Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Screenplay: Kunihiro Tomioka and Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Starring: Makiko Kuno, Hatsunori Hasegawa, Yutaka Matsushige and Ren Osugi
Country: Japan
Running Time: 96 min
Year: 1992

Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s body of work is something that I’m still new to, but I’m a huge fan of his output. The first film of his I checked out was Pulse, a fairly iconic J-horror film which contains one of the scariest scenes ever put to screen. If you know, you know. After that, I checked out his masterpiece Cure and immediately wanted to see more from the man behind such an excellent film. 

The Guard from Underground was one of many films that came out during the heights of Director’s Company. Director’s Company was a film production company that existed entirely to give filmmakers the opportunity to create works that didn’t fit the criteria of what the bigger studios wanted. It lasted only ten years but was home to films from directors such as Toshiharu Ikeda, Kazuki Ōmori, Kazuhiko Hasegawa and Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Some of the films produced by Director’s Company included Love Hotel, Typhoon Club, Evil Dead Trap and Mermaid Legend. 

The Guard from Underground follows Akiko, a new employee at a corporation where she values art and its worth. Also present is Fujimaru, a man who works in security but prior to this, had a completely different life as a sumo wrestler who was accused of murdering his friend and her lover, three years prior. Right from the get-go, Kurosawa’s direction adds immediate intrigue into the viewer’s mind and despite much of a real budget to work with, he directs the film with the same level of craftsmanship that you’d expect. The best horror sequences in the film are played out with no music which really puts you on edge and unsure of what’s about to happen. It’s one of my favourite ways to portray horror in film and when it’s done in The Guard from Underground, it’s great. There’s moments where the score plays over some of the sequences and it’s where I found the scares less effective, but they’re still decent.

The film bounces between corporate satire and slasher remarkably well and Akiko is a likeable protagonist who is surrounded by people who don’t respect her. She encounters sexual harassment, little sympathy for the troubles she’s going through and a boss who doesn’t seem affected by a serial killer inside his office. While it doesn’t all work, there’s some interesting themes on display and I liked what Kurosawa was aiming for here.

There’s a particularly brutal murder that occurs halfway through the movie which results in the lights in the office building to begin malfunctioning that I found disturbing. Even though the film isn’t a kill-a-minute affair, when it gets violent, it’s very effective. 

I wouldn’t say the film is anything spectacular compared to the work that Kurosawa would go on to make, but the sense of dread that’s present throughout The Guard from Underground makes the film feel uniquely Kurosawa. The performances are all solid, with Yutaka Matsushige’s Fujimaru being the absolute highlight. He’d later go on to work in films such as Ringu, Godzilla 2000 and Like a Dragon, so it was nice to see him in one of his first on-screen roles. Makiko Kuno is also great as Akiko and offers a sense of humanity to the film that was needed. 

The Guard from Underground is a decent early feature from Kiyoshi Kurosawa and one that I think is worth a watch. While it doesn’t reinvent the wheel and is probably my least favourite of the films I’ve seen from Kiyoshi so far, it’s still a solid watch with some really intense horror sequences and satirical elements that help it stick out from your average slasher film.


The Guard from Underground is being released by Third Window Films on Blu-ray in their Director’s Company series on September 25th. The new digital remaster is pretty good, but the limitations from the source are apparent. While it doesn’t look awful, I’ve seen far better Blu-ray transfers in the past from Third Window Films and given the extremely low-budget that the film has, it’s reasonable to assume it’s down to the source not being as polished as some other titles in their collection. The audio sounds good too, there’s a slight hiss present throughout the track but it’s not very distracting. Optional English subtitles are included for the main feature and extras too. The following extras are included: 

  • New digital remaster from the original negatives
  • New audio commentary by Tom Mes
  • Interview with producer Takashi Ikoma
  • Kiyoshi Kurosawa talk show at the premiere of the new master
  • Trailer
  • Slipcase with artwork from Gokaiju
  • ‘Directors Company’ special edition featuring insert by Jasper Sharp – limited to 2000 copies

Audio commentary by Tom Mes – Brand new for this release, Tom Mes heads this audio commentary and as usual for Mes’ commentaries, it’s an incredibly insightful one. He touches on Kurosawa’s career, the horror films he’d go on to make and the low-budget nature of The Guard from Underground. It’s an interesting and great audio commentary. 

Interview with producer Takashi Ikoma – This brand new 35 minute interview with Ikoma discusses a variety of topics, such as what ‘The Director’s Company’ was, his experiences during the time he entered and the production of The Guard from Underground. It’s a solid interview that I’d highly recommend checking out.

Kiyoshi Kurosawa talk show at the premiere of the new master – A 30 minute interview with director Kiyoshi Kurosawa at the premiere for the new restoration. He jokes about feeling like Hannibal Lecter and talks about the tough production, limitations with time and budget and it’s a really solid interview. Knowing what Kurosawa would go on to create, it’s really interesting hearing him look back on this early horror feature of his. 

A trailer is included.

I wasn’t provided with the slipcase or insert, unfortunately.

The Third Window Films films release of this early Kiyoshi Kurosawa film is a good one, with decent A/V and a solid audio commentary and selection of interviews that supplement the film nicely. While I thought the film was good, it’s undeniably a fascinating look into the early career of a filmmaker who would go on to create some of the most essential J-horror films ever made.


Where to watch The Guard from Underground
The Guard from Underground - Third Window Films
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