A number of films in recent years have been playing with the conventions of film noir. Starfish Hotel, which screened at Fantastic Fest this week, uses those conventions to turn a mystery inside-out, but unfortunately isn't nearly as suspenseful or interesting as its predecessors.
Arisu (Koichi Sato) is a big fan of mystery novels, particularly the Darkworld series written by Jo Kuroda (Kazuyoshi Kushida). Arisu has a secret life of his own: he's been cheating on his wife with the lovely Kayoko (Kiki), whom he met at the faded and remote Starfish Hotel. Suddenly Arisu is involved in a deeper and more horrible mystery: his wife Chisato goes missing, and is rumored to be working in a Tokyo brothel. A seedy-looking guy in a rabbit suit (yes, very much like Donnie Darko) keeps popping out of nowhere to drop hints about the mystery. The guy in the rabbit suit says he's advertising the newest book in the Darkworld series ... or is he really from the Darkworld himself? Is Arisu's life turning into a Kuroda mystery novel? Flashbacks and dream sequences further blur the lines between fantasy and reality, both for the characters and the audience.