Don’t Look Up (1996) 女優霊 Dir: Hideo Nakata

Happy Halloween! This is the time of year when people celebrate the supernatural and ghoulish aspects of popular culture and national myths. I do my part by highlighting horror movies on Halloween night. So far I have reviewed Nightmare DetectiveStrange CircusShokuzaiPOV: A Cursed Film and Charisma. This is the fifth year of this strand
and I am doing it in Tokyo, Japan. The last two weeks has seen the city go into img_1496Halloween overdrive and I am told it is a recent phenomenon. For my part I have viewed things from afar (such as from on top of Roppongi Hills and down onto a parade) rather than get stuck in what looks like a proper melee in jam-packed crowds (boring, I know, but I want to eat my ghost cakes and pumpkin Kitkats and drink my Halloween juice).

Anyway, this year’s film is from the ‘90s and it came from a young director who is now a familiar name thanks to a scary person who curses people via VHS. This isn’t Ringu, it’s an earlier film…

Don’t Look Up   jyoyurei poster

女優霊Joyu-rei

Release Date: March 02nd, 1996

Running Time: 75 mins.

Director: Hideo Nakata

Writer: Hiroshi Takahashi (Screenplay), Hideo Nakata (Original Story)

Starring: Yurei Yanagi, Yasuyo Shirashima, Kei Ishibashi, Ren Osugi, SABU, Daisuke Iijima, Naomi Kojima, Reita Serizawa,

IMDB

We are in Japan in the ‘90s. A promising young director, Toshio Murai (Yurei Yanagi), and his beautiful lead actors Hitomi Kurokawa (Yasuyo Shirashima) and Saori Murakami (Kei Ishibashi) and the crew are working hard on a film in a studio that has been around since the Second World War. It’s a huge place with a set that is built like a traditional house from the 1940s, props and scenery and other feature both modern and from the time of the studios construction as well as a lot of film canisters containing rolls of films from forgotten television shows and movies. It is an ideal location for the war drama being filmed and also place with a lot of memories. There is nothing so out of the ordinary at first glance and with so many people on set it looks like a lot of fun. Unless one looks up.

jyourei-2

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Helldriver ヘルドライバー (2011)

Helldriver   Helldriver Film Poster

ヘルドライバー 「Herudoraiba」

Release Date: May 23rd, 2011

Running Time: 117 mins.

Directors: Yoshihiro Nishimura

Writer: Yoshihiro Nishimura, Daichi Nagisa (Screenplay)

Starring: Yumiko Hara, Eihi Shiina, Yurei Yanagi, Takumi Saito, Kazuki Namioka, Mizuki Kusumi, Yukihide Benny, Asami, Cay Isumi, Maki Mizui,

Splatter film director Yoshihiro Nishimura has one setting: extreme. His creatures designs are extreme. His action scenes are extreme. His use of special effects and blood splashed around on screen is extreme. If you thought that Tokyo Gore Police (2008) and Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl (2009) were extreme, you have seen nothing. Helldriver (2011) is a bone-crunching, head-splitting, and grotesque attempt at a zombie apocalypse epic on a shoestring budget and it is extreme action for its entire near two hour running time for better and for worse.

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Carved – The Slit-Mouthed Woman 口裂け女 (2007)

Genki Carved The Slit Mouthed Woman

Carved – The Slit-Mouthed WomanKuchisake Onna Poster

Japanese Title口裂け女

Romaji: Kuchi Sake Onna 

Release Date: 17th March 2007 (Japan)

Running Time: 90 mins.

Director: Koji Shiraishi

Writer: Koji Shiraishi,  

Starring: Eriko Sato, Miki Mizuno, Yurei Yanagi, Haruhiko Kato, Chiharu Kawai, Rie Kuwana, Kazuyuki Matsuzawa, Kaori Sakagami, Ryoko Takizawa, Manami Hisamoto, Mei Tanaka

Koji Shiraishi (Occult, White Eyes) used the documentary format in Noroi: The Curse to make a conventional J-horror different. Here he updates a classic Japanese urban legend by interweaving modern themes and characters into the familiar story.

Thirty years ago, the streets of a suburban town named Midoriyama were terrorised by a beautiful woman. She was tall and had long hair. Her mouth was covered with a mask. She would roam the streets and ask people, “Am I pretty?” She would then reveal her mouth which was slit up to her ears. Her jealous husband had disfigured her face. She would then take people to her hideout and slit their mouths in a similar fashion. Everybody knows this urban legend. When a young boy disappears his friends claim that the slit-mouthed woman is back in town. Kyoko Yamashita (Sato) is a new teacher starting at the school the boy attended. She, like the authorities, is concerned and takes measures to protect the children. When one child she escorts home, Mika (Kuwana), disappears she sees the slit-mouthed woman first-hand. A fellow teacher named Noburo Matsuzaki (Kato) seems to know something about what is going on and he is determined to stop it with Kyoko helping.

Carved Matsuzaki (Kato) and Kyoko (Eriko Sato)

There are a few different versions of this story. The oldest version dates back to the Heian period (794 – 1185) which describes how a samurai slit the mouth of an unfaithful wife/concubine and asked her “Who will think you’re beautiful now?” The scarred woman would then wander streets her mouth covered with her kimono and ask people, “Do you think I am pretty?”

If a person answered she would lower her sleeve and reveal her ghastly visage and ask, “Do you think I am pretty now?”

Whatever the answer she would then mete out a fate similar to the one she suffered. The legend has persisted in Japan and turned into a popular urban folk-tale, altering and updating every time it is retold and adding new touches like her facial disfigurement is the result of plastic surgery gone wrong. She also wears surgical masks which are used to stop the spreading of common colds serving a double purpose as they can also hide the grotesque disfigurement. There are usually twists added such as ways to outwit the ghoul which involves giving her a lollipop.

Continue reading “Carved – The Slit-Mouthed Woman 口裂け女 (2007)”

Ju-On: The Curse 2 呪怨 2 (2000)

Kyoko Witnesses Something Scary in Ju-On the Curse 2Ju-On the Curse 2 Basic InformationJu-On: The Curse 2, like its predecessor, was an original video production and it carries on from where the first movie left off by following psychic medium Kyoko Suzuki (Yuuko Daike), a police investigation headed by Detective Kamio (Taro Suwa) and the haunted house’s new set of owners, the Kitada’s.

Ju-On: The Curse 2 has a much more linear structure with multiple narratives told sequentially. We start with the teacher from the first movie before following Kyoko and a new set of characters. It uses old footage from the first film used for about a quarter of the seventy-six minute running-time which may anger some but I felt it strengthened proceedings by providing a solid set-up and establishing the source of the haunting.

At first you would think there is nothing new to see. The film retreads the same ground but with slightly different variations and it uses all of the J-hora clichés what with the creepy shape with a livid eye and long hair glimpsed at the corner of your vision but Shimizu creates an enjoyably chilling film by exercising his imagination in urban terror proving once again that he is good at setting up supernatural surroundings.

Creepy Apartment in Ju-On The Curse 2

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Ju-On: The Curse 呪怨 (2000)

Ju-On Attic HeaderAfter dedicating most of September to the J-hora films of Kiyoshi Kurosawa it seems fitting that I should now look at those of Takashi Shimizu.

Shimizu studied under Kurosawa at the Takashi Shimizu, director of Ju-On Tokyo Film Seminar/Film School of Tokyo. This relationship proved crucial for Shimizu because Kurosawa got him his first professional directing job helming two segments for Kansai TV’s 1998 Haunted School G series. These would form the basis for the Ju-On films which Shimizu is most remembered for.

Ju-On – A curse born of a strong grudge held by someone who died. The place of his death gathers his grudge and works on anyone who comes into contact with those places. Those with this curse shall lose their life and a new curse is born.

 

Ju-on The Curse Basic InformationThe film is split into six vignettes. Each one follows a separate person and they are not in chronological order. The first follows a teacher named Shunsuke Kobayashi who is concerned about the absence of one of his pupils named Toshio Saeki. While paying a house-call Shunsuke notices Toshio is injured, Toshio’s mother Ayako is nowhere to be found and the household in disarray with objects strewn around and the environment suggesting abuse. After helping Toshio apply first aid Shunsuke makes the decision to wait little realising the house is haunted. Cut to a few years later and new occupants are in the house. The Murakami family consist of the mother Noriko, son Tsyuyoshi and daughter Kanna with a father off-screen. Each of these people and those they interact with become haunted over time as the curse spreads and it becomes clearer that the house is haunted and the curse is spreading.

Ju-on's Outwardly Normal HouseOriginally a direct-to-video (original video) release, Ju-On: The Curse is the start of Shimizu’s highly popular run of yurei in suburbia titles that culminated in his helming the American re-make and even two films celebrating the tenth anniversary of the series which were directed by two new directors. I wrote yurei but it might be more accurate to call them onryou because these spirits are intent on harm. They terrify their victims (and the audience) to death with Shimizu playing on every fear an urbanite might have about their surroundings. The film is low-budget but high on imagination.

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