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Posts Tagged ‘Ghost Story’

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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

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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

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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

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Kwaidan is a classic Japanese horror anthology movie that consists of 4 seperate ghost stories:

Black Hair: An impoverished samurai dumps his loyal wife in order to marry the daughter of a wealthy lord and improve his position in life. Years later and with his feelings towards his 2nd wife becoming stale, he realises just how much in love with his first wife he’s in and sets off to Kyoto to find her. He’s surprised when he finds her still alive in their old decayed house and ready to forgive him but something is amiss….

The Woman In The Snow: I’ve covered this story in another movie entry (The Snow Witch). It’s basically the same except The Snow Witch expanded on the original story here.

Hoichi The Earless: A blind biwa player named Hoichi (a biwa is a stringed instrument resembling a guitar) who is renowned for his moving rendition of the tragic tale of the battle between the Genji and Heiki clans is summoned one night by a samurai ghost to play his famous piece to the spirits of the Heiki clan. He does this on several occasions. Hoichi thinks he goes to a house of a famous lord to perform but finds out that it’s in a creepy graveyard he’s been playing. Two priests cover Hoichi from head to toe with Buddhist talisman symbols that should protect him from the ghost summoning him to perform again but they forget to cover one place: his ears!! When Hoichi refuses to play for the ghosts, one of them extracts a terrible bloody revenge on him!

In A Cup Of Tea: A samurai sees an image of a former samurai when he tries to drink a cup of tea. During the evening, the samurai is visited by the ghost of the image he saw in the cup. He tries to kill the ghost but it disappears though it seems he managed to injure it in the arm. The following evening, three more spirits appear and tell the samurai that he has injured their master. He intends to visit the samurai very soon for revenge.

This is the 3rd work by Masaki Kobayashi that I’ve had a chance to see after The Human Condition I and Seppuku. It’s a brilliant Japanese supernatural movie. All of the 4 stories are very good – traditional Japanese folk legends about ghosts that you might hear around a campfire. Are the 4 tales frightening? A little bit maybe but what you get is an incredible visual feast by the director who uses vivid colour, dream-like surreal landscapes and superb cinematography. The background sets are like paintings you might see in an art exhibition. Truly stunning. My favourite story has to be Hoichi The Earless. The running time of the movie might be long at nearly 2 hours and 45 mins but because the stories are never boring, before you know it the movie has ended. That’s the mark of a really great movie when you don’t notice how much time has passed by. It’s engrossed you so much that time doesn’t matter.

Kwaidan is beautiful, moody, creepy, poetic and very atmospheric. A remarkable movie which should be on the list of every Asian movie fan. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5.

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Toshiko, a high school girl and her brother find a camera in their late grandfather’s bedroom. Later on, she receives a message to her new cell phone from her brother; in this message there is a mysterious picture of a dark forest where an unknown woman is standing. From that moment on, strange things begin to happen to Toshiko, including visions of a strange looking girl and odd photos appearing on her mobile phone. She decides to talk to one of her best friends Megumi about it and she tells Toshiko that there is an urban legend about a girl lost in a forest. She asks her teacher to find out about the location of where the photo was taken. Soon, Toshiko discovers that there is more about the legend than she actually knows, and it is closer to her than she can imagine.

Sharing many characteristics with other J-horrors which would be fine it this was any good but unfortunately this short and snappy 72-min movie teases us aplenty but delivers very little in any good scares or suspense. I did think this was going to be a rather interesting supernatural movie at first but I saw quite quickly that this was not going to give us anything new. The movie is rather slow in getting going with a good 40 minutes having passed before anything of any significance happening and by that time you don’t really care what’s going on or you’ve switched off. Nothing is ever properly explained by the end and the story doesn’t really go anywhere. The abrupt climax could have been done better. The red herring placed in the movie about a child serial killer at large doesn’t help matters one bit.

Seira Yaguchi doesn’t do that well in her role as Toshiko who’s trying to unravel the mystery. It’s like she’s sleepwalking her way through the role and she just can’t seem to express emotions on her face all that well.

If you’ve got 72 mins to spare by all means give this a whirl but you’re more than likely going to get disappointed by this story which falls flat on it’s face.

Sadako’s Rating: 2 stars out of 5

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A man out walking in some woods discovers human bones and it is found to be that of a young boy with a drawn ouija board on a piece of paper close by. Young schoolgirl Eri Oshima is woken up at 3am to find her mother sitting in the lounge with a blank expression on her face. She’s been acting strange ever since watching a news report on the discovery of the bones in the woods. When Eri wakes up the next day her mother is dead with her eyes and mouth looking like it’s been burnt. After the funeral, Eri finds a book in her house which contains an envelope. Inside the envelope is a slightly blurred photo of a young boy lying face down with a pained look. She seeks help in finding out who he is. Her classmates at school are dabbling with ouija boards and calling for the spirit of Kokkuri-san. She gets information that the young boy was bullied by his classmates because he believed in Kokkuri-san and that a female classmate pushed him over a steep wall where he was injured. He stumbled into the woods but died. Now with his bones disturbed, the boy’s vengeful spirit places a curse on those who seek more information resulting in a horrible death. Eri’s first companion in her quest dies in mysterious circumstances so her teacher takes up the baton. They decide that the only way to end the curse is to go back to where his bones were found in the woods and try and make contact with him via a ouija board. But will this be successful or only make his spirit more angry?

There’s not a lot of information out on the internet about this movie and I only watched this because AKB48 member Mariya Suzuki has the leading role as Eri Oshima. I had to watch it raw with no subtitles so I didn’t understand a lot of it. To be perfectly honest it isn’t that good of a movie with hardly any scares, thrills or blood. It’s just your average low budget asian ghost story. I found it to be fairly dull and was very disappointed with the whole production. There’s nothing new that you haven’t seen before. Mariya Suzuki was OK in her debut acting role but with the material she was given to begin with she didn’t have to do a lot except to look frightened and scream a little.  I thought the story was going to be interesting but it doesn’t really develop to anything that makes you sit up and take notice of it. The ending was such an anti-climax with a twist you could see coming a mile away and even then it was crap.

I can’t really recommend this to anybody except AKB48 fans who might want to see Mariya.

Sadako’s Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5

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Young-eon spends one night at school alone to practice her singing whilst her friend Sun-min goes home. The school takes on a menacing atmosphere as Young-eon is stalked by a mysterious presence and killed. When Young-eon wakes up, she is in the music room but something is different. Nobody can hear her speak and people are passing right through her! She seeks out Sun-min who is desperately worried about what has happened to Young-eon. Eventually Young-eon manages to contact Sun-min by her voice. It dawns on Young-eon that she’s dead and trapped in the school grounds but why and how did she die? Sun-min is going to do all that she can to find out the truth about her friend’s death but a classmate is determined to drive a wedge between the two girls.

The 4th installment in the Whispering Corridors franchise is my favorite and plays out like a mystery rather than an outright ghost horror story. The series which was going a little bit stale after the 3rd movie needed a shot in the arm and this movie revived the flagging franchise. It’s like the filmmakers took the best aspects out of the previous three movies and put them in this one and what you get is this remarkable story. It relies on the characters to drive this movie rather than going for the cheap shock option and I have to say it works pretty well and looks fresh. Even though it may be more of a mystery movie it’s still got a couple of really good scares and some great death scenes. As with a lot of Asian horrors, this movie also borrows some plot elements from other movies in the genre. The movie has some nice twists though the ending might confuse some viewers. The soundtrack accompanying the movie is fantastic and creepy. All round good performances from the cast. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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