Fantasia Film Festival 2023 Review: ‘#Manhole’

#Manhole undoubtedly jumps the shark, yet still finds a way to remain entertaining.

by Nick Kush

One of my toxic traits is that I love a good single-location thriller. There’s something about being trapped in a life-threatening situation with one character that always pulls me in. Are they hurt? Are they going to get out alive? Often, I find myself testing the movie, to see if it thinks of every escape option that comes to my mind. At its heart, these movies are fantastic puzzles that invite you to try to solve them along with the main characters. Internal logic is critical to these movies; after all, the movie only works if the script is clever enough to think through all escape scenarios but present them in a way that doesn’t allow the viewer to get a few steps ahead of the tension.

But #Manhole is not that strain of single-location thriller. Oh no, not in the slightest. It belongs to the other strain of these movies: the ones that have enough twists and turns to give you whiplash. Ones that get so preposterous, that you come to admire their hutzpah. The kind that will make you say, “Wow, they really went there, didn’t they?”

On the eve of Shunsuke Kawamura’s (Yûto Nakajima) wedding, his co-workers throw him a surprise party at a bar downtown. Everybody’s drinking and having a good time. They don’t have a care in the world. After saying goodbye to his friends, Shunsuke diverts from the group and beings the drunken stumble home. Then, he suddenly falls out of frame. As you might have surmised from the film’s title, he’s fallen into an uncovered manhole.

At the bottom, Shunsuke is surrounded by rubble and a gross foam that is slowly seeping out of a sewer line. His leg has a large gash. Above him, he sees a jagged ladder back up to civilization that’s missing a few rungs. Naturally, it’s the first thing he uses to try to get out of there, but he slips and falls back to the bottom after reaching for a rung just out of reach.

Next, he tries to call everyone in his contact that would pick him up, only to realize that, in actuality, his GPS is acting up. He’s not where his phone says he is. (The first sign that not everything is what it seems here.) Next, he turns to Twitter, or “Pecker”, as it’s cutely referred to in the film. He creates a new account with a woman avatar and implores fellow Peckers(?) to help figure out where he is through various clues. Because, as he explains, “people want to help girls.”

If that sounds like it’s straining credulity, then you probably aren’t ready for what turns #Manhole takes after. #Manhole is one of those movies that, even though I’m supposed to provide some level of detail in my review to provide a general picture of how it plays out, I don’t really want to in this case. Where I would usually roll my eyes at logic-bending reveals, here, I was entertained. And maybe impressed? #Manhole goes far enough with its nonsensical revelations that it appears to wear them with a badge of honor. Though doing so does give the film a junk-food-like quality, sometimes, a Snickers really hits the spot.

The only thing left for you is to take the plunge. Or fall, as it were.

Follow MovieBabble on Twitter @MovieBabble_ and follow Nick @nkush42.

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