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The Cursed Cassette Tape - Shin Kyofu Taiken: Kiku to Nowareru Tapu (Yamaguchi Makoto, 2002)


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Shin Kyofu Taiken: Kiku to Nowareru Tapu
[True Terrifying Experiences: The Cursed Cassette Tape]

Genre: (Very) Low-budget Supernatural Horror

review in one breath

The Cursed Cassette Tape is one of the Shin Kyofu Taiken (True Terrifying Experiences) series produced by Broadway Productions (Tokyo). Broadway produces a lot of documentary style B-Horror for Japanese television, including the very popular Honto ni Atta! Noroi no Bideo (True Stories! The Cursed Video) and Ju-Lei: Shin Rei Mystery File (Cursed Ghost: Paranormal Mystery File). Alas, Broadway is also responsible for some laugh-out-loud bad documentary style Z-Horror. Rensa: The Cursed Video belongs in this category, as does the film we are now reviewing, Shin Kyofu Taiken: The Cursed Cassette Tape.


The title Kiku to Nowareru Tapu (which for sake of brevity I have translated "The Cursed Cassette") literally means The Tape which if listened to will curse [you]. The entire video consists of Seven (Truly Terrifying!) Cases involving haunted or paranormal sounds. Hmmm. Haunted sounds. This could have been a refreshing departure from the plethora of haunted video stories out there. Although the seven cases all involve sound, they do NOT all involve cassettes, so you big cassette fans out there may want to rent this one rather than buy.

Anyway, the video opens with a gazillion shots of ears. Yes, that's right! Humans have ears. And do you know what ears do, boys and girls? They hear things, all kinds of things. To emphasize this, the video plays loud and repetitious sound bites of sirens, babies crying, train-crossing bells, eery laughing, etc while showing the gazillion ears. Once the audience thoroughly understands the ramifications of ears, it is ready to explore some True Terrifying Experiences!

The following are descriptions of the seven horrific cases. I've left out the scary parts because, well, frankly, I couldn't find the scary parts.

Case One: Noroi no Kasetto (The Cursed Cassette)

One of the documentary staff was handed this strange cassette from a friend. (?) The tape was said to have caused an automobile accident due to some unnatural sound suddenly emanating from the car's sound system as the hapless occupants were driving down the road. In an interview one of the survivors, a bandaged young man on crutches with a scar across his knee, recalls that as they were driving along they suddenly heard a strange, unnerving sound coming from the tape. The sound's influence caused the car to swerve out of control and crash. When asked what the chilling noise sounded like, we are told: "It was as if fruit was being smashed." (?!!) (And no, he did NOT say "Smashing Pumpkins").

Another friend of the crew member (that received this tape) believes that her big brother was responsible for recording the tape. She recalls that he wanted to record a "free market" radio show being broadcast by an independent radio station. He didn't have any blank cassettes so he asked her for one. She recognizes that troublesome tape as being the one she gave him. We learn that the show he recorded was a "Special Wicked Night" (or so the DJ repeatedly yelled in a Wolfman Jack-like voice) featuring the music of the band "Rivers". While he was recording the tape, the boy is sure he heard something strange, but the friend sitting next to him swears he didn't hear anything unusual. Listening to the recording more intently, the boy can hear a deep moaning on the tape. In his fear and panic, he attempts to turn off the tape player but inadvertently cranks up the volume to 11. Dazed and reeling from the noise, the boy's head now absorbs the moaning full blast. (That can't be good.) Looking out the window (of his second story room) he sees a ghostly pale face peering in and screams in terror.

The next morning, however, our brilliant lad has the tape blaring into his walkman as he prepares to head off to school. The "trip" (hee hee) is short-lived, however, as he falls headlong down the apartment building stairs. Surely this was the work of the devil cassette tape! This damn tape has now caused two accidents!

The documentary's investigative team follows up with an interview of the owner of a local venue where "Band Y" played. (They call it "Band Y" from here on out to protect the members of the real band, even though we clearly saw the boy write "R-I-V-E-R-S" on the cassette tape. okay.) The venue owner recalls that he heard one of the members of Rivers, er, "Band Y" committed suicide. (!) Now we are getting somewhere!

The crew then heads off to the headquarters of Band Y. When asked whether they think there could be any relation between a tape of their music and the two accidents, the befuddled rockers can only suggest "No, there isn't any relation." But when the band members are asked to sit down and listen to the tape, perhaps to discover they actually recognize the moaning as the voice of their dearly departed former member, something truly horrifying happens!

... Their tape player completely mangles the cursed cassette! That's right conspiracy fans! The tape is gone! Poof! No More! Kaput! And right before you thought this mystery was going to be solved! (But wait, there's more!)

Case Two: Nami no Oto (The Sound of Waves)

There have been numerous strange complaints from people hearing a disturbing noise during the "Sound of Waves" track on the popular "Relaxation Landscape" CD. This CD, produced by the "Good Feelings Orchestra" (!) is supposed to induce in the listener a calm, relaxed state. Instead, listeners were apparently jolting awake at the eery sound coming from the recorded ocean waves.

Interviewing the CD producer, the crew inquires whether anything suspicious happened during the recording. Not recalling anything out of the ordinary, the crew and producer head to the sea shore, to the exact spot where the recording was made. They then interview passers by regarding whether they've heard of any "jiken" (ie suicide or deadly accident) in the immediate vicinity. One weather worn man confesses he's never heard of anything near this beach, although there was such a case further up tide. Going to the next town up, the crew is able to confirm with the local police that a young woman had committed suicide at the sea shore some time back.

This evidence is apparently enough to cause a confession by the CD producer, who finally admits that he has often heard what he thought sounded like the weak, agitated cry of a young woman while listening to his CD.

Case Three: Fumikiri no Oto (The Sound of Footsteps)

The crew is interviewing a young woman who is complaining of hearing incessant "footsteps" near a certain train track intersection while walking home from work. When pressed to explain further, she describes the footsteps as being "in her head" rather than "heard with her ears". (Check please!) She recalls an especially terrifying experience while waiting at the train crossing. For some reason, the crossing alarms made her exceptionally dizzy as she stood waiting for the train to pass, so dizzy that she had to kneel to the ground and close her eyes. When she snapped to, she found that she was standing directly on the tracks of the oncoming train. Luckily, she was able to get off the track before getting squashed. Following that bizarre episode, she decided to walk a safer route home. But as she was traveling down a darkened sidewalk, she had the intense feeling that she was in danger. Hearing the eery alarms, she ran for her life, thinking the train was following her. (!!)

After having skillfully fled the train chasing her down the sidewalk (?), the woman's cell phone suddenly rings. As she begins to hold the phone next to her ear, she turns slightly and sees a bluish face within inches of her own, staring directly into her eyes. She runs and runs all the way home and up to her apartment. As she unlocks the door, she hears a slow creaking noise. Looking down she sees that her letter slot is slowly opening. From the other side of the slot, the bluish face peers out at her.

If you find yourself wondering what this girl's story has to do with "The Sound of Footsteps", join the club.

Our investigative team goes to check out the train intersection for any sign of the unusual. They arrive there around noon, and spend the rest of the day standing around recording the alarm and taking photos of the intersection. After this day of hard work, however, they can discover nothing unusual in the recordings or photos they gathered. They then interview neighbors living in the vicinity, again asking regarding any possible "jiken" in the area. Finally one very old woman recalls being an eyewitness to such an accident very near this spot. It seems 12 years back, an 85 year old woman committed suicide at these train tracks by jumping in front of the train. With a strange smile on her face, the neighbor explains how one train wheel severed her head at the neck and the other directly across the waist. (Upon reflection, it would seem that the victim was quite tall for an 85 year old Japanese woman!) The most vivid memory the neighbor had of the incident was how the woman's head still had a smile on its face when it rolled to a stop. (!)

The crew then heads to the library to look through 12 year old newspapers in an attempt to discover more regarding this accident. In a small article in the local paper, they find that the accident occurred at approximately 12:30am. (I have to ask: Why was that neighbor coincidentally a by-stander at 12:30am? And why was she smiling like that as she recalled the story? Hmm? Did we just interview Granny's murderer?!!) The crew decides to re-record the intersection at precisely 12:30 am. Although they cannot find anything unusual in the recording, they decide to have it digitally analyzed by a "specialist". As the "specialist" reflects on what heard, sitting in front of a large computer monitor displaying the sound waves, he wonders aloud to himself if he didn't hear "something like a voice". Looking at the audio's digital signature, he points out: "Digitally, you can plainly see that something else is there."

The narrator then steps in with an obviously important concluding question: "Can they possibly figure out what that extra "something" is?"

Case Four: Rusuban no Mesagi (The Phone Answering Machine's Message)

A young man is being interviewed regarding his claim that in the answering machine taped message from his girlfriend, he hears a man shouting or crying in the background. Since the girlfriend was calling from her apartment rather than a public place, the presence of the sound is quite unexplainable. As he replays the tape for the crew, everyone can clearly hear an eery moaning while the girlfriend chatters away.

The crew then heads over to the girlfriend's apartment in their pursuit of the truth. She recalls getting home around midnight that evening and while calling her boyfriend sensed hearing the low groaning of a male voice. (Maybe a little "hubba hubba" at the neighbor's?) She couldn't pin down the exact locale of the sound, but was pretty sure it was coming from within the apartment. She then plays back a tape her machine recorded when her boyfriend called and they all hear the same creepy moaning.

Case Five: Keitai Denwa no Chakushin Oto (The Cell Phone Ring Tone)

One poor guy is receiving strange phone calls and voice mail on his cell phone. After listening to the constant ringing and noise on the messages, the position of his ears has declined. (Ha! I meant "condition", not position! Just seeing if you're still reading this!) The producer calls the guy's number on his cell phone, and nothing unusual happens. They then decide to film the phone over a 24 hour period. Reviewing the tape, they find that the phone rings in various strange tones throughout the day. CREEPY! (ZZzz..)

Case Six: Taiji no Shinou (The Fetus' Heartbeat)

A young mother is interviewed regarding her story involving the audible heartbeat of her (then) unborn fetus. She recalls hearing clearly the irregular heartbeat of the fetus. This story, however, would seem medically impossible, according to the doctor, since a fetus' heart beats 160 times per minute, well above the ability of the human ear to effectively discern. (?)

The expecting mother was laying on a hospital bed late at night when she heard a strange noise coming from the hallway. Getting up, she opens the door and looks out, but sees nothing. Laying back down, she is seized with pain, and attempts to press the nurses' buzzer, but it doesn't work. The thumping heartbeat fills her ears until she is unable to stand, and collapses against the wall and sits on the floor. From under the bed, she can see a child's feet and hears a child's laughter echo strangely through her head. (I could swear I also heard a basketball being dribbled.) She is on the brink of a breakdown when the little child rounds the corner of the bed and approaches her. It is a little girl with a very spooky face. At the sight of the little girl, a great calm came over the mother and the irregular heartbeat receded. Soon thereafter, she (the mother!) gave birth to a healthy baby without complications.

At the end of the interview, both the mother and father thank the little girl for the safe birth of their new baby boy.

Case Seven: Hito ni was Kikoenai Oto (The Sound Humans Can't Hear)

Someone submitted an old recording of a 12 year old boy. On the tape, some listeners claim to hear the sound of a shrill voice. But listening to the tape, none of the crew can hear anything unusual, although one claims that a strange feeling swept over him. As they are listening repeatedly to the tape, they notice that the guppy in the small fish tank on the desk erratically jerks about every now and then while the tape is played. To test this further, they move the guppy (and his tank) directly in front of the tape player and crank the volume. The now intensely jerking guppy is more than enough proof that something strange is on that tape.

They have the tape analyzed by the same "specialist" used in Case Three. In true form, the "specialist" again talks to himself, wondering, "I thought I could hear something, like a voice... some kind of voice". He then points to a small blip on the digital read out of the recording. As the tape is replayed, the narrator again concludes with an obviously astute question: "Can you hear it?"

.................................

An epilogue of the documentary consists of an update on the crew. Apparently since the time of recording, one of the crew was involved in a motorcycle crash. Believing that the crash was somehow caused by their listening to so many cursed sounds, they decide to bring the chewed up cassette (of Case One) to a psychic. Holding the tape to her forehead for about 15 minutes as we look on in anticipation, she finally is able to point out a small black spot on one the spools of tape inside the cassette. As the crew member strains to find such a black spot, the psychic points out that the "Evil" (akuma) of the Cursed Cassette resides precisely on that spot.

The moral of this story is to beware what you listen to.

The moral of this review is to beware what videos you watch.

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
The Cursed Black Smudge? What?! This video contains more accident prone individuals than should reasonably be gathered in one spot. If you're looking for a cassette to get things "in the mood", these are NOT for you. This was the longest 54 minutes I have ever experienced!

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