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Doll Cemetery - Shiningyou no Hakaba (Kiyoshi Yamamoto 2004)


Doll Cemetery
[Occult tanteidan: Shiningyou no Hakaba]

Genre: Killer Dolls, Clowns from Hell, and ZOMBIES!!

review in one breath

A group of emo high school kids start an "Occult Detective Club" in order to explore and solve paranormal phenomena. No sooner do they set their minds to this than they fall headlong into into a supernatural abyss of vengeful zombie dolls intent on exacting fatal retribution for Barbie-neglect. This is the fourth tale in the "Hino Hideshi Theater of Horror" hexology.


This is the fourth of six short stories in the collection entitled Hideshi Hino's Theater of Horror. For a bit of background on the manga artist Hideshi Hino, I'll refer you to my recent review of the collection's first film, Boy from Hell.

Like all the other tales in this collection, Doll Cemetery is based upon a manga by Hideshi Hino, whose work ranges from goopy gore to social commentary. And although Hino's manga provide a common thread throughout each of these stories, each is the product of a different director, resulting in quite an array of variation among them.

The entire collection of Hideshi Hino's Theater of Horror consists of the following six films:

Boy from Hell (director: Mari Asato)
Dead Girl Walking (director: Kôji Shiraishi)
Death Train (director: Kazuyuki Sakamoto)
Doll Cemetery (director: Kiyoshi Yamamoto)
Lizard Baby (director: Yoshihiro Nakamura)
Ravaged House (director: Kazuyoshi Kumakiri)

The full title of this story is "Occult Detective Club: Graveyard of Dead Dolls". The Occult detective Club was the premise of one of Hino's manga series and consisted of a group of high school students investigating all kinds of weird stuff. Here, as you can guess, they encounter the havoc wreaked by "dead dolls".

Doll Cemetery leans quite deliberately toward the goopy end of the spectrum but is faintly grounded in a well-known traditional Japanese superstition regarding the connection between dolls (or any particularly beloved object) and spirits of the dead. I say "faintly" because this tale takes that traditional superstition to a whole new (and ridiculous) level.

For the VERY small segment of J-Horror fans who will find this film entertaining, there's something for everyone here. It's part slasher, part occult/paranormal, part sci-fi trans-dimensional, part ZOMBIE flick, and even includes a samurai-like showdown (between a sexy psychic armed with burial stakes and a CLOWN FROM HELL!).

The director here is Kiyoshi Yamamoto whose directorial debut resulted in the infamous Onryou (2004) of the "Honto ni Atta!" collection. Following this, he directed 15 other horror "films" most of which were also in the "Honto ni Atta" collections. One very impressive film in his resume is Mizuchi (Death Water / 水霊) which he directed 2 years after Doll Cemetery.


While other high school students are enjoying the extra-curricular activities of their after school Tennis Club or Photography Club, a small group of students, ranging from a masochistic geek to a nihilistic femme fatale create their own "Occult Detective Club" in which they spend their time contemplating recent suicides, curses and weird goings on. On this particular night they welcome two new members and decide to celebrate by telling ghost stories at midnight in the school's Art Room at the exact spot where a distraught student recently hung herself. (I should add that she was distraught because she was viciously attacked by a scissor-wielding, knee-high doll.)

Well as soon as the new initiates leave the "festivities", they starting seeing some very bizarre stuff, including a two-headed babelicious genie in nothing but pink veils. (!!) I personally suggest that this is the moral of the story: Stay the HELL away from emo kids intent on poking the spirit world in the eye. But despite their sudden weird experiences, the two nOObs join the club in an all out adventure to uncover the truth behind the slasher doll and the bi-cephal genie.

Along their way the participate in occult rituals, travel between spiritual dimension, meet the Clown from Hell, and battle flesh-eating zombies dressed in Santa suits!!!


To its credit, this tale enthusiastically pulls every schlock-gore prop out of the closet and tries to fit it in somewhere. Unfortunately there's just NO way a single storyline can hold this altogether. And let's be frank, there is very little, if any storyline here to speak of. In its progression it raises far too many questions and answers none. The entire project amounts to nothing more than a harmless splatter-fest aimed at a teenage audience (in which respect it at least remains true to Hino's original manga).

This is certainly not the best film in the collection, but neither is it the worst. And I admit, that's not saying much. The only way Doll Cemetery saw the light of day was to be bundled into an indivisible collection such as this.

Check this out at your own risk. SaruDama cannot be held responsible for any angst, anger or regret which may result.

Version reviewed: Region 1 Subtitled DVD (with English subtitles)

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
Despite its being an incoherent riff, this is based on a traditional Japanese superstition involving malevolent dolls. Plenty of dolls and humans meet their grisly demise and the Clown from Hell almost gets the "Jackson Obama Nuts" treatment. Gird thy loins, my children. Though he confesses his affection for the sexy psychic, all he gets in return is some ZOMBIE lovin'. I admit, I had never EVER imagined a ZOMBIE Santa (and now that image is forever stuck in my mind!!!).


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Love it! While I have not seen the Guinnea Pig films I'll surely seek them out just so I can watch em and think to mylsef that one day Charlie effin' Sheen was coked outta his mind, freaked out and called the FBI in hysterics, claiming to have seen a snuff film. Yes, that is a recommendation I can buy into, indeed. Great stuff Root Rot, as per the usual.

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