EXCLUSIVE: Reel Suspects has boarded sales on Japanese filmmaker Keishi Kondo’s buzzed-about sci-fi horror New Religion ahead of its U.S. premiere at Slamdance later this month.

The debut feature was warmly received on the European sci-fi and horror fest circuit over the fall, with fans saying the work could herald a renaissance of the so-called J-horror genre.

Kaho Seto stars as a woman who gets divorced and takes up work as a call girl following the tragic, accidental, death of her young daughter. One day, she is engaged by a strange client who requests to take a picture of her spine.

Over the course of a number of appointments, he photographs nearly every part of her body. The woman comes to realize that every time he takes a photo, her dead daughter’s spirit gets closer. Soon, the only part of her body left to snap are her eyes.

Indie filmmaker Kondo is enjoying a growing following at home and internationally.

He says the film is in response to what he sees as the “sense of social collapse that is overtaking Japanese society,” linked to the country’s declining economic growth and ageing population.

“I set the protagonist of this film as the metaphor for Japanese society. Through the protagonist’s loss of a loved one and her pursuit of her daughter’s ghost through magical technology, I tried to portray the small resignation of surviving in a “society where everything seems to have ended” and the future that would start from there,” he explains.

New Religion marks the first Japanese acquisition for Paris-based genre specialist Reels Suspects. The company will give the film its market debut at the Berlinale’s upcoming European Film Market in February.

“Keichi’s work is very powerful, with a surgical cinematography and screenplay. It attracts the audience into the deepness of its own world,” said Reel Suspects CEO Matteo Lovadina.