Which had me responding, “Really? Awesome”
Masafumi Kobayashi is a TV journalist who has been chronicling supernatural phenomenom since 1995. At first he is investigating a mysterious case of disembodied voices surrounding a woman named Junko Ishii (Maria Takagi) and her son but he soon gets involved in a number of cases that are seemingly unrelated. One is of a young girl named Kana Yano (Rio Kanno) who has amazing psychic powers and another concerns the celebrity Marika Matsumoto who has encountered a ghost. At first they seem to be separate but it soon becomes clear that they are linked by a 200 year old curse.
While this film isn’t mind-meltingly disturbing it is a refreshing mix of J-horror and found footage which rewards patient and observant viewers.
A lot of Koji Shiraishi’s output uses the found-footage technique. Noroi is shot entirely with a DV camera which gives the film the sort of home-made grain and scrappy edge that adds to the atmosphere of low-budget ghost hunting shows. When the supernatural or stressful situations are encountered the images become pixellated, sound drops out and seemingly normal or safe scene dive into the twilight world of the paranormal as creepy things are observed or caught in analysis.
Yurei are slapped by reality television as the film takes familiar J-horror tropes and techniques and places them in a convincing low-budget two-hour paranormal investigation that slowly layers on the atmosphere as it draws a disparate group of characters into a pretty horrific story involving cults and curses and if the film is somewhat predictable there are a steady stream of mysterious and disturbing things spiking up along the narrative until it crescendos ten minutes before the end.
One thing I liked was the use of variety shows where the supernatural finds celebrity foisted upon it. Here nameless celebrities are in pop-up boxes that show their reactions, text litters the screen and everything has a level of celebrity tawdriness one can see on some Japanese television shows.
It is used in a series of ghost hunts and psychic challenge where 10 children with ESP ability are put through the paces trying to identify objects etc.
Kana Yano, a real psychic, draws with extreme accuracy whilst those around her are found to be fakes. A nice touch has a boy faking being psychic moving his hands around object in theatrical manner in background.
This innocuous mix of celebrity and spookery grounds proceedings and draws the viewer into the dark plot, plugging us into a centuries old curse.
Overall performances from the leads, Kobayashi and Matsumoto are strong although there are bits which will leave viewers bemused – would you really hold on to your camera when under attack? Regardless, Kobayashi is suitably normal looking, overweight and middle-aged but intelligent and he makes a refreshing lead from bland pretty-boys. Matsumoto is waiflike and sympathetic and while some of her possession scenes are mildly underwhelming others are played perfectly and strike when least expected. The whole thing is played low-key by the large cast which adds to the atmosphere and allowed me to enjoy the unfolding of the mystery.
Release Date: August 20th, 2005 (Japan)
Running Time: 115 mins.
Director: Koji Shiraishi
Writer: Koji Shiraishi (Screenplay),
Starring: Masafumi Kobayashi, Marika Matsumoto, Maria Takagi, Dankan, Hiroshi Aramata, Mitsuo Hori, Ai Iijima, Rio Kanno, Ungirls, Yoko Chousokabe,