Archive for April 11th, 2014

Nobody (1999)

Nobody 1999

Three friends (Taki, Nanbu and Konishi) who work for an advertising agency are relaxing in a bar when they pass comment on 3 well-dressed men sitting close by. The men however have heard their comments and an altercation between the two parties nearly break out. Rather than having a fight, the friends decide to leave the bar. Unfortunately Konishi has left his umbrella in the bar and heads back to retrieve it but who should come out of the lift that goes up to the bar but the well-dressed men who gives a severe beating to Konishi before disappearing into the night. Vowing revenge, they return back to the bar the next night but the men don’t show up. A week goes by and the trio are walking back home through an alley when they come across one of the men. Payback is sweet as they beat him into unconsciousness. Worrying that they might have killed the man, they scour the newspapers but find nothing. Then they start to get strange phone calls saying that the beaten up man did indeed die. Taunting the trio that it isn’t over between them yet, things start to spiral out of control as the mysterious men begin a campaign of intimidation against them. But who exactly are these men – yakuza, salarymen or the police?

This is a fast paced and suspenseful thriller that for the most part delivers on excitement and machismo. Just a shame though that the plot falls apart in the final 5 mins which makes you wonder just what the hell you’ve been watching. It starts off though as a typical revenge movie as our 3 flawed heroes are menaced at every turn by the bad guys – either taunted by phone call or followed by car. It’s then you begin to ask questions about the plot as there are so many holes in it – how are the two surviving villains able to contact the trio? Is there somebody passing information about them on to the baddies? I was happy enough to let stuff like that slide until the twist at the climax which was so ridiculously far-fetched that it falls into b-movie territory and makes a mockery of what has taken place before it. Taki is back to square one again with nothing being resolved.

Nobody 1999 screenshot

I liked how the villains make a point of using the ‘divide and conquer’ routine with the trio. Konishi who was the first to be attacked by them does a silly thing of agreeing to meet up with them at a restaurant. Expecting to talk and end the bad blood between them, he is unfortunately knifed to death whilst on the phone at the restaurant. They then turn their attention to Nambu who meets a grisly end after being followed by a car so the only person left is Taki who has his hands full after betraying his girlfriend on a one night stand with a beautiful woman he meets who is on a shoot with his company. But is this woman all she’s cracked up to be or does she have a hidden agenda? Well I won’t spoil that for you!

The movie is high on mood and atmosphere and it’s been shot extremely well especially the night time scenes. There’s an 80’s feel to the movie even though it was filmed in 1999. The tense storyline does have several violent scenes with a dash of blood as well. The acting isn’t special at all – I’m not criticising Riki Takeuchi, Masaya Koto or Hideo Nakano by that statement. It’s just that nothing stands out from their performance. Character development is minimal.

This isn’t too bad of a movie and it does have some good parts but this is a prime example of a story that relies on style rather than substance. It does entertain you and keeps you on your toes as you’re never sure what’s going to happen next but I just wished that there had been a better ending rather than the mess they came up with.

No trailer I’m afraid.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Cult (2013)

Cult poster

Three Japanese TV idols are given the task of investigating a normal residential house whose inhabitants (a mother and her young daughter) are being plagued by strange goings-on. They are not looking forward to doing this task but their management company pushes them to take part. The three girls are joined by a priest before entering the house. He is there to perform an exorcism on the property but he feel that he needs help so he contacts his master to come down. At first things seems to have gone well and the priest’s master is confident that the exorcism has been a success until things start going wrong. The master is attacked and sent to hospital and the young daughter looks to have been possessed by an evil demon. She is found eating her pet dog upstairs. A young shaman then turns up ready to battle the evil forces at the house. Who or what has taken over the house and can the cocky shaman defeat it?

Director Koji Shiraishi seems to like making horror movies as he’s helmed a number of them over the years. Noroi is probably the best example of his work but other movies like Carved and Occult are very enjoyable as well. I was expecting another cracker with this movie but in the end it just left feeling disappointed and underwhelmed. The major problem with the movie is it just doesn’t what it wants to be – an outright horror or a dark comedy. The story is set up like a Paranormal Activity clone with cameras set up in various rooms in the house and various odd occurrences are picked up by them. It’s obvious our 3 idols are woefully unprepared for what’s about to hit them. To be honest during the first 30 or so minutes I was beginning to like this movie very much. It was tense, scary and exciting but as soon as the young shaman named Neo appears it all falls apart. Various sub-plots are then introduced such as a local cult who are trying to bring a demon God into this world through the evil forces in the house and the mother/daughter who live there are not who they appear to be. The evil in the house is seen to be spreading it’s power outside of the house and is targeting anybody that has tried to interfere with it. It just gets more ridiculous by the time the climax comes around. As things come to a head and the demon finally manifests itself, the movie has descended into no more than a parody of what it started out in the beginning. Was this the director’s intention – who knows?

I know that Koji Shiraishi’s movies are low budget but the special effects in this one is horribly bad. You only have to witness the mutant tentacled dog spirit to see how terrible and embarrassing it looks onscreen. Even the spirits in the house look like CGI floating worms! Surely Shiraishi knew how poor the effects looked so either he didn’t care or didn’t have time to do anything about it so he left them in the movie. He may have gotten away with such effects in previous movies but it really cheapens the whole production here.

Cult screenshot

The acting from the cast is OK I suppose though it gets hammy as the more absurd plot devices come to the fore during the second half. The 3 lovely teen idols (Yu Abiru/Mari Iriki/Mayuko Iwasa) who portray themselves come across as rather sweet and a bit naïve. I can’t say I’ve heard about any of them. Ryosuke Miura is probably the standout as Neo – the shaman with attitude who looks like he’s come straight out of pages from some manga!

I did have high hopes for this movie and it had potential at first to be a frightening spectacle. Unfortunately due to the director not knowing which direction to take, it ends up being a bit of a mess. It finishes on a cliffhanger so I’m not sure if there will be a sequel or not. If there is, there’s got to be a big improvement in all departments. I know that Shiraishi can do a lot better than this.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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