Genre: Supernatural Ghost Story
review in one breath
The horrific deaths by phone continue and the trail eventually leads to a desolate Taiwanese village decimated by a mysterious fate. This rather creative and multi-faceted sequel to Miike's original provides an entertaining and spooky continuation of the Chakushin Ari tale.
The original Chakushin Ari was directed by Miike Takashi and contained so many formulaic elements that my review of the film included a matrix of similarities between it and the other major j-horror films of the time. This sequel is directed by Tsukamoto Renpei who has no prior cinemtatic directorial experience.
And indeed Tsukamoto picks up where Miike left off as regards formulaic elements. The first third of the film rehashes the basic ghost tale of the original while emphasizing even more familiar facets. The second third is clearly a tribute to Miike's personal interest in Japanese-Taiwanese film endeavors, as the majority of characters and the narrative itself becomes Taiwanese in origin. The last third, however, is where I believe Tsukamoto's talent and potential really shine through, making this sequel quite an effective horror story.
In effect, Tsukamoto broadens this tale, both geographically and narratively, well beyond the predictable confines of the original. Although the shift to Taiwan does not really add to the creepiness it certainly doesn't hurt. The non-formulaic conclusions do, however, clearly distinguish this film from its predecessor in both direction and impact.
Detective Motomiya (of the prequel) continues to investigate strange deaths in the hope of breaking the chain of deaths seemingly related to the ghoulish little girl Mizunuma Mimiko. When the trail leads to a chinese restaurant in Shinjuku, he runs into Nozoe Takako, a young woman also intently tracking the phone-based curse.
Through Nozoe's connection to the Taiwanese immigrant community in Tokyo, she soon discovers that a similar curse has long been present in Taiwan. Her investigation leads to a remote, abandoned mining town in the outskirts of Taipei. What she finds there turns out to be a mind-crushing terror.
I really did enjoy this, though I admit I was becoming quite skeptical during the first phases of the tale due to obvious dependence upon other well established j-horror elements. But as I said earlier, the ending really pulls through. In fact, if you watch closely you'll notice that Tsukamoto puts all the pieces in place (such as Kyoko's dedication to abused children) for the mother of all formulaic endings but then completely and radically departs from the prescribed recipe.
I watched this twice before reviewing, and half way through the second time, I realized that this can easily come across to most viewers as a really good ghost tale. Any complaints of the film clearly come from a strong familiarity with other j-horror films and not necessarily from flaws in Tsukamoto's skill.
Thus I recommend this and secretly hope that Tsukamoto gets funded for more horror films. I would be curious to see what he can accomplish on his own, without the cloud of a Miike prequel hanging over his head.
Version reviewed: Region 0 Subtitled DVD
|Interesting expansion of Miike's prequel.||Scalding oil, unsurvivable contortions, sharp knives, and one very long rusty needle!!||Not here.||I really liked the way Tsukamoto ultimately steers this in a wholly unpredictable direction.|