Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Ghost Story’ Category

Haunted School

At an elementary school, there is a wing that has been closed off to the staff and pupils with the reason being that it is haunted according to rumours. One day a school girl called Mika follows a beach ball that has a mind of its own into the wing. Hearing the sound of laughter she follows it to an old bathroom and the 3rd toilet stall where she is attacked. Mika’s older brother and her friends decide to go looking for her and enter the wing but find themselves trapped inside when the doors lock behind them. The only option left for them is to venture further in the building and hope they can find a way out and also find Mika. Their school teacher manages to get trapped inside the wing as well and together they must avoid the ghosts that lurk there.

This is the first of a series of movies which was targeted towards Japanese kids/teenagers during the mid to late 90’s and they became very popular at the time. The movie is based on a series of ghost story novels by author Toru Tsunemitsu. It’s a fun and creative adventure romp which reminds the viewer of similar movies that appealed to Western teenagers during the 80’s. I wouldn’t say it’s a particularly scary movie except for perhaps small children.

Haunted School screenshot

It’s more or less a chase movie with the children and their teacher trying to escape from the ghosts they encounter in the school wing. There are some interesting designs for the ghosts/demons from a flying glowing mischievous ghost that sneaks up behind somebody and sticks his tongue out to those that can see him, a 40 foot person whose large feet stomps down the buildings’ hallways and a biology lab specimen in a jar that comes alive. The best one though happens to belong to the school janitor who morphs into a terrifying half human/half demon spider that kidnaps Mika and cocoons her into his web before stuffing her inside a glass cupboard. A reference to the famous Hanako-san legend is made when Mika is kidnapped from a toilet stall although the spirit of Hanako never appears in the movie. There’s a small twist at the end revolving around a schoolgirl that just mysteriously turns up inside the locked old building and joins the gang on their adventure. I sort of had an inkling of what the outcome of this twist was going to be so when it did happen it didn’t surprise me at all.

The young cast members in general perform well in their roles, in fact they do better than the majority of the adults. Hirayama Hideyuki directs this movie competently enough making sure that the ghosts in the story are a little bit scary but not too frightening enough as to give the young audience any nightmares. The story has been written well and the reason for the manifestation of the ghosts is because an old small clay statue has been broken outside the wing. The production values of the movie is quite high so the old fashioned special effects for the spooks aren’t cheaply done. The effects for the upside down room that the gang come across is really good.

Haunted School is a fun movie. It will definitely appeal more to children than adults. I thought it was an enjoyable and entertaining movie and well worth checking out.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Tales of the unusual

Tales of the Unusual is a 4 story anthology movie which are linked by a group of people stuck together at a train station during a heavy rainstorm. A creepy man in a black suit and sun glasses played by Japanese TV legend Tamori recounts stories to the group. The stories are:

ONE SNOWY NIGHT – a plane crashes in terrible weather on a snowy mountain. Only 5 manage to survive the ordeal with one female Mari having broken her leg. They decide to leave the confines of the plane as it is likely to fall off the mountain but having to carry Mari proves to be a hindrance to them. The best course of action is to make a bivouac and cover her with snow before the rest try and find shelter. They find a hut nearby and make a fire in order to keep warm. When the survivors go back to Mari they find she has tried to dig herself out with her head popping out of the snow. In trying to get her body out of the snow with a shovel they accidentally kill her. Back at the hut, the survivors are picked off one by one until only Mari’s friend is left alive. Has Mari’s vengeful spirit come back to get revenge?

SAMURAI CELLULAR – Oishi is a samurai chief clan in 18th century Japan who is a bit of a coward. Instead of leading his clan against his enemy Kira who killed his master, he prefers to fool about in bed with his mistress. One day whilst walking down a path he hears a mysterious ringing from a small silver box. Poking it with his sword, he hears a voice coming from it. He begins to talk to the voice who tells Oishi that he is from 300 years in the future and he wants confirmation from him if certain historical events are true. The voice tells Oishi that he is a famous Japanese person and that he will lead his clan into battle and become victorious even though he is a coward. Will Oishi do as history says he will do?

CHESS – Chess champion Akira Kato loses his crown to the computer Super Blue. This loss forces Akira to disappear from the chess competing circuit for a number of years. A rich businessman seeks out Akira and forces him to play a game of chess against him but this is a game with a difference. All the moves he makes on the chess board are real and involve real people who will be sacrificed which includes Akira’s wife. Can Akira win the game?

MARRIAGE SIMULATOR – Yuichi and Haru are a couple that met outside a cinema under a year ago and now they are planning the next step in their relationship by getting married. A wedding company has an offer in which the couple can try out a wedding VR simulator in which they are hooked up to a machine that can show them how their marriage pans out in the future. The simulator does not turn out as planned for the couple and it shows the two eventually getting divorced. After seeing this, they decide to cancel the wedding and break up. Sometime later they find out that they still love each other and become a couple once more…..until they wake up and discover they were still playing the wedding simulator.

Tales of the unusual screenshot

This is a spin-off movie from a TV series of the same name that was shown on Japanese TV – it is similar in tone to The Twilight Zone. It’s very rare for an anthology movie to have all stories that are strong and there’s usually got to be a weak one involved and this one is no different. The stories are really diverse encompassing 4 genres (horror, comedy, psychological drama and romance) so if you’re somebody expecting to see just horror stories then you will be disappointed. It makes for great viewing because of that as it should appeal to people across the board. Each creative tale directed by 4 different directors lasts 30 mins and they are completely unrelated.

The ones that I enjoyed the most was stories 1 and 2 with 3 being the one that didn’t do a lot for me. Story 1 is a brilliant horror tale of 4 people trapped in a hut during a blizzard after a plane crash. It’s effective in being really creepy and it even parodies The Blair Witch Project in one scene. There’s not a lot of blood involved but it does deliver in scares. The second story is more of a comedy tale than anything else. I did find it rather amusing with the character of Oishi being coerced by the person from the future on the mobile phone in carrying out certain actions that follow historical events and that his character does actually change because of this interaction. It is through this interaction that Oishi becomes the man that people in the future will remember him. There’s a bit of a twist right at the end of the story which I really found interesting. I’m not going to say what it is as I don’t want to spoil it for anybody but it was really clever. I don’t want to say a lot about story 3 as I found it to be a bit dull and uninteresting although I am sure some people will like it. The only thing I did like about it was the life sized recreation of a chess board. The last story about the couple has a good concept behind it. It’s rather sweet and touching. I was glad that things worked out for the pair by the time the story finished. As far as the Storyteller that links the stories is concerned, there’s no explanation where he comes from. He just appears all of a sudden with a creepy smile on his face. I’m not sure if he’s an employee of the train station whose job it is to entertain people with his stories if they find themselves having to stay there for a while? I thought there might have been a twist involving the Storyteller at the end but nothing happened.

Overall, I found this movie to be a bit of a pleasant surprise as I was really expecting this to be something akin to Creepshow (i.e horror stories). Those wishing to see a slick Japanese slant on The Twilight Zone will enjoy it. Definitely worth your while in checking out.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

POV A Cursed Film

Mirai Shida is a teen actress that holds her own online TV show which is streamed for smartphones. Her guest for one show is another teen actress – Haruna Kawaguchi. In the show that is being filmed, the topic for conversation between the two is home videos sent in to them and the claims made that there are ghosts on them. They are made to watch several videos. Mirai isn’t happy about the supernatural theme but Haruna is up for it. The videos they watch look familiar to Haruna and she deduces that they are places in her old middle school. She tells Mirai that there were rumours of ghosts at the school and that she had tried to hunt down the ghosts as she states she’s a self-professed ghost hunter. When the two girls take a look at the footage on the videos (a toilet, showers, window) again it looks like some things have changed. In the girls toilets a cubicle door was seen to open but on viewing that footage for the 2nd time there is now a hand on the open door, the showers turn themselves on and a face is seen on a window. A ghost even shows up in what they have filmed in the studio. There is a possibility that there’s a curse associated with the videos and a psychic is called in by the show’s production team. She tells the girls that the only way to lift the curse is to visit the source of the hauntings – Haruna’s middle school.  The girls, their manager and a couple of the production crew head out to the school but when they arrive they find out the psychic isn’t coming. Nevertheless they meet one of Haruna’s old teachers and enter the school. What will happen to the girls in the school? Will they get down to the bottom of the ghostly footage and are their lives in any danger?

I would have liked to say that this B-movie gives J-horror fans something new, original and interesting to watch but unfortunately it doesn’t…….not initially anyway! This is one of those ‘found footage’ movies much like The Blair Witch Project. The two main actresses are playing themselves. I haven’t heard about Haruna Kawaguchi before but I have seen Mirai Shida in one or two movies. The majority of the movie doesn’t offer anything the viewer hasn’t seen before – cheap scares, screaming around darkened corridors, shaky camerawork, night vision, creaking doors, blinking lights etc etc. All sorts of chaos takes place at the school where the girls are seen trying to escape but find the door to the outside all locked. Same old same old I hear you say but after some credits come up onscreen the story changes location to a cinema where some movie execs and some sponsors are watching the footage the viewer has just seen. So this is now a movie within a movie! The execs like what they see and are sure it’s going to be a hit with the punters. However the girls aren’t happy but they are invited to sit down for a private screening and watch the entire adventure they’ve been on and their reactions will be filmed by a small camcorder plonked right in front of their seats.  So the movie starts to get shown and yet again the footage that’s played has changed from the last time and Haruna by watching the movie has cursed herself once more because some ghosts start appearing in the cinema with the two girls. That’s when they decide the only way to end this is to go to the projector room and physically stop the movie. Do they succeed? We never know as the real credits of the movie appear as the plug for the projector is about to be pulled.

POV A Cursed Film screenshot

This low budgeter is far from being a great J-horror but it has its moments and the two leads are charming enough. I can’t say they do a good acting job though. It’s hard for J-horror fans to get excited these days when all you get to see is the same old plot rehashed over and over albeit with some small cosmetic changes. Personally I didn’t find this movie to be that frightening or even suspenseful. It’s not a total failure, I’ve seen far worse J-horrors than this one. There are 3 acts in the movie: the first is set in the studio, the second takes up the bulk of the movie and is set at Haruna’s old school but it’s the third act at the cinema which proves more interesting than the rest. Director Norio Tsuruta (of Ringu 0 fame) tries to be different and creative when you think the movie is about to end with the first set of credits and the story continues afterwards. It could have been better so I thought it was a bit of a missed opportunity. Be prepared to witness the usual clichés you see in these kind of movies. The story I didn’t think was compelling enough. If it wasn’t for the third act, I would have rated this movie a little less.

Unless you’re really bored and have nothing better to watch, this movie is good enough to waste 90 mins. Just don’t expect anything special out of it.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

RuleNumber1-2008

Officer Lee is a dedicated cop who one night in a parking lot decides to stop a man in his car who seems to be trying to leave in a hurry and who hasn’t put his seatbelt on. After being issued a ticket, Lee is about to send the man away when he notices that one of the car’s taillights isn’t working.  Lee offers to repair the broken light so the driver goes looking for a screwdriver inside his car. It is then that Lee spots some blood coming from the car’s boot. A woman’s body is discovered in the boot and the driver whips out his gun and shoots Lee several times. Just as the fatal shot is about to be delivered the corpse in the boot sits up and this is enough for the driver to be distracted and for Lee to shoot him in the head.  After his recovery, Lee is transferred to the Miscellaneous Affairs Department for not changing his statement that he saw a dead corpse sitting up. This rather obscure department investigates paranormal activities and is headed by Inspector Wong and his wheelchair bound assistant. The department’s job is track and hunt down ghosts using conventional weapons. Wong has one rule for his department and that is “there is no such things as ghosts”. This irks Lee as he can see plenty of ghosts but the rule is there for a reason and it’s more for the general public than anybody else. They have to convince them that no such things exist. There is one particularly vicious ghost that seems to have an interest in Lee and Wong. Jumping from one body to another by possessing a human, the ghost makes their victims do things such as commit suicide or killing innocent people. Why is the ghost taunting the two cops with a trail of deaths and is it linked to a set of numbers which has been carved into Lee’s right arm when he was sent to hospital after being shot and put into a plaster cast?

This movie opens with a shocking scene showing Officer Lee gunning down a woman on a bus for no apparent reason before it steps back in time and shows the incredible turn of events of how he became a member of the Miscellaneous Affairs Department team.  If that isn’t enough to get your interest in the movie then nothing else will!! The premise of malevolent ghosts transferring from one body to another simply by touching a person just like a virus is an interesting one. The frightening thing about this aspect is the person is effectively dead once they’re infected and when the ghost has moved onto another body all that’s left is an empty shell. I can’t say I’ve seen a movie with anything like this before so I liked the fact that the director tried something different. That’s not to say he doesn’t spoil the movie by inserting some cheap scares but on the whole it’s not your usual ghost story. The creepy atmosphere adds to the mood of the movie. One such scene showing a group of schoolgirls on top of a roof holding hands with braids of their hair tied together before jumping off has obviously been inspired by Sion Sono’s Suicide Club. Once the identity of the ghost has been made known it turns into a thriller as Lee races against time to protect his pregnant wife and there’s still enough time to shove another twist to the tale which I found to be rather unexpected (I won’t spoil what that is). It definitely keeps you guessing right to the end. The majority of the movie is rather dark and serious with only a little bit of humour in it. There is one major plothole in the story and that is if these ghosts can move between hosts what can a bullet do to them? Probably nothing apart from making them look for a new body.

rule-number-one-screenshot

The director of this movie, a young Singaporean by the name of Kelvin Tong came with a bit of a chequered reputation before helming this movie. Some of his previous works weren’t universally loved as they were either bad comedies or art-house flicks (I can’t comment as I’ve never seen any of his stuff) so many movie fans weren’t expecting much out of this story. However, I think the dramatic first 20 mins was enough to hook people into the movie and make them want to discover where the storyline would take them. Both leading actors give solid performances. Ekin Cheng is particularly good as Wong, the hard drinking man in charge of the M.A.D who has seen it all over the years. You just have an inkling that something bad is going to happen when he plans to retire and go away with his ex-wife who he is still on good terms.

Overall, Rule Number One is an entertaining ride which provides a new slant on the ghost story genre. It has an interesting and exciting story and it’s directed well enough by Kelvin Tong.  Well worth taking a look.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Uncle_Boonmee_DVD.indd

Boonmee is a former soldier with the Thai army who is dying of kidney failure. Rather than spending his final days in a hospital, he retires to his house in the countryside in North Thailand with his carer from Laos called Jai. His sister in law Jen and nephew Tong come over to see him. During dinner on the porch, the trio are visited by the ghost of Boonmee’s dead wife Huay and his son Boonsong who has transformed into some sort of weird ape with glowing red eyes after running from the family some years ago and having sex with a ‘ghost monkey’. Boonmee says his goodbyes to friends and makes a trip along with Jen and Tong to a cave deep in the jungle where he says he was born. There he prepares for his final journey to meet his maker…………

Winner of the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010, this movie is one that divides opinion amongst people. Some say it’s a work of art and a highly original piece of work whilst others say it’s an overlong, boring, incoherent mess. I’d been wanting to see it for a while. I must warn anybody that might be tempted to see this movie that if you expect a story with a straightforward linear narrative you’re not going to get it here plus I think you really have to be in the right mood to appreciate this rather unique and bold piece of work by Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul. This is the first movie I’ve seen by him. I’d like to think that as well as enjoying modern blockbusters I can also enjoy a more simplistic arthouse movie like this one. Even after watching this movie and you still don’t understand what the director was trying to say don’t worry you’re not alone. It’s a movie that will leave you with more questions than answers. The director even said once in a newspaper interview that you don’t need to understand everything. Well that’s a relief!!

uncle boonmee screenshot

Basically this movie is about Boonmee’s past lives and dead family members coming back to haunt him and sees the man tying loose ends up as he approaches death. Of course it’s a lot more than that. It’s a reflection on life and death with some hidden meanings. A lot of the scenes are just of people talking to each other about life and love amongst other things. I’m sure there’s something about karma in this story as well. There’s no conflict, action or drama in this movie. It even includes a rather strange scene in the middle which doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the movie. It involves an old princess who longs to be young again. Beside a waterfall she starts talking to a catfish in a pool who answers her back. She then enters the pool and proceeds to have sex with the catfish in a surreal moment! The director uses stunning imagery of the Thai countryside and jungle with the environment itself as the soundtrack to the story. Every shot is beautifully composed. The performances of the cast are very good. I liked how all the characters didn’t become scared of the ghosts that came and visited. They just took it all in their stride like it’s something that happens regularly in their lives. Perhaps it’s a Buddhist thing? I did find the strange apes with glowing red eyes that inhabit the forest to be a bit creepy.

This isn’t a movie for everyone. For anybody that wants to see something different and highly original then you’ll love this movie. It can be confusing and at times plodding but stick with it. I enjoyed the mystical side to the movie. And if you can make sense of it all I salute you!!

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

In the aftermath of the earthquake that strikes Kobe in 1995, psychic Yukari Kamo comes to help the victims who are living in shelters. She is tormented by the fact that she can read people’s minds and wishes she didn’t have the ability as it has driven her to try and committ suicide on many occassions. Medication has alleviated some of the voices she hears in her head but she fears that in the future they will prove ineffective. Staying at the house of the woman running the shelter, she is shown a collection of tree drawings which have been drawn by one person – a schoolgirl named Chihiro who is suffering from multiple personality disorder ever since she survived a car crash which claimed the lives of her parents. Chihiro has 13 people living inside her head and she’s been shunned by her peers at school. Yukari’s arrival in Kobe coincides with the start of a rash of mysterious deaths which includes a schoolgirl drowning herself in a toilet bowl!! Could the deaths be linked to Chihiro – perhaps one of the personalities she has is a killer or is it linked to a sensory depravation experiment which went horribly wrong as the Kobe earthquake struck?

Despite being hammered by some critics when it first came out, I thought this J-horror was a fairly interesting movie even though the plot shifts from being about a girl with a personality disorder to one about a soul that was released during an experiment with no body to return to about half way through. It’s a suitably atmospheric movie about spiritual possession and the plot whilst some might say is ridiculous was plausible enough. The characters are well rounded and the movie is nicely shot with newsreel footage of the devastating images of the Kobe earthquake at the beginning. And the best thing about the movie is it doesn’t have a long haired dressed in white antagonist!! Unlike other J-horror movies, this story isn’t driven by gore or cheap shocks but by the characters. As much as it is a story about spirits, it’s also about two people who are outcasts of society and lonely due to their condition. There’s a rather stupid romantic sub-plot involving Yukari and a male doctor which was pointless and went nowhere. I felt the plot was building up to what I hoped was going to be a great climax but it just fell flat on its face. It was a disappointing end to a movie that had promised much. Another downside to the movie is that character development is minimal. There were many opportunities where the director could have expanded more about the history of the characters especially Yukari and her background as a psychic but it didn’t happen.

As for the acting in the movie, Akira Kurosawa’s granddaughter Yu plays the role of Chihiro and whilst I wouldn’t say her acting is that good, she is quite creepy as the girl with various personalities inside her. The shame about it all is we only get to see a couple of the personalities. She might have have a chance to extend her acting range had she been given a chance to act out all 13 personalities. Yoshino Kimura who plays the psychic Yukari is a sympathetic character to the viewer. Here is a person who would rather lead a normal life than hearing the overwhelming thoughts of people around her running through her head. Her performance was OK, not really that special. If you’re a rather observant viewer, you might catch a very quick cameo of Takashi Miike in this movie too.

Isola Persona 13 isn’t too bad and if you’re a fan of possession movies you might even enjoy it. J-horror fans better look elsewhere for their kicks as you’re not going to find anything with gore and scares in this movie.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Lowly rickshaw driver Gisaburo is away from his young wife Seki for many hours during the day whilst she stays at home looking after the home and his young children. A young soldier Toyoji starts to visit her home regularly and brings some treats to soften her up. Gisaburo suspects something is up between the two but on asking his wife she says he’s silly for thinking such things. But one day, Tojoyi brings more than treats to Seki and pounces on her sexually. Whilst struggling at first, she submits to his will and soon the two are lovers. Toyoji is eaten alive at the fact that he cannot be with Seki whilst Gisaburo is still alive so the two plan on murdering him. Seki plies him with saki to get him drunk one night and Toyoji comes into the house, grabs a strong rope and together with Seki they strangle poor Gisaburo before taking his body into the woods and throwing it down an abandoned well. Seki explains to her neighbours that her husband has gone to Tokyo to look for work. Three years pass and the neighbours are suspicious that Gisaburo has not returned to see his wife. His children are soon having bad dreams about their father being dead and his ghost starts to appear. The police are notified and start to investigate the reports of Gisaburo’s ghost. Will Tojoyi and Seki’s terrible secret reveal itself to the police or can they get away with it?

Director Nagisa Oshima is probably best known for his erotic movie ‘In The Realm Of The Senses’ which is famous for its unsimulated sex and a scene in which a man’s penis is cut off (in it’s uncensored form the movie is still banned in Japan). This movie which was the 2nd of a projected 3 picture deal Oshima had with French producer Anatole Dauman is a drama ghost story with the hardcore sex absent. Dauman was unhappy with the result of this movie, scrapped the agreement between the two and Oshima never had the chance to make the 3rd movie. Whilst there are some similarities between this movie and ‘In The Realm Of The Senses’ as both deal with lust and sex, the way the story is told is definitely different as it also contains a traditional Japanese ghost story. The spectre of Gisaburo constantly harasses his wife to the point that she starts to become petrified of staying in the house overnight to sleep. Even though I’ve mentioned there’s no hardcore sex in the movie, it does contain a couple of not so explicit scenes between the lovers. The movie is suitably creepy at times and as Gisaburo’s ghost appears more regularly the tension starts to build. There’s an air of dread in the air which preys on Seki’s mind constantly to the point of hysteria. Every time she’s at home she expects to see Gisaburo’s ghost though she gets no sympathy from her lover Toyoji as the ghost doesn’t appear before him at all. There’s quite a shocking scene right at the end involving the police which shows them brutally hanging Seki and Toyoji from a tree and smacking the two extremely hard with some canes to solicit a confession out of them for Gisaburo’s murder. Even if the two weren’t guilty of the crime, I’m sure anybody would confess to the police in order for them to stop the brutal punishment. Some viewers like myself that sees the deep dark well that plays a prominent role in the movie will immediately think of Ringu but there’s no Sadako-like demon crawling out of this well.

I liked what Oshima achieved with this riveting tale. It’s got a powerful story, capable acting by the cast, stunning cinematography and I just felt it was an improvement on it’s sister movie ‘In The Realm Of The Senses’.

Overall, Empire of Passion is a solid illicit love/vengeful ghost story. It’s true that it’s not quite as brilliant as Japanese powerhouse ghost stories like Kwaidan or Onibaba but it’s still worth checking out.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »