scene, or indeed the whole movie. They’re mostly simple, but yet they’re effective. My personal favourite strangely being the robot, not the sand monster, although that scene is as confronting as it is strange.

And that’s part of the movie’s problem. It’s strangeness, for a western audience anyway. With very little background knowledge of the source material, and indeed the whole concept behind Homunculus and trepanation, the procedure of drilling the hole into the skull, I was fully reliant on the movie to guide me through what I was watching. Then towards the end of the movie wanted to forget about the experiment and start exploring all its coincidences, I felt really lost.  

The ending was a surprise and not something that I saw coming, but I can’t say it was satisfying. I’m not too sure what I was expecting from this movie, other than an entertaining horror movie, but I know I didn’t get it.

And that led me to yet another problem. I went into this movie, rightly or wrongly, expecting an engrossing psychological horror film, but I felt a shift towards the end to more of a drama thriller, and that’s not what I signed up for.

Comparing it to the director’s previous works, such as his work on Ju-on/The Grudge series, is unfair as they are very types of films. But if I was to compare it to something more recent, such as the very average Howling Village, then this is much better than that.


For a movie with a seemingly big budget and some great actors, the hype around this is almost non-existent. A shame, as there is probably an audience who would appreciate this. Could it be the manga crowd? I am not sure. But if you know the source material, how faithful is this movie?

Otherwise, I’d have to give this movie a thumbs down. It’s an interesting concept, and an entertaining first half, that’s ultimately let down by the shift in tone and genre, and a slightly confusing premise that leaves behind those not in the know.

If you’ve seen it, what did you think?