Based on a light novel by Toshikazu Nagae, Ghost System is a low-budget, digitally shot film which has four actors, three locations and zero atmosphere. It has an interesting concept but no supernatural aura.
Misaki and Mai are inseperable friends and even when Mai gets a boyfriend named Wataru, the twosome happily becomes a trio. Until Mai disappears. Some time after the disappearance Misaki receives an email on her mobile from Mai. So has Wataru. The email contains a photograph of some woodlands and the message “I’m coming home”. Misaki and Wataru decide to investigate and track down the exact location where there is no mobile signal but there is an abandoned facility. The two venture into the decaying building where a mysterious female scientist is investigating what happens to a person after death but her system is breaking down.
I’m not sure if this film aims to be full blooded horror movie. The story plays out as a teen friendly supernatural mystery but while its blend of sci-fi and supernatural in the eponymous Ghost System is interesting as a concept it is underexplored because the whole movie is underwritten. Most damingly though it’s the lack of atmosphere.
Although writer/director Nagae has solid locations and tries interesting shots like subjective camera ghosts prowling the forest and the facilities security cameras they aren’t used inventively enough and never create the supernatural aura and mysteriousness needed to offer scares or raise intensity.
It might have been forgivable if the mystery disappearance/re-appearance and character development was written better but it is intangible which does not help the actors. The story also needs to crowbar a soft focus romantic scene which fails to do anything but confuse because it comes after a revelation and there is no character development to build up to it.
Ultimately the script lacks substance and has silly plotting and while characters ask “What happens when we die?” nothing is explored beyond ghosts are back from the dead and hate the living. Why? Because they are ghosts.
The ghosts are pretty disappointing blurry shamblers in the Sadako mode only with less menace. Sadako looks scary, all twisted broken body and utter fury while Ghost System’s Mai has a dash of tomato sauce on her face and scowls slightly. “Hurry or she’ll kill you!” Misaki yells but the ghost moves at such a glacial pace one can just stroll past it which is handy because lead actress Atsuko portrays a waif not a girl reacting to earth shattering revelations but an unquestioning characterless J-horror cliché. Slightly better is the slightly more experienced actor Hiroshi Tamaki who has more character development.
The film is comepently made and has an interesting premise but it is dull, lacks atmosphere and does not sell the idea of the cosmic horror in being trapped in a haunted forest full of vengeful spirits looking for retribution. It yells early work in career for all involved. If you like supernatural mysteries you might get a slight kick out of it, if you want something with more horror texture then avoid.
Romaji: Go-suto Shisutemu
Running time: 74 mins.
Director: Toshikazu Nagae
Writer: Toshikazu Nagae (Screenplay),
Starring: Atsuko Rukawa, Hiroshi Tamaki, Chikako Sakuragi, Maria Yanagisawa