Genre: Supernatural Tryst Gone Horribly Awry
review in one breath
What was intended as a romantic rendezvous with her lover turns into utter humiliation when his wife suddenly shows up. Heated arguments soon turn violent leaving Naomi with a knife-sized hole in her heart and occupying a shallow grave beneath her (ex)lover's cabin. But what the wife and husband believe to be the end of an unfortunate event turns out to be just the beginning of far greater misery.
Directed by Mizutani Toshiyuki (who also directed Isola and Gakkou no Kaidan) Ai-Jin-Rei is actually a fairly palpable ghost story. It has all the classic elements: unrequited love, sorrow, revenge, and madness. It also has some pretty steamy sex scenes which certainly won't hurt its review here. The notion of an "Ai Jin Rei" or "Lover's Ghost" is perhaps as old as ghost stories themselves and appears throughout Japanese traditional and cinematic tales. Such ghosts can appear through never-ending karmic bonds as in Haunted Lantern or through good old-fashioned love as in Izakaya Yurei. In Ai-Jin-Rei, the ghost of a young woman returns to be with the lover who spurned her and to exact maddening revenge upon his spiteful wife.
This is a straight-to-video production and thus lacks a lot of polish, but nevertheless delivers some suspenseful and dramatic scenes as the husband and wife increasingly realize they are not alone in the country cabin. Natsukawa Hijiri, who plays Naomi not only makes for a very HOT girlfriend (in those steamy scenes), but is also a convincing ghoulie once she starts floating around with her long black hair wearing flowing white gowns.
The film was popular enough to spawn a sequel (Ai-Jin-Rei 2) in which Natsukawa and Itou Youzaburou (who plays the lover/husband) appear again. The popularity of the film undoubtedly derives from its being an "ai jin rei" tale (which could be said to be an archetypal story) and from the fact that it provides enough emotional fuel to effectively fulfill audience expectations as such.
Naomi has traveled from Tokyo far into the countryside to spend some time with her lover/teacher Uehara. Uehara is a university professor recently moved to the remote countryside to work on his writing. Despite his being married, he has pledged his love to Naomi and has sworn that his relationship with his wife is over and that he and Naomi will someday soon be wed. This, of course, sweeps Naomi off her feet (and out of her clothes and into bed) as her imagination is soon churning out all the blissful possibilities of their futures together.
So when Uehara's wife bursts into the cabin wondering who Naomi is and adamantly claiming that her relationship with her husband is fully intact, Naomi bewilderedly looks to Uehara for defense. But wimpy Uehara can only fumble with his words and avert his gaze from Naomi, who now fully realizes her situation. Enraged and humiliated, Naomi picks up a knife and lunges at the wife but as the two wrestle Naomi stumbles and impales herself through the heart, killing her within moments.
Looking at the bloodied body crumpled at the foot of the stairs, Uehara and his wife gradually conspire to bury the body rather than report the very questionable situation. They resolutely dig a shallow grave in the crawl space under the cabin and bury Naomi's wrapped corpse.
But despite their valiant attempts to get back to normal, increasingly horrific and life-threatening things begin to occur. It is not long until they both fully realize that they are being visited by a vengeful Ai-Jin-Rei (who may or may not show up nude and horny just to freak everybody out).
This is a fairly basic ghost story effectively told. Mizutani does a good job of depicting Naomi and Uehara as a happy new couple, allowing audiences to build some emotional investment in them. And when the haughty wife denigrates her and Uehara finally shrugs her off, there is a ripe sense of plausible injustice which is the perfect recipe for conjuring up a wrathful ghost from beyond.
Though as of yet only available in unsubtitled formats, this is probably an entertaining pick if you're in the mood for a basic ghost tale.
Version reviewed: Unsubtitled VHS
|Decent tale of the classic "ai jin rei" genre.||Some stabbings and minor bloodshed, but when the enraged wife used a broad shovel to ensure Naomi was indeed dead, both Uehara and I cringed. *splatter*||Plenty of libidinous, nude romps in the countryside cabin, including visits from HOT naked ghosts! yowza!||Nothing too strange in this rather traditional ghost tale.|