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Dark Tales of Japan - Nihon no Kowai Yoru (Nakamura Yoshihiro 2004)


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Dark Tales of Japan
[Nihon no Kowai Yoru - Tokubestuhan]

Genre: Five Supernatural Ghost Tales

review in one breath

This is a collection of made-forTV tales from J-Horror TV's 2004 series entitled Nihon no Kowai Yoru (Frightening Night of Japan). Each tale is by a different director including Tsurata Norio and Shimizu Takashi. These range from monster tales to ghost stories.


intro

The Japanese television network TBS occasionally runs spooky tales under what they titled J-Horror TV. In September 2004, a series of five tales (and an intro) was broadcast nationally. The series, entitled Nihon no Kowai Yoru boasted horror tales from some of the leading j-horror directors. The entire series was produced by Ringu and Ju-On producer Ichise Taka.

In April 2005 the series was released on DVD in Japanese markets under the original title and order of stories. On October 25, 2005 it was re-released to Western audiences under the title Dark Tales of Japan. This Western version contains the five original tales presented in a different order. It does not contain the introductory tale by director Nakamura Yoshihiro.

[NOTE: The title of Nakamura's intro piece actually appears on the cover of the Western DVD but does not appear on the DVD menu. Perhaps it is an easter egg?? I looked for it but couldn't find it. If you find it, let me know. (My guess is that this is another classic example of crappy sloppiness by Western producers too eager to burp out "j-horror" to Western masses.)]

Although the name of the Japanese series seemed familiar, I hadn't realized until I sat down to watch the Western version that I had already seen all these tales somewhere else before. But for the life of me I cannot remember where or when I actually sat down to watch the "Nihon no Kowai Yoru" tales. (And why didn't I review these then?? Hmmm...) This may be proof of the existence of an Oshikiri-like parallel evil universe. (!!)

For the most part, these five tales would have made for some entertaining albeit casually spooky TV watching. Each tale runs approximately 18 minutes (which makes me very thankful I didn't have to sit through an obviously lengthy presentation of commercials during the original 30 minute TBS broadcast episodes!!) Each tale seems to utilize CG effects effectively though sparingly. In reference to recently released collections of ghost tales, the quality of this collection in terms of production skill is slightly higher than the J Horror Anthology collections (and a mile above Tales of Terror volume 1) but is not quite as impressive as the Kadokawa Mystery & Horror Tales collection.

The following are brief descriptions of the five stories contained in this collection, in the order they are presented in the Western release.

The Spider Woman [Kumo Onna]

Genre: Local Monster Lore

This tale is directed by Nakamura Yoshihiro.

Two magazine reporters pursue a story about a local legend of a Spider Woman. Though the magazine's circulation has shot up 20% following their dramatic articles, they have yet to find a single shred of evidence backing up their stories. Then they hear about a young girl who claims to have been attacked by the horrible monster.

Crevices [Sukima]

Genre: Supernatural Ghost Tale

This tale is directed by Tsurata Norio whose other works include Yogen (2005) and Kakashi (2001).

Visiting the apartment of a missing friend, a young man is startled to find every crack and crevice of the apartment's interior sealed with red tape. Upon reviewing computer and video files, it appears his friend suffered from some sort of mental breakdown wherein he was completely obsessed with the terror that someone was watching him. But how could the friend have simply disappeared? As he and the apartment manager set out to remove the massive amount of red tape, very strange things begin to occur.

The Sacrifice [Dai Namabuki

Genre: Tale of the Supernatural

This tale is directed by Shiraishi Koji whose other work includes Kuro Jurei (2004) and Honto ni Atta! Noroi Bideo (2003). The Japanese title of this tale is "The Large Severed Head".

A young woman returns to her rural home from Tokyo to tend to her ailing mother. Once there, she realizes that her troubles with a co-worker stalker may have followed her to her family home. Haunted by childhood memories and the growing fear of the obsessed co-worker, she wakes in the middle of the night and discovers a terrifying sight.

Blonde Kwaidan [Kinpatsu Kaidan]

Genre: Hollywood Ghost Tale

This tale is directed by Shimizu Takashi whose directorial work includes the entire Ju-On series and Tomie Rebirth (2001).

A Japanese businessman visiting Hollywood California seems obsessed with naturally blond Caucasian women. He gawks at them, reads romance tales about them, and dreams of them. But when he suddenly encounters one in the wee hours at his Hollywood apartment, he's undoubtedly soon wishing for a woman like dear old mom.

The Presentiment [Yokan]

Genre: Twilight Zone

This tale is directed by Ochiai Masayuki whose other work includes Parasite Eve (1997) and Kansen [Infection] (2005). For you native English speakers out there, a "presentiment" is a "premonition". (I had to look that one up.)

After just committing the perfect embezzlement, a Japanese businessman boards the elevator to make his escape. Riding with him are three unusual passengers who increasingly display a deep knowledge about himself and what he has done. When the elevator suddenly breaks down, his real terror begins, with the strange company of folk inside the elevator and the police and rescue team outside.

verdict

This made-for-TV series provides five casually entertaining supernatural tales. Despite big named directors, however, these stories do not really distinguish themselves in any way from the many other "collections" currently being released in the West. For the most part, the selling point of this release is the fame of its directors, an advertising ploy which I doubt will live up to expectations of Western audiences.

This can be recommended for a night of pop-corn fueled ghost tales, but should not be approached with the expectation that it contains truly spooky or horrific stories (because it doesn't).

Version reviewed: Region 1 subtitled DVD available via mainstream US venues.

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
2004 made-forTV series of five tales. A couple death scenes and trickles of blood. Spider bOObies don't count. Several well known directors prove once again that prior success is not a guarantee against mediocre work.

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