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Recently in j-horror / japanese horror Category

Ju-on: Kuroi Shoujo
[The Grudge: Girl in Black ]

Genre:Supernatural Horror

review in one breath

Young Fukie is suddenly stricken with a mysterious malady and is rushed to the local hospital for examination. Though her situation appears to be stabilizing, those coming into contact with her soon find themselves at the mercy of a dark, malignant power.This new Ju-on film is one of two made for the 10th anniversary commemoration of the Ju-on's original appearance.



Ju-on: Shiroi Roujo
[The Grudge:Old Lady in White ]

Genre:Supernatural Horror

review in one breath

When the Yokota family discovers a sprawling home on the market for a rock-bottom price, they can't resist and quickly move in. Little do they realize that their new dream home was once occupied by the infamous Saeki family and the locus of a horrendously malevolent curse on all who enter. This new Ju-on film is one of two made for the 10th anniversary commemoration of the Ju-on's original appearance.



The Big Tits Dragon: Hot Spring Zombies vs Strippers 5
[Kyonyu doragon: Onsen zonbi vs sutorippa 5

Genre:You guessed it! Tits, Zombies and Strippers!!

review in one breath

Sombrero-wearing tough girl stripper Rena has returned from Mexico only to find herself baring her wares in a seedy little strip joint in podunk Japan. And if the non-existent tips and octogenarian oglers weren't enough, Rena and her nudie compadres soon discover that the abandoned hot spring resort next door is littered with flesh eating ZOMBIES! Behold as our Breast-Baring Babes Battle the Brain-Eating Undead!



Kaidan Hebi Onna
[Snake Woman's Curse]

Genre: Kaidan Social Commentary

review in one breath

When young Asa loses the lives of her father, mother and even herself at the hands of a cruel land owner, the cry for justice is loud enough to literally wake the dead. This relatively "modern" ghost tale is as much a warning against rousing angry spirits as it is against inhumane socio-economic conditions. The film is the final "kaidan" of the 1950-1960s collection by early j-horror maestro Nobuo Nakagawa and showcases his decades as a premiere ghost-story teller.



Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan
[The Ghost of Yotsuya]

Genre: Traditional Kaidan

review in one breath

Unscrupulous ronin Tamiya Iemon lies and kills to obtain the woman and future he desires, all the while feigning to be an upright and noble samurai. But when he causes the painful and sorrowful death of his once beloved wife Oiwa, her ghost vows justice and vengeance. This is a retelling of Japan's most classic horror tale brought to you by one of SaruDama's favorite directors, Nobuo Nakagawa.



Attack Girls' Swim Team versus The Undead
[Joshikyoei hanrangun]

Genre: LESBO Bikini Babes slaughtering the Zombie Horde!

review in one breath

Poor young Aki *barely* gets acclimated to her new school and the hot bods of her pals in the girl swim team before a strange virus erupts causing all hell to break loose. Fortunately, while blue-veined viral teachers are decapitating students with classroom paraphernalia and then devouring them, Aki and her new best friend Sayaka decide to kick some Zombie Butt, just as soon as they strip down and enjoy some pre-Zombie LESBO fun!



Executive Koala
[Koara Kacho]

Genre: Bruce-Lee-Martial-Arts Musical involving an Axe-Wielding-Psycho-Killer Salaryman who happens to be a 6- Foot Tall Koala.

review in one breath

Tamura is a highly successful and functional business manager at his beloved pickle company. Everything he touches in the realm of business turns into success to the company's great delight. The only things he seems to have going against him are (1) he is a huge, towering fuzzy Koala in an otherwise wholly human world, and (2) he suffers from frequent memory lapses. Oh, and every time his memory fails, a grisly murder occurs. Just a coincidence, right?



Bounty Hunter Vixens: Carnal Enchantment
[Jorou: Ensatsu Rataiken]
aka Ninja Vixens 8

Genre: Ninja bOObies and Magical Swords!

review in one breath

After young little Iris watches a seductive buxom witch steal her beloved father's head (!), she picks up his kick-ass demon-killer sword and never looks back. Now, many years later, she is a BOUNTY HUNTER VIXEN, hell-bent on getting the bad guys (and gals). But when she again crosses paths with the shapely, head-pilfering sorceress and her horny zombie horde, it seems she may have finally met her match.... Until, that is, she befriends a hunky Shinto priest and his nubile sister. This is the EIGHTH in the Ninja Vixen series and proves yet once again that plot and quality are irrelevant as long as nekkid bOObies are involved.



Melancholia
[Merankoria]

Genre: DNA-fueled Doppelganger Slasher

review in one breath

Mirai's life suddenly seems headed into the crapper! First, her father throws himself in front of a train, then she has to move in with some increasingly strange relatives, then she starts seeing creepy things to the point of a nervous breakdown, and finally her best friends start showing up bloody red and DEAD. And then the real weirdness starts! This is a made-for-TV horror flick directed by Z-Grade maestro Ezura Takaaki.



Late Bloomer
[Osoi Hito]

Genre: Realistic Spiral into Despair and Violence

review in one breath

A cerebral palsied man gradually falls in love with one of his care takers, but the emotional elation it causes brings with it a deepening despair as the gap between his dreams and physical reality prove overwhelming. In the face of unrequited love and the dismal realization that fate has dealt him a terrible hand, his imaginations grow violent -- imaginations he soon acts upon. This is a truly unique film which is both uncompromising and unapologetic in its depiction of a fully functional heart and mind trapped in a physical cage.



Kazuo Umezz's Horror Theater Vol 2
[The Present / Death Make]

Genre: Santa Slasher and Guppy Mantis Monster!

review in one breath

This is the third and last volume of the Kazuo Umezu Horror Theater collection and contains episodes five and six of the six-episode whole. Unlike the child-centric tales in volume 2, these two episodes are squarely aimed at adults, at least in terms of the horror and gore meted (meated?) out. In the first story, you better not cry, you better not pout... or Killer Santa will feed your BRAINS to his reindeer. In the second tale, a group of amateur clairvoyants gather to confront their inner demons, which may or may not turn out to be a giant fish-faced bug from Hell!



GeGeGe no Kitaro 2: Sennen Noroi Uta
[Kitaro and the Millennium Curse]

Genre: Youkai-filled Supernatural Thriller

review in one breath

GeGeGe no Kitaro is back! And this time he must solve the mystery of a 1000 year old curse exacting its toll on humans and monsters alike. In a more adult-centric episode, with a darker storyline, a myriad of creepy creatures and more mature special effects, this live-action version of Mizuki Shigeru's beloved manga character will not disappoint. This is the second live-action film directed by Motoki Katsuhide focusing on the exploits of the half-human, half-youkai Kitaro.



Tokyo Psycho
[Tokyo densetsu: ugomeku machi no kyoki]

Genre: Fact-Based Psycho Thriller

review in one breath

First, Yumiko begins receiving very creepy love letters from a secret admirer. Then, her closest friends begin disappearing. All clues point toward Mikariya, a former classmate who allegedly killed his family but was deemed criminally insane. And now Mikariya is back, intent on making Yumiko his bride. From the director of Tomie, this film is based on true infamous crimes in Japan, and depicts an amazingly twisted Tokyo psycho!



Shinsei Toire no Hanako-san
[Toilet Hanako-san: New Student]

Genre: Creepy School-Based Horror

review in one breath

This is the fourth and final film in the Hanako series and provides some truly creepy Shinto-based horror involving decrepit shrines, an amazingly demonic doll and plenty of mind-bending (and eye-popping) possession. This is a spooky and effective finale to the well-known Toire no Hanako-san tales.



Toire no Hanako-san : Kyoufu kousha
[Toilet Hanako-san: School of Fear]

Genre: School-Based Horror Story

review in one breath

Though far less than terrifying, this third version of the Toire no Hanako series opened up so much weird Japanese superstition that I can only stand in awe with jaw wide open. Exposure to this wholly foreign perspective of ghostliness thoroughly makes up for this film's lack of cinematic polish.



The Neighbor No. Thirteen
[Rinjin Juusan Gou]

Genre: Jekyll and Hyde meets Friday the 13th

review in one breath

After years of being bullied, Murazaki Juzo's harbored anger now manifests itself as a self-conscious personality deep within him. As if driven by forces he cannot control, he finds himself precariously close decades later to his worst bully. As Juzo watches on in increasing horror, his alter ego gradually comes violently to the fore in what increasingly appears to be a highly orchestrated vengeance. This is a riveting psycho-revenge film with a superb soundtrack and plenty of eye candy.



Pray

Genre: Supernatural Ghost Horror

review in one breath

Mitsuru and Miwa kidnap a little girl in the hopes of collecting a huge ransom, but their risky plan takes a bizarre turn when the parents of the girl claim she has been dead for a year to the day. While holed up in an abandoned school building with their comrades deciding what to do next, very strange and violent things begin to happen as Mitsuru becomes increasingly mesmerized by the seemingly innocuous little girl.



Mail

Genre: Supernatural TV Mini-Series

review in one breath

Following his recovery from blindness, paranormal investigator Akiba Reiji has tracked down and dispensed with dozens of malevolent spirits. His adventures bring him into contact with Mikoto, a young woman sharing similar abilities. As Akiba's 100th ghostly encounter approaches, a flood of long absent memories suddenly returns. This Western release contains a recently popular theatrical release of a popular Japanese TV mini-series.



Kirei?
[Kirei: The Terror of Beauty]

Genre: Cosmetic Surgery-Fueled Psycho Thriller

review in one breath

A prosperous cosmetic surgeon is approached by a woman utterly crippled by an inferiority complex over her lack of beauty. When the woman hands over wads of cash during her request, the doctor quickly agrees and a series of initial surgeries are scheduled to fix eyes, nose and chin, etc. But with the completion of each surgery, the woman desperately pleads for another and then hands over another mountain of cash. When the doctor finally asks a psychiatrist's opinion of the woman's never-ending hunger for more surgery, he strongly warns against any further procedures and worries for the safety of the doctor, leaving the doctor to decide between this advice and the huge sums of money.



Kill Devil
[Kiru Oni Gokko / Kill Tag]

Genre: B-Grade Youth Slasher De-Fanged

review in one breath

The year is 2025, the entire human genome has been decoded, and the genetic fingerprints for human violence have been identified. In a highly classified attempt to study the effects of this genetic disposition to violence, a small group of youth exhibiting the gene are abducted and kept on a deserted island. With all past memories erased, they are left to fend for themselves using only their immediate reflexes.



The Guard from Underground
[Jigoku no Keibin]

Genre: Slasher Horror

review in one breath

Akiko's first day on the job soon turns out to be the most hazardous day of her life as she inadvertently discovers the murderous activities of a recently hired security guard. This early film by director Kurosawa Kiyoshi pays tribute to the era's slasher genre and already demonstrates his fascination with societal relationships and psychological horror.



Hellevator : The Bottled Fools
[Gusha no Bindume]

Genre: Bloody and Claustrophobic Social Satire

review in one breath

Luchino's routine morning elevator ride up from her subterranean home on level 138 to her school many stories above turns horrific when the elevator operator is ordered to pick up two passengers from floor 99, the maximum security level. What starts as psychological manipulation soon turns wholly physical as both the cruel convicts and Luchino's own dysfunctional past are unleashed. And then every passenger must fight for his or her survival.



Cursed
['Cho' Kowai Hanashi A: Yami no karasu]

Genre:

Food Mart From HELL !!

A seemingly innocent Food Mart apparently harbors massive spiritual malaise as various demonic curses inflict everyone who purchases something from the store. Only when a couple of intuitive souls wander into the store is the formidable mystery explained.



Honto ni Atta! Noroi Bideo 2
[True Happenings! Cursed Video 2]

Genre: Documentary-Styles Haunted Videos

review in one breath

This is the second in a LONG and popular series of documentaries investigating real-life cursed videos. This collection contains nine video clips believed to have captured a spiritual entity or be in some way the cause of misfortune for those who have seen them. The series' producers investigate the origin of each tape and interview eye-witnesses to their spooky impact. Then you are given a chance to see the tapes for yourself... AND THEN YOU TOO ARE CURSED!! Oh my.



The Kaidan Shin Mimi Bukuro horror series has been blossoming in Japan for a couple years now. There are currently thirteen different DVDs available, none of which have been released in English-subtitled versions. Thus keeping track of those which trickle over to the West has caused some confusion.



One Missed Call 2
[Chakushin Ari 2]

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.



Booth
[Busu]

Genre: Supernatural Psychological Meltdown

review in one breath

A well-known and somewhat haughty radio host is suddenly haunted by his past when his show temporarily moves to an outdated basement studio booth with a notorious history. Though his job entails giving cheerfully confident advice to others, on this particular evening he is forced to undergo some terrifying introspection. This is as much a psychological thriller as supernatural ghost tale and is the second film in the recent "New Generation Thrillers" series.



Chushingura Gaiden: Yotsuya Kaidan
[Crest of Betrayal]

Genre: Historical Supernatural Samurai [Tokugawa/Edo Era: 1603-1867 AD]

review in one breath

Directed and written by Fukasaku Kinji, Chushingura Gaiden: Yotsuya Kaidan presents a classic tale combining two very well known Japanese traditions. The Chushingura Gaiden is an actual historical episode, better known in the West as the story of the 47 Ronin, and constitutes one of Japan's most beloved samurai stories. It involves an extensive plot of revenge enacted by 47 samurai whose leader was ordered to commit seppuku after attempting to kill an oppressive rival. (A "ronin" is a leaderless samurai.)



Yogen
[Premonition]

Genre: Psychological Supernaturalism

review in one breath

Caught in a perpetual re-living of the tragic death of his daughter, Tachihara follows increasingly mind-bending clues until his entire world turns upside down. What first appears to be simple deja vu quickly turns into a supernatural cascade where the distinction among life, death and delusions quickly disappears.



Versus

Genre: Extreme Zombie Action

review in one breath

When you exempt the mega-budget/block-buster stuff of Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, and the Wachowski brothers, what movies come to mind as jaw-dropping entertainment? Well, director Ryuhei Kitamura's Versus is now at the top of that list. Of course you and I are different (for example, we can both agree I am better looking) and so our lists of "most memorable" may indeed differ. So let me qualify this praise. For those interested in non-stop, full-throttle action involving, yakuza, zombies, karmic cycles, sinister priests, human sacrifice, revenge themes, and limb-hacking extraordinaire, this will likely top your list as well.



Uzumaki
[Vortex]

Genre: Traditional Superstition Horror

review in one breath

I had a good friend who during his youth enjoyed consciousness expansion through the use of hallucinogens. I remember the day he ran up to me and still with a bit of panic in his eyes told me of his previous night's adventure. It seems that in the midst of chatting with some friends, he came to the realization that his arms were getting longer. "Out of the corner of my eye I could see my arms becoming rubbery and elongated, drooping nearly to the floor!". Convinced he was merely hallucinating, he looked directly at his arms, expecting a reassuring snap back to reality by the sight of their normal length. No such luck. Looking down he was terrified to see that his arms were rubbery straws now defying those physical laws he had heretofore taken for granted as governing normal bodies. "It was as if I were coming undone at the molecular level." His strange story stuck securely in my head and I often found myself trying to imagine what it would be like if the world suddenly unbound itself from the way it has always been. I mean, why couldn't someone's arms and legs suddenly become spaghetti-like through some sort of cosmic hiccup. Someone will claim adamantly "this doesn't happen", but by this is only meant "this has never happened before". What if the rules governing the world suddenly changed?



Tomie: The Final Chapter - Forbidden Fruit

Genre: Supernatural Horror

review in one breath

Tomie: The Final Chapter - Forbidden Fruit is the fifth (and apparently final ?) in the line of Tomie-based horror movies. Tomie, of course, has a life well-beyond the walls of cinema, and originally flourished in the minds and nightmares of innocent Japanese through the manga by Ito Junji.



Tomie: Beginning

Genre: Supernatural Horror

review in one breath

Within days after the mysterious new student Kawagami Tomie joins a high school classroom, all hell literally breaks loose. Simple in-fighting between boys and girls over Tomie's oppressive shadow soon gives way to mind-breaking violence culminating in a grizzly dissection which ultimately leads to suicide, insanity and even more violence. Six years after his original 1999 Tomie, director Oikawa Ataru returns to explore Tomie's "beginnings".



Tomie: Revenge

Genre: The Film That Cannot Be Killed!

review in one breath

I'm running out of witty intros for Tomie films! Here, Tomie not only turns out to be the innocent and lovable protagonist, but also delivers a heartfelt anti-penile plea for the destruction of all males on the planet! This latest film effortlessly continues the almost permanent state of disappointment faced by Tomie fans.



Tomie: Replay

Genre: Supernatural Horror

review in one breath

I guess it was inevitable that the otherwise horrific Tomie receive a major makeover and start walking around in slightly damp lingerie. Apparently no one, not even the most evil among us, is exempt from this required beautification following a few popular films. I mean, even Sadako, the mother of all baddies in Ringu went through a similar transformation, first into a sex-crazed hottie in Rasen and then into a shy and rather angelic young woman in Ringu 0.



Tomie: Rebirth

Genre: Supernatural Horror

review in one breath

Tomie: Rebirth is directed by Shimizu Takashi, creator and director of all the incredibly popular Juon movies (all five versions!). In addition to (and following) the original Tomie (1999) there have been six additional films made of which Shimizu's in the third. Shimizu's directing talent, along with his ability to avoid some of the pitfalls encountered by the prior versions, makes Tomie: Rebirth a thoroughly effective depiction of the horror implicit in Ito Junji's manga character Tomie.



Tomie: Another Face
[Tomie: Anaza Feisu]

Genre: Supernatural Horror

review in one breath

Tomie: Another Face (aka Tomie: Anaza Feisu and Tomie: Kyoufu no Bijousho) is a straight-to-video production directed by Inomata Toshiro. A colloboration between Toei Films and Kansai Television, this three-part tale was released the same year as (though several months after) the original cinematic version of Tomie (1999).



Tomie

Genre: Supernatural Horror

review in one breath

I must confess that I've been looking forward to seeing Tomie for quite some time. For various reasons I've seen most of the Tomie sequels prior to seeing this original version. To varying degrees, these sequels were good (or not so good) at conveying manga artist Ito Junji's original vision of the Tomie character, but now, at last, I've visited the mothership and stand before you today, testimony in hand....



Toire no Hanako-san: Kieta Shojou no Himistu
[Toilet Hanako-san: Secret of the Disappearing Girl]

Genre: School-Based Horror Story

review in one breath

This is a creative and effective sequel to the 1995 Toire no Hanako-san about a ghostly young girl terrorizing the fleeing students of an elementary school. In this film, the horror moves to a high school where a spiritually sensitive student soon succumbs to a growing presence in the school. By the time she is able to convince her classmates of her premonitions, the formidable power of Hanako is in full swing.



Three... Extremes: Box

Genre: Surreal Nightmare

review in one breath

Three... Extremes is a trilogy of relatively short films each by a different asian director. Box, the 40 minute film under review here is directed by Japanese director Miike Takashi. Dumpling is a 37 minute film by Hong Kong director Fruit Chan. And Cut is a 48 minute film by Korean director Park Chan-wook. (PS: Although all three of these very cool films are contained in the single DVD I hold in my nimble fingers, I will only review Miike's film since (a) this is a Japanese movie review site, and (b) my utter lack of experience with Hong Kong or Korean films will undoubtedly result in my review simply saying these films are "very cool".)



Stacy
[Stacy: Attack of the Schoolgirl Zombies]

Genre: Schlock Gore Zombie Fest

review in one breath

Wow! What a gore-fest this is!

The world as we know it is in utter chaos due to the inexplicable, sudden transformation of all girls ages 15 to 17 into blood-thirsty zombies! Not only does this significantly curtail procreation amid a plummeting world population, it also necessitates the widespread annihilation of these girlie undead lest they consume every remaining man, woman and child! (And consume they will!)



Shudan Satsujin Kurabu
[Group Murder Club]

Genre: Slasher / Supernatural Horror (Comedic)

review in one breath

I've watched quite a few Japanese films and TV dramas, but I must confess that I have not seen anything from Japan that quite resembles Shudan Satsujin Club. This is part schlocky slasher and part bizarre comedy. In some respects Shudan Satsujin Club strongly alludes to the comedic horror style of Evil Dead.



Shiryoha
[Dead Waves]

Genre: Supernatural Ghost Story in Techno-Babble parlance

review in one breath

When a television producer visits the home of a brother and sister to interview them for his series on paranormal phenomena, what first appears to be a simple case of psychopathology turns into a full-blown epidemic of demonic manifestation. To his horror he realizes that he is not only a witness to the blossoming insanity, filming each scream and horrific expression, but that he and his technology have been intricately tied to the cause and conduit of its spread.



Shikoku

Genre: Traditional Superstition Horror

review in one breath

One of the main reasons I enjoy Japanese horror is that these films so often tap into real cultural traditions and superstitions.One can actually learn or experience quite a bit about Japanese culture simply by watching the films. Shikoku is a prime example of the intermingling of actual folk lore with cinematics and as such is thoroughly enjoyable.



Shibuya Kaidan 2
[The Locker 2]

Genre: Creepy Urban Supernatural Horror

review in one breath

Demonic little Sachiko is back! And she is literally crumpling any foolish soul which dares open Shibuya coin locker #0009. Picking up at precisely the moment the prequel left off, the trajectory of horror continues as we learn more and more about the cause behind a growing epidemic of unnatural deaths. This sequel was recently released to US audiences along with the prequel on a single DVD entitled The Locker.



Shibuya Kaidan
[The Locker]

Genre: Creepy Urban Supernatural Horror

review in one breath

A Tokyo urban legend comes to life in unexpected, terrifying ways when a group of young people use a coin locker at the Shibuya station. As members of the group begin dying in bizarre and excruciating ways, the survivors frantically try to understand the curse they find themselves in. This prequel was recently released to US audiences along with the sequel on a single DVD entitled The Locker.



Shibito No Koiwazurai
[LoveSick Dead]

Genre: Supernatural / Psychological Horror

review in one breath

Based on an Ito Junji manga, Shibito no Koiwazurai drops you once again into a sleepy rural village populated with high schools students and permeated with folk superstitions. There have been many attempts to successfully recreate Ito Junji's manga worlds into cinematic expressions, but very few succeeded, whether visually or popularly. Uzumaki set the standard for such attempts, and most fans agreed that the film was both visually stunning and dramatically compelling. I'm happy to announce that Shibito no Koiwazurai comes in as a close second and likewise successfully creates a visual ambiance and narrative force able to carry the audience into the nightmarish world intended by Ito.



Ring 2
[Ringu 2]

Genre: Supernatural Techno-babble Horror

review in one breath

First, it must be admitted that one will have absolutely no idea what is going on in Ringu 2 without first seeing Ringu. Basics such as character identity and Sadako's history fully assume familiarity with the original story.



Ring 0: Birthday
[Ringu 0: Baasudei]

Genre: Teen-Angst Supernatural Horror

review in one breath

Ringu 0, directed by Tsuruta Norio (who also directed Kakashi a year later) is the last in a line of (Japanese) movies based on Nakata Hideo's Ringu. In Ringu, you may remember, the plot revolved around discovering and uncovering the mysterious Sadako who lived 30 years in the past from the characters' perspective. And although the story's characters do a pretty good job of locating the source of the malevolent evil they are experiencing, by movie's end Sadako seems more enigmatic than where we began. Enter Ringu 0, which takes place those 30 years ago and tells the (nearly) complete story of an adolescent Sadako during the weeks leading up to her fateful meeting with her father at the well.



Ring
[Ringu]

Genre: Supernatural Horror par Excellence

review in one breath

Let me begin by stating: YOUCH! VERY CREEPY!!!

Okay. Ringu is based on Ringu (1991), the first of a trilogy of novels by author Suzuki Koji. The movie became wildly popular in Japan and spawned several sequels/prequels, two television mini-series, a Korean, and eventually US remake. Ringu was held from release in the US until the release of the US remake, The Ring, in 2003. (Go figure.)



Rasen
[Spiral]

Genre: Sexy Supernatural Horror

review in one breath

Rasen is directed by Iida Joji and was billed as the sequel to Ringu until Ringu director Nakata Hideo directed his own sequel, Ringu 2 a year later. These two sequels present radically different takes on the events following the initial saga of Ringu. In Ringu 2, the story revolves around Mai's (student and lover of Ryuji) search and adventures with Yoichi (Ryuji's son) which eventually pits them against creepy Sadako, the uncanny accuracy of ESP, and quasi-scientific techno babble. Rasen, on the other hand, follows the amorous encounters of Mai and (genetic engineer) Ando, which eventually pits them against a seductive Sadako, the uncanny accuracy of ESP, and quasi-scientific techno babble. (!)



Oshikiri
[The Strange Story]

Genre: Low-budget Sci-Fi Horror

review in one breath

Enter another bizarre world from the mind of manga artist extraordinaire, Ito Junji! Oshikiri is based on the Ito Junji manga of the same name and delivers his characteristic exploration of strange phenomena whereby the darkest side of human nature emerges.



Nama Gomi: Shitaiiki
[Raw Garbage: The Abandoned Corpse]

Genre: Zombie Pornography

review in one breath

To those who have seen this film, it will be no surprise to learn that director Murata Keiichiro went on to produce two adult films immediately following Nama Gomi. Also of no surprise is the title of one of those films, Uniformed Girls. I say these will be of no surprise since easily two-thirds of Nama Gomi is prolonged sex scenes, many of which involve the classic Japanese fantasy of uniformed nurses. In fact, this film has so much sex in it that things like dialogue and plot are merely distractions from the true purpose of this film, which seems to be to provide an illustrated guide to a variety of erotic fantasies and sexual positions. (!!!)



Malice@Doll
[Malice Doll]

Genre: Computer Generated Sci-Fi Horror

review in one breath

"Let me give you a kiss.
It's the only thing I can do."

Much more akin to the Computer Generated (CG) graphics of Final Fantasy than to a traditional "anime", Malice@Doll tells a dark and surreal tale which conjures up the darkest moments of Stanley Kubrick's vision in A.I.. Although not quite as lavishly realistic as Final Fantasy, which strove to depict such things as the independent movement of hair follicles, the graphics in Malice@Doll are nevertheless meticulously done and its environments are convincingly dismal and nuanced.



Nagai Yume
[Long Dream]

Genre: Low-budget Sci-Fi/Psycho Horror

review in one breath

One expects a sort of "double-whammy" from Long Dream. On the one hand it is based on an Ito Junji manga, and on the other hand, Long Dream is directed by Higuchinsky (aka Higuchi Akihiro), who is otherwise held in great reverence for his unparalleled recreation of another Ito manga, Uzumaki.



Kyoufu Gakuen
[Terror School / A Frightful School Horror]

Genre: School-based Ghost Stories starring Too Many Starlettes

review in one breath

In three separate ghost stories Japanese folk intuitions regarding malevolent spirits, Shinto-based animism, and cute young girls prevail. Each tale takes place in or around a school building and involves the haunted demise of bewildered female students at the hands of unforgiving supernatural manifestations.



Kourei
[Seance]

Genre: Supernatural Psychological Suspense

review in one breath

Kourei ("Seance" in English) is directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, also responsible for the likes of Cure (1997), "Hebi no Michi" (Serpent's Path, 1997), Charisma (1999), and Kairo (2001) among others. Kurosawa is increasingly recognized as a premier director able to deliver significant impact. His films are characterized by his willingness and patience to allow audiences to arrive at an understanding without being spoon-fed or merely told. In other words, this Kurosawa enjoys watching your mind interact with his film, and his relish of this interaction causes him to refrain from spelling out every detail and nuance he wishes you to catch.



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.



Kansen
[Infection]

Genre: Amoebic Horror

review in one breath

A mind-crushing viral infection is slowly spreading through the patients and staff of a small dismal hospital, causing all in its wake to disgustingly melt into green lime jello. By days end, Dr. Akiba thinks things couldn't possibly get any worse, until he learns the true mind-bending nature of this disease from hell.



Kakashi
[Scarecrow]

Genre: Supernatural Local Superstition

review in one breath

Kakashi (which means "Scarecrow") is based on a manga by Junji Ito (as are Uzumaki and Tomie) and tells the story of Kaoru and her unfortunate adventure into the isolated mountain village of Kozukata in search of her brother Tsuyoshi. In its broadest sense, the tale is much like Woman in the Dunes and Inugami which also revolve around the misfortune of an unexpecting outsider who stumbles upon an isolated and bizarre community. Unlike these two, however, Kaoru is neither trapped (as in Woman in the Dunes) nor seduced (as in Inugami), but is instead virtually begged by the townfolk to leave. Her desire to find her brother is what keeps her in Kozukata, despite some very freaky people and events, and by the time she catches up with Tsuyoshi, all hell has literally broken loose.



Kaisha no Kaidan 2: Office Horror Story

Genre: Supernatural Ghost Stories

review in one breath

Kaisha no Kaidan and Kaisha no Kaidan 2 were both directed by Katou Fumihiko in 1997. Katou is not exactly a distinguished director as most of his other work was done from the position of Assistant Director. His only other work as principal director is the interestingly titled Orgasm Mariko (1996). Being unable to locate a viewable copy of this undoubtedly great film, I can only wonder what it could be about. Any guesses?



Kairo
[Pulse]

Genre: Apocalyptic Ghost Story

review in one breath

Kairo (2001) has been out in the mainstream for quite some time and is already rather well-known in Western circles predominantly due to its being a film by Kurosawa Kiyoshi, a director with a number of films appearing on many j-horror fans' list of favorites. (Kurosawa films which are reviewed on this site include: Cure (1997), Charisma (1999), Kourei (2000), Akarui Mirai (2003), and Doppelganger (2003). ) A characteristic motif of his films is the fluidity of individuality and his narratives almost always consist of a character's inner transformation through extreme situations. For Kurosawa, this transformation is not simply one toward greater maturity or conventional notions of self-knowledge. It often entails what he understands to be a consistent trajectory with the harsh, often cruel realities of the natural world, and so his characters often transform from a state the audience can at least identify with into one which lies outside the bounds of our expectations.



Juusan Yoru 3
[Thirteen Nights 3]

Genre: Supernatural Ghost Stories

review in one breath

Juusan Yoru was a brief yet popular TV series appearing for thirteen episodes. The series revolves around a popular radio show hosted by DJ Endo Kumiko (who appeared the same year in Tomie: Rebirth), dedicated to "paranormal spiritual research". Throughout each of the 30 minute episodes, the guest commentator is Tsunoda Jirou, a well-known author and director specializing in the supernatural. The entire TV series is now available on 4 sequential videos, Juusan Yoru 1: Reikai Kara Shoutaijo (Thirteen Nights: Written Invitation from the Spirit World), Juusan Yoru 2, Juusan Yoru 3: Jitsuroku Kyoufu Shoutaijo (Thirteen Nights: True Accounts of Terror), and (you guessed it) Juusan Yoru 4. I haven't yet found a copy of either the second or fourth video and thus cannot provide you with the subtitles or reviews. (Sorry.)



Juusan Yoru
[Thirteen Nights]

Genre: Supernatural Ghost Stories

review in one breath

Juusan Yoru was a brief yet popular TV series appearing for thirteen episodes. The series revolves around a popular radio show hosted by DJ Endo Kumiko (who appeared the same year in Tomie: Rebirth), dedicated to "paranormal spiritual research". Throughout each of the 30 minute episodes, the guest commentator is Tsunoda Jirou, a well-known author and director specializing in the supernatural. The entire TV series is now available on 4 sequential videos, Juusan Yoru 1: Reikai Kara Shoutaijo (Thirteen Nights: Written Invitation from the Spirit World), Juusan Yoru 2, Juusan Yoru 3: Jitsuroku Kyoufu Shoutaijo (Thirteen Nights: True Accounts of Terror), and (you guessed it) Juusan Yoru 4. I haven't yet found a copy of either the second or fourth video and thus cannot provide you with the subtitles or reviews of those. (Sorry.)



JU-ON

Genre: Supernatural Horror

review in one breath

Here is a creepy Japanese movie straight out the Ring tradition. Shimizu Takashi is the director here, working with both Kiyoshi Kurosawa (director of Cure, Charisma, and Kairo) and Hiroshi Takahashi himself (screenwriter of the Ring trilogy). What this triad brings to the table is a classic japanese horror film relying on mood and sound and Japanese cultural intuitions about the fate of wronged souls.



JU-ON 2

Genre: Supernatural Horror

review in one breath

The following review is full of "spoilers", though I doubt these will reduce the chill factor of seeing the movie. At the time of writing this, the TV movie version of Juon 2 is currently unavailable in a dubbed or subtitled version (at least in the U.S.) and so this review serves more as an explanation of the story rather than as a teaser aimed at getting you to go out and see the movie. Word has it that remake rights for Juon 2 have already been secured by an American production company (as has Juon) and so the day may soon come when Hollywood will have its own version of the following story (no doubt greatly modified, though).



JU-ON 2: Final
[JU-ON 2: The Grudge 2: Final]

Genre: Supernatural Horror

review in one breath

Hold onto your bonnets boys and girls! Kayoko and Toshio are still holding a grudge toward anyone crossing their path in Shimizu Takashi's phenomenal sequel to the wildly popular Juon.



JU-ON - The Grudge

Genre: Supernatural Horror

review in one breath

Hoo boy! Another scary Japanese movie straight out the Ring tradition (and indeed the movie flyer looks eerily similar to that of Ringu 2). Shimizu Takashi is the director here, working with both Kiyoshi Kurosawa (director of Cure, Charisma, and Kairo) and Hiroshi Takahashi himself (screenwriter of the Ring trilogy). What this triad brings to the table is a classic japanese horror film relying on mood and sound and Japanese cultural intuitions about the fate of wronged souls.



JUNK
[Shiryou Gari]

Genre: ZombOObie Fest

review in one breath

The world is a dark place indeed when you can't trust heavily mustached U.S. army generals in charge of secret experimental laboratories tucked away in the interior of Okinawa Island. And pity the naive Japanese biochemist whose deep sense of loss and sorrow over the recent death of his (amazingly) buxom girlfriend causes him to blindly follow the evil schemes of aforesaid general aimed at developing a fluorescent green elixir which brings the dead back to life. And pity the entire population of Okinawa when despite great expenditures of technology and man hours, the U.S. army fails to consider putting their fluorescent zombie potion in a bottle with a spill-resistant screw cap. But NO... you say, we ought not judge these soon-to-be-munched scientists with our 20/20 hindsight. For if they had simply put this potion in a spill-proof bottle the entire movie would have come to a screeching halt after only 5 minutes.



Ju-Rei 2: Kuro Ju-Rei
[Ju-Rei: The Uncanny]

Genre: Supernatural Horror

review in one breath

Ju-Rei 2 is perhaps Broadway Production's scariest and most polished horror production to date. Although coming out less than a year after Ju-Rei, the difference in maturity and delivery is palpable. Ju-Rei 2 contains none of the comedic elements or goofiness which characterized the prequel. And whereas Ju-Rei consisted of three non-related horror stories, Ju-Rei 2 contains ten interrelated vignettes. The first vignette the audience sees is in fact the last vignette chronologically in the story. Thus each vignette brings the audience back one step toward the origin of the horror sequence. The vignettes overlap character appearances and are thematically linked through the presence and demonic influence of a Black Spirit.



Ju-Rei
[Ju-Rei: The Movie]

Genre: Low-budget Supernatural Horror

review in one breath

I just want to say that I appreciate the fact that this title explicitly declares itself to be JuRei: The Movie . Although its embarrassing to admit, I actually entered the video store looking for JuRei: The Musical. Thus the foresight of Broadway Productions in providing this descriptive title certainly saved me quite a surprise!



Ju-Lei 3
[Ju-Lei 3: Haunted Exorcist]

Genre: Supernatural Ghost Stories

review in one breath

Ju-Lei 3 (2001) is the third of five in the Ju-Lei/Ju-Rei series. This is the last straight-to-video version, and is followed by two theatrical versions, the last of which, Ju-Rei 2: Kuro Jurei (US title: Ju-Rei: The Uncanny, 2004) was recently released to Western audiences. For some inexplicable reason the English spelling of Ju-Lei/Ju-Rei differs between the video and theatrical versions. This is no doubt due in part to the fact that Japanese pronunciation cannot differentiate between the English "L" and "R". Broadway Productions, which produced all five films didn't help much when they decided to spell out the title in English on each cover graphic, changing their spelling midstream after Ju-Lei 3.



Ju-Lei: Shinrei Mystery File
[Cursed Spirits]

Genre: (Amazingly Unscary) Supernatural Ghost Stories

review in one breath

Watch in sheer horror as you experience the mind-melting mediocrity of yet another laugh-out-loud Z-horror attempt by Broadway Production. This is the first in the Ju-Lei video series which eventually spawned the recently popular Ju-Rei movies.



Ju-Kai
[Ju-Kai Special: Noroi no Bideo]

Genre: Frankenstein

review in one breath

Ju-Kai (2000) is probably the best documentary-style horror tale I have seen thus far. By "documentary style" is meant, of course, the now well-known genre seemingly spawned by the low-budget, highly popular Blair Witch Project. A necessary discussion which I have never heard take place, however, is whether or not the producers of Blair Witch actually borrowed their "wildly original" format from prior Japanese horror videos.



Suicide Circle
[Jisatsu Sakuru]

Genre: Blood-Bathed Social Commentary

review in one breath

Suicide Circle packs many cultural nuances which are very prevalent in the contemporary Japanese psyche but which are either quite taboo or completely bizarre in American culture. This discrepancy undoubtedly creates significantly different attitudes and impressions of this film between its intended Japanese audience and the rest of us who look longingly into Japanese cinema.



Jigoku
[Japanese Hell]

Genre: Frankenstein

review in one breath

In this world, the acts of man are the foulest of the foul. As the years pass, the number of those in Hell grows, proving what sad shape the world is in! Man only thinks about committing more crimes, turning a blind eye to the horrors that await them.


There are three films entitled Jigoku. The original Jigoku released in 1960 and directed by Nakagawa Nobuo has become a classic among film aficionados but remains generally unseen by Western audiences. A remake by director Kumashiro Tatsumi appeared in 1979 adding to the formula more "contemporary" horror elements. And in 1999 director Ishii Teruo created the version we are here reviewing.



ISOLA
[ISOLA: Tajuu jinkaku shojo]

Genre: Supernatural Psycho-babble Horror

review in one breath

As I sit down to write this review, the phrase "Sigmund Freud's Psychedelic Nightmare" keeps running through my head. This is because ISOLA packs more bizarre psycho-babble per square inch than most films would dream of attempting. You have your cute, young psychic whose ESP is so rampant that only strong medication makes life bearable. Then you have your cute, young schizophrenic whose multiple personalities make Sybil look well-adjusted. And then you have your cute, young and nude psychology student whose sensory deprivation experiments result in a classic case of astral projection gone awry. AND THEN you have your cute, not-quite-as-young high school counselor turned self-appointed psychoanalyst sticking her nose into everyone's psychopathology. Throw a young, brooding (and single!) male doctor into this mix of psychotic babes and you've got the recipe for the mother of all (psychological) cat fights! (woo hoo!)



Honto ni Atta! Noroi Bideo
[Cursed Video: The Movie]

Genre: Documentary Style Tale of the Supernatural

review in one breath

A real life investigation looks into a young man who suddenly dropped dead after watching a "cursed video". The trail of clues leads to several horrifying (and not so horrifying) tales of the woeful consequences of viewing this VHS from hell. By the documentary's end, the demonic recording is located and offered to you for viewing, but not without a major disclaimer!



The Haunted Lantern
[Otsuyu - Kaidan botan dourou]

Genre: Traditional Japanese Kaidan

review in one breath

This tale falls firmly within the classic Japanese "Kwaidan" genre, and is (one version) of a very well-known traditional Japanese ghost story. (For a little on the history of this story, see here.)

To this day, one of the most important traditional holidays in Japan is the Obon Festival during which kami (spirits) of dead ancestors are believed to revisit their former homes. In a society where one's home and property are generally passed down from eldest child to eldest through generations, this means you will likely have many ethereal guests arriving for the party! The title's reference to "lantern" is that of the Obon Lantern which was placed outside the home on this occasion as a welcoming invitation to ancestors and deceased loved ones. Given this background, is it any wonder its haunted?(!)



Down to Hell

Genre: Extreme Zombie Action

review in one breath

Four violent delinquents have established for themselves a "simple" game of survival, which starts with a terrifying chase and kidnapping of an unsuspecting victim along isolated urban streets, and ends with an all-out, literal, man hunt wherein the four assailants methodically track down the victim as he desparately flees through dense, remote forest. When all hope for the victim's survival is lost, a strange. unseen power overtakes the corpse, turning it into the hellish means of ultimate retribution. As the delinquents are eliminated in gruesome ways one by one, the horror is only beginning, as each of the dead begin their hellish resurrection in order to pursue the remaining assailants.



Donor

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror (Schlocky Gore)

review in one breath

What a bizarro movie this is!

Young Yuka Yamanishi (Nakayame Shinobu of Gamera fame) has had a difficult life indeed. After the sudden, tragic deaths of both her father and mother, she was raised by her elder sister Eiko who worked as a nurse at a local private hospital. Then Eiko tragically died, leaving Yuka to her own devices for survival. Following in her sister's footsteps, Yuka has trained to become a nurse, and when we catch up with her, she is preparing for her first day on the job at the very same hospital Eiko had worked, the Kamioka Hospital. Never mind her persistent nightmares of being chased down darkened hospital corridors by a surgically garbed assailant into operating rooms adorned with horrific specimens ...



Dark Water
[Honogurai mizu no soko kara]

Genre: Supernatural Horror

review in one breath

Dark Water is director Nakata Hideo's latest horror film. Nakata's previous outstanding horror successes include Ringu (1998), Ringu 2 (1999), and Kaosu (1999). Much of the Ringu cast returns for Dark Water, which is also based on a novel written by author of the Ring trilogy, Suzuki Koji. Kawai Kenji, who produced the score for Ringu, also handles the soundtrack for Nakata's newest work.



Christmas Eve
[Kurisumasu Ebu]

Genre: Slasher Horror

review in one breath

Christmas Eve is a straight-to-video slasher horror with a rather bizarre twist. Director Saiga Toshiro, who does not have any other films on Western radar with the exception perhaps of Hogi Lala (2002) and whose most prominent work is likely the several Mahjong-themed videos he directed, employs a huge variety of cinematic techniques in iChristmas Evei undoubtedly in an attempt to make this a cool, MTV-styled horror piece. In addition to the often jarring camera techniques, Saiga throws in some rather bizarre temporal shifts which will undoubtedly keep the audience conceptually at work trying to figure out what the hell is going on in the storyline.



One Missed Call
[Chakushin Ari]

Genre: Supernatural Ghost Story

review in one breath

Director Miike Takashi, best known undoubtedly for his extreme yakuza films, has recently tried his hand at horror. Within a year's time he has produced both an outlandish (and characteristicly bizzarro) yakuza horror Gozu: Gokudo kyofu dai-gekijo (2003.07.12) followed by a much more mainstream horror flick which we are here reviewing entitled Chakushin Ari (2004.01.17). According to the dates on JMDB, the production of Gozu precedes that of Chakushin Ari by 6 months. Thus it is not unimagineable that Miike, after exploring his own mixture of over-the-top yakuza and horror genres, felt compelled to try his hand at a more classicly styled horror film aimed at a potentially much larger (national and international) audience awaiting the next best j-horror. Certainly "lesser" directors have scored big time in this mainstream horror endeavour, as evidenced by the debut this week of the multi-million dollar US remake of Shimizu Takashi's Juon.



Another Heaven
[Anaza Hebun]

Genre: Inexplicable Sci-Fi Horror Crime Thriller

review in one breath

Grab your showercaps boys and girls! Tokyo is being plagued by brain-eating WATER FROM HELL and no one is safe! Especially not the hunky, brooding Tokyo cop Manabu Hayase and all the many cute girls who dig him!



Akuma ga Sumu Ie 2001
[The House Where the Evil Lives 2001]

Genre: Slasher / Supernatural Horror

review in one breath

If you had the pleasure of reading my extremely insightful and witty review of Shudan Satsujin Club, you may recall my suspicion that a general (Japanese) societal hatred of cute, high school-aged girls may be afoot. After watching Akuma ga Sumu Ie 2001 I am now convinced that nubile japanese females may soon be an endangered species.



Ai Jin Rei [Ghost Lover]

???

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.



Kazuo Umezz's Horror Theater Vol 2

Snake Girl / The Wish


[Umezu Kazuo Kyoufu Gekijou: Madara no Shoujou / Negai ]

Genre: Pre-Pubescent Horror Tales

review in one breath

This is the second volume of the Kazuo Umezz's Horror Theater collection and contains episodes three and four of the six-episode whole. Unlike the tales of the first and third volumes, these two tales focus on the (mis)adventures of two elementary school-aged children. In the first, a young girls learns the hard way about the transformational power of hatred. In the second, a young boy discovers to his horror that sometimes wishes come true.



Ashura [The Eyes of Ashura Castle]

Ashura Jo no Hitomi

Genre: Edo-Era Supernatural Sword-Flailing

review in one breath

The sudden rise in demonic activity can only mean one thing: the emergence of Ashura, Queen of the Underworld under whose reign the terrors of Hell will dominate the world of mortals. Although an elite squadron of priest-like warriors have been prepared in anticipation of the Ashura prophecies, their formidable skills prove no match for the demonic hordes once Ashura's rebirth begins. But also buried deep within the prophecy is the possibility that Ashura may perchance be overpowered by a mortal man, thereby saving the world as we know it.



TOKYO!

TOKYO!

Genre: Tokyo-scape Triptych of Self-Realization

review in one breath

TOKYO! is an anthology of three short films by directors Michel Gondry (France), Leos Carax (France) and Joon-ho Bong (Korea), each of whom offers an imaginative and transnatural/supernatural glimpse into the Tokyo Megapolis. In the same fashion the internationally released collections of Three (2002) and Three Extreme (2004) consist of similarly-themed triptychs by well-known (Asian) directors, TOKYO! takes things two steps further. First, this anthology deals solely with Japan. Each short film's setting is in Tokyo, the primary language is Japanese, and the cast of each features predominantly Japanese actors, many of whom J-Film fans will recognize. Second, two of the three directors are Western (French). TOKYO! is currently being screened in the 2008 International Film Festival, but I assume it will soon be more widely released.



This article was originally published in Otaku Magazine, volume 4, July 2008.

Fans of contemporary Japanese horror, whether in film or manga, have likely run across the term Kaidan or Kwaidan describing certain tales within many volumes of translated works available. The term refers to century-old, traditional ghost tales reflecting core superstitions of pre-Westernized Japan. The term is used sparingly in book and film titles, usually only by authors and directors who wanted to create the atmosphere of an old-time ghost story. But in many recent Japanese horror films, the influence of Kaidan comes through very strongly.



Death Train [Kyofu Ressha]

Genre: Mind-Bending Death Tale

review in one breath

An innocent summer train ride turns into a mind-shattering nightmare for three high school girls. This is the third tale in the "Hino Hideshi Theater of Horror" hexology, and is easily the most thought-provoking and potentially horrific episode of the series. This is a bizarre and intricate story which provides viewers just enough clues to follow through its otherwise indiscernible progression but resolves in a rather enigmatic way which ultimately requires of audiences some after-thought if they hope to understand the nature of the nightmare.



Kitaro
[GeGeGe no Kitarou]

Genre: Live-Action Children's Classic Yokai Tale

review in one breath

This is a live-action version of the VERY long-running and beloved Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro series developed by classic yokai-guru Mizuki Shigeru. The entire gamut of odd monsters and traditional Japanese yokai appear here in this humorous and humanitarian tale. This is undoubtedly aimed at younger fans, but will prove entertaining to older audiences as well, especially those already familiar with the exploits of Kitaro or with a curiosity regarding Japan's traditional cosmology of strange creatures.



KAOJIKARA
[Strength of Faces]

Genre: Metaphorical Exploration into Cultural Alienation

review in one breath

A young japanese woman's decision to live abroad takes a terrifying turn for the worse when she wakes up within a world filled with hostile people whose faces are transformed beyond recognition. Issues of cultural alienation and the simultaneous loss and preservation of identity are explored in this short international film. This is an small independent, almost underground production which nevertheless carries a very clear and effective visual message. You can see this film (legally!) in its entirety online, and I encourage you to do so.



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.



Death Note 2: The Last Name
[Desu Noto 2: the Last Name]

Genre: Supernaturally-Fueled Crime Thriller

review in one breath

This is the second and concluding film of the two-part Death Note live action saga. Here Kira continues his strategic maneuvering under the watchful pursuits of his nemesis, the boy-genius "L". Whose name will be "the Last name" written in the Death Note?



Death Note
[Desu Noto]

Genre: Supernaturally-Fueled Crime Thriller

review in one breath

When a young man stumbles across and touches a mysterious notebook, his eyes are opened to the supernatural forces of Death Gods or "Shinigami" who work behind the scenes of human mortality. When an individual's name is merely written in this Death Note, that soul dies within mere seconds. Possessing such a flawless weapon immediately requires decisions regarding murder, the Law, an ideal society and above all, Justice. This is a face-paced and highly strategic crime thriller based on the popular manga series.



Ravaged House
[Tadareta Ie : "Zoroku no Kibyou" yori]

Genre: Tale of Dismal Collectivism and Local Superstition

review in one breath

In a rural village, a young man is suddenly stricken with a mysterious and terrible disease which transforms him into an unrecognizable mass of festering sores. Fearful of the local towns people's opinion and reaction, the family strives to keep their diseased son hidden from sight. But when the nosy mayor and his delinquent son take things into their own hands, the horrible secret is brought to light with dreadful consequences for everyone involved. This is the last tale in Hideshi Hino's Theater of Horror Hexology.



Lizard Baby
[Watashi no Akachun]

Genre: Embryonic Terror!

review in one breath

In an attempt to overcome writer's block, an aspiring horror screenplay writer uses his wife's pregnancy as the backdrop for a new gripping and well-received tale. As both his story and the subsequent film progress toward their completion, his finds his real-life situation paralleling the more horrifying elements of his imagination, not least of which is his wife's giving birth to a LIZARD BABY! This is tale five in Hideshi Hino's Theater of Horror Hexology.



Dead Girl Walking
[Kaiki! Shinin Shôjo]

Genre: Postmortem Teen Angst

review in one breath

Although young Yuri suffers a fatal heart attack she finds herself unable to play dead. Instead, she lurches around dropping various body parts as she becomes more isolated and ostracized from her family and friends. When all other relationships and physical cohesiveness abandon her, she must decide her own fate. This is the second volume (of six) of manga artist Hideshi Hino's "Theater of Horror" now available in Region 1 release.



Boy from Hell
[Jigoku kozu]

Genre:Manga-based Z-grade Schlock-gore Horror

review in one breath

When her only child is tragically killed, prominent surgeon Chiba Emma will stop at nothing to bring him back. For both audiences and victims alike, this unfortunately entails a gamut of schlock-gore violence and the creepy de-evolution of a loving mother into the MILF from Hell. This is volume one (of six) of manga artist Hideshi Hino's "Theater of Horror" now available in Region 1 release.




Nightmare Detective [Akumu Tantei]

Genre: Gloomy Psychic Crime Horror
Director: Tsukamoto Shinya (2006)

review in one breath

Tokyo police are baffled by a series of grisly deaths which at first glance appear to be obvious suicides but after further investigation have all the earmarks of homicide. Eyewitnesses to some of the cases report that the victims violently killed themselves in their sleep while screaming for help. When it is discovered that each of the victims had phoned a mysterious individual known only as "0", a detective calls the number only to soon thereafter die a gruesome self-inflicted death in his sleep. At their wits end, the cops ask the help of a bedraggled psychic said to possess the ability to enter people's dreams.



Prayer Beads [Omoinotama Nenju]

Genre: Horror Anthology

review in one breath

This is a 9 episode collection of Japanese horror vignettes, all either directed or supervised by CG/FX guru Masahiro Okano. With stories ranging from psychedelic sci-fi to traditional folk horror, from the sentimental to the macabre, this collections presents a number of entertaining tales with impressive cinematography. In relation to the other Japanese horror anthologies released in the West, this collection stands near the top in terms of cinematic quality and visual polish.




Carved [Kuchisake Onna]

Genre: Urban Legend Horror
Director: Shiraishi Koji (2007)

review in one breath

The well known urban legend of a slit-mouthed woman comes suddenly to life in a small Japanese town, terrifying first the children and then adults while wreaking havoc on a few unfortunate victims. This is a modern re-telling with a few unique twists of a century-old tale of a horribly disfigured woman whose vengeful spirit abducts children and submits them to a grisly fate.



Ghost Train [Otoshimono]

Genre: Mass Transit Horror
Director: Takeshi Ken Furusawa (2006)

review in one breath

On any given day, the number of items turned into the Japan Railway's Lost and Found division is staggering. In most cases, such items are discovered and turned in by honest individuals who soon thereafter forget wholly about the incident. But in a few documented cases in a particularly remote mountainous region, those finding lost items soon go missing themselves.



Ring: The Final Chapter [Ringu : Saisho shu�]

Genre: Ringu-based TV series
Director: Hiroshi Nishitani, et al. (1999)

review in one breath

This is a 12-episode, 10-hour, made-for-TV adaptation of Koji Suzuki's now infamous novel, Ringu. This originally aired on Fuji TV in 1999 only months after the theatrical release of Nakata Hideo's genre-busting film. Loosely based on the original tale, this is a quasi-horror crime thriller which despite a far lesser shock value than the film, remains a very polished and entertaining series.



Apartment 1303 [1303 go shitsu]

Genre: Haunted House Horror
Director: Oikawa Ataru (2007)

review in one breath

One after another, a series of new tenants in an oceanfront apartment on the 13th floor leap to their deaths in what local police can only describe as "serial suicide". When the sister of the most recent victim decides to investigate, she discovers that Apartment 1303 holds a very dark, powerful and horrific secret.



Rinne [Reincarnation]

Genre: Supernatural Horror
Director: Shimizu Takashi (2005)

review in one breath

The concepts of reincarnation, curse and karma are explored in this tale involving a determined film director's attempt to base his new horror film on a grisly mass murder in a remote mountain inn more than 40 years prior. When he takes the cast for a film shoot at the actual location of the crime, the lead actress soon descends into haunting visions. This is the third film in the "J Horror Theater Series" and is directed by J-horror guru Shimizu Takeshi.




Mizuchi [Death Water]

Genre: Shinto-based Supernatural Horror
Director: Yamamoto Kiyoshi (2006)

review in one breath

An earthquake in a remote mountainous region unearths an ancient Shinto shrine dedicated to Yomotsu - Hirasaka, the mythical entrance to the Shinto underworld and its Fountain of the Dead. The discovery is significant both archaeologically and academically, but soon impacts surrounding residents as its terrible secret seeps into the local water supply causing horrific thirst, mind-bending visions and violent deaths.




One Missed Call: Final [Chakushin Ari Final]

Genre: Technology-Enabled Supernatural Horror
Director: Manabu Asao (2006)

review in one breath

DON'T ANSWER THAT PHONE!!! The cursed calls are back, this time decimating a group of high school students on a field trip to South Korea. Obnoxious screaming youth, a heart-wrenching tribute to the beauty of sign language, helpful tips on where to "hang" out in downtown Seoul, and a whole new way to be wrong about basic internet functionality are ALL included in this third and hopefully "final" installment of the One Missed Call saga.




Kokkuri-san [Kokkuri]

Genre: Ouija-Fueled Teen Angst Ghost Tale
Director: Zeze Takahisa (1997)

review in one breath

In the midst of dealing with boyfriends, secret lives and existential gloominess three high school girls decide to consult a Ouija board for insights into their futures. Little do they realize that Kokkuri-san, the guiding force behind their foray into spiritism, is ready to unleash a dismal, karmic, supernatural whirlwind which brings nothing but destruction to them all.




Sakebi [Retribution]

Genre: Supernatural Psychological Thriller
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (2006)

review in one breath

Soon after investigating the murder of a young woman, a hardened detective finds that he is haunted by the woman's ghost and discovers several inexplicable clues seemingly linking him to the crime. As he struggles to understand his nightmarish predicament, both inner and outer worlds collide in this disturbing and mind-bending morality tale.




EXTE [Ekusute]

Genre: Hair-Raising (!!!) Supernatural Horror

review in one breath

When a bizarre hair fetishist stumbles upon an eery corpse sprouting metric tons of hair, he euphorically shares his bounty by selling dark snippets to eager salons throughout the town for use in increasingly popular hair extensions (or as the Japanese call them, "exte"). Little do they realize that a malevolent retribution is meted out upon anyone coming into contact with the slithering locks of hair, possessing their scalps in a most hair-raising fashion!


Ugetsu Monogatari
[Tales of Moonlight and Rain]

Genre: Classic Japanese Ghost Tale

review in one breath

This classic supernatural morality tale follows the path of two men who prioritize their ambitions above all else and inadvertently set aside their families and responsibilities. This 1953 ghost tale is arguably the FIRST truly Japanese horror film and is thus required viewing for anyone seriously interested in the whole of J-Horror.



Gakkou no Kaidan 3
[aka Gakkou no Kwaidan 3 or Haunted School 3]

Genre: Child-centric Ghost Story

review in one breath

Regaining some of the core, good-natured elements from the original Gakkou no Kaidan (which were unfortunately dropped from Gakkou no Kaidan 2), here director Kaneko takes a shot at conjuring up a school-aged horror taking place in the dark hallways of a large and foreboding elementary school building. The fruits of his efforts are both visually and narratively impressive, resulting in a highly recommendable ghost story for all ages which carries a meaningful humanitarian message.



Gakkou no Kaidan 1
[aka Gakkou no Kwaidan or Haunted School]

Genre: SUPERB Child-centric Ghost Story

review in one breath

This is a really a fun and effective movie. With the exception of a couple, less-than-perfect adults, the cast throughout are child actors through whose eyes and imaginations this wonderfully creative ghost story unfolds. The diversity of spooks presented here is quite impressive and makes this story more entertaining than merely waiting to see the same old ghost appear and reappear. This became an instant classic in Japan.



Moon Child

Genre: Friendship Drama Involving Guns and Vampires

review in one breath

The year is 2014 and a young orphan in a squalid urban wasteland befriends a vampire! As the years go by, the young boy grows into a formidable ruffian capable of causing problems for the local yakuza thugs. Their violent lifestyle, however, puts their friendship to the test when ultimate decisions will need to be made. Starring pop rock stars Gackt and Hyde, this intentionally cute and weepy tale undoubtedly has mass appeal to high school girls throughout Japan.




Kunoichi: Deadly Mirage [Genma Sappocho: Shensengumi Hishou]

Genre: Buxom Ninja-ette Monster Showdown
Director: Akiyama Yutaka (1997)

review in one breath

When the Shinsen Clan learns of a plot to overthrow the Tokugawa government, they send out their five remaining ninjas, all women of the Shiryu bloodline. While battling numerous adversaries to intercept a secret letter outlining the details of the planned subversion, a bizarre evil is unleashed by a well-meaning monk attempting to resurrect a dead soldier. What ensues is a whole lotta naked writhing and a battle of semi-epic proportions with zombies intent on taking over the world or something.



Misa the Dark Angel
[aka Eko Eko Azarak 3]

Genre: Trans-Dimensional Supernatural Horror

review in one breath

The mysterious Kuroi Misa is back, this time investigating why an incredibly charred demonic girl screamed Misa's name before melting into the Tokyo street. Clues lead her to a local highschool and into a thespian club's attempt to dramatically reenact the Homunculus play. Little do the girls realize, however, that their play is actually a satanic ritual which will transport them to a sinister dimension of terror (and a gazillion lurching homunculii)!



Marronnier [the subtitle should be: Run Like Hell]

Genre: Craptastic and Wholly Avoidable Doll-Zombie Schlock

Version reviewed: Region 1 subtitled DVD

Preferring the eternal beauty (and blissful silence) of dolls to real-life women a sissy mad scientist methodically abducts blossoming cuties and converts them into tiny wax marionettes. The resulting CREEPY doe-eyed dolls not only become a mega-hit with Tokyo consumers but soon end up walking, talking, and occasionally spilling goopy eyeballs and body parts onto their now screaming owners. Based on the manga by Ito Junji, this is truly one god-AWFUL film.


Eko Eko Azarak: Wizard of Darkness

Genre: Supernatural Lesbian Slasher

review in one breath

Thirteen high school students find themselves the unwitting sacrifices in a grand scheme to resurrect Lucifer in a bid for world domination. As their number dwindles in gruesome manner, the survivors' hope is pinned solely on the magic powers of the new transfer student Kuroi Misa. This is a fast-paced blend of euro-Goth witchcraft, schlock gore and HOT LESBIAN ACTION!



Jigoku
[Hell / Sinner's Hell]

Genre: Classic Gore-laden Morality Tale

review in one breath

When the good-natured Shiro gets mixed up with his rather sinister classmate Tamura, his life takes a drastic turn for the worse as he suddenly finds himself in the depths of human depravity. Inevitably he and those he caused to suffer find themselves within the horrors of the Eight Gates of Hell where they all will suffer eternally to atone for their sins. But once in Hell, Shiro learns a tragic secret which spawns within him the power of hope. This is a 1960 classic.



Rensa: The Cursed Video
[Rensa: Noroi no Bideo]

Genre: (Very) Low-budget (non)Supernatural (non)Horror

review in one breath

Only four video tapes remain from an ambitious group of four youth who had set out to investigate various mysterious suicides. Following the group's unexplained disappearance, a detailed exploration of the content of the four tapes is pursued in the hopes that some light might be shed on the matter. Will the grainy tapes reveal the mystery behind the group's untimely demise? WHO KNOWS?!?!


Tales of Terror from Tokyo - Volume 1
[Kaidan Shin Mimi Bukuro: Night 1]

Genre: Collection of 15 Terrifyingly Unscary Tales

review in one breath

Culled from the long-running TV series of Kaidan Shinmimi Bukuro, this collection of 15 short tales from various directors sets a new standard for anti-climactic "horror" stories ranging from the unscary to the utterly dull.


Nihon Onnen Chizu
[Map of Haunted Japan]

Genre: Geographic-based Documentary Horror

review in one breath

An investigative team sets out to document their search for the mysterious Sugisawa Mura, an historically documented location which has disappeared from contemporary maps. Anecdotal tales link the location with several infamous incidents marked by the sudden rage, murderous acts and suicide of otherwise normal people. Their investigation leads them through a collection of unnerving interviews and locations until they finally arrive at what they believe to be the remote Sugisawa Mura.



Ghost System
[Gosuto shisutemu]

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Genre: Supernatural Sci-Fi Horror

review in one breath

After receiving a cryptic message from a long missing friend, Misako and Wataru go searching and stumble across a large abandoned facility deep within the forest. Inside they discover a research project gone berserk, tearing down the barrier between the world of the dead and the world of the living.



Marebito
[A Stranger from Far Away]

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Genre: Insanity Sci-Fi Horror

review in one breath

Videographer Masuoka is obsessed with capturing fringe psychological states on film, ranging from the quiet fear of the paranoid to the terror-filled eyes of the suicidal. Through footage he captured of the final moments of a horrified man's life, he finds clues which point him to the doorway into an underground labyrinth of madness and escape. There he finds a mysterious and beautiful being which gives him a renewed purpose for living while at the same time forces him to descend even deeper into the abyss of madness.



Parasite Eve

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Genre: DNA-Morphing Sci-Fi Thriller

review in one breath

When the beautiful wife of DNA Researcher Nagashima is tragically killed, he attempts to recreate her using an experimental treatment. The initial results look promising but then quickly spiral out of control when an ancient consciousness within the DNA is awakened and seeks to birth a higher order of being in the evolutionary scale.



Kibakichi
[Bakko Yokaiden Kibakichi]

Genre: Traditional Schlock-Gore Monster Horror

Version reviewed: Region 1 subtitled DVD

review in one breath

When the formidable samurai Kibakichi makes his way to the desolate mountaintop village of Onizo, the haunting secrets of both Kibakichi and the strange villagers are soon revealed. Will Kibakichi maintain his lone-wolf ways or will he reveal all to help the villagers battle an even greater evil? Thoroughly enmeshed in traditional Japanese notions of obakemono and their relations with humanity, this is a fun and (very) slightly educational movie.



Kagero-za
[Kagerouza]

Genre: Taisho Era Ghostly Surrealism

review in one breath

Playwright Shungo becomes increasingly enchanted by a mysterious and beautiful woman he occasionally crosses paths with. His playboy friend Tamawaki jests that it is all an amorous fate, but Shungo's contemplative nature senses deeper realities at play. When he receives a written invitation for a remote rendevouz, his journey of vulnerability brings him face to face with both the cruelties of human nature and the terrifyingly haunting power of love's own justice. This is the second film in director Suzuki Seijun's critically acclaimed Taisho Trilogy.



Zigeunerweisen
[Tsigoineruwaizen]

Genre: Taisho Era Macabre Mystery

review in one breath

When university professor Aochi runs into his former colleague and friend Nakasago, his otherwise placid life takes a sudden turn toward disequilibrium. The circumstances under which they meet and Aochi's quiet observations increasingly cause him to doubt the moral and mental stability of Nakasago. And yet the more certain he becomes of Nakasago's dark nature, the more disturbing and chaotic his own life and relations become. This is a highly memorable horror tale by famed director Suzuki Seijun.



Kibakichi 2
[Bakko Yokaiden Kibakichi 2]

Genre: Traditionally-based Monster Love Story

review in one breath

Well, our monstrous samurai Kibakichi is back, kicking butt and generally scaring the sushi out of everyone; Everyone, that is, except the beautiful blind girl Omatsu, whose friendship and concern soon has Kibakichi rethinking his obakemono ways. BUT hot on his (wolf) tale is the vengeance-seeking Anju and her head-over-heels admirer Sakuramaru, the most violent and frightfully skilled swordsman of the region. And then finally, the REALLY bad guys enter the picture.



Ghosts of Kasane Swamp
[Kaidan Kasane ga Fuchi]

Genre: Classic Japanese Horror

review in one breath

The blind Soetsu lives with a loving wife and their young daughter in an adequate home supported by Soetsu's skill as a masseuse. On a wintry eve, Soetsu decides to visit a neighboring nobleman to who he had lent money over a year ago in the hopes of having the sum returned to him. But upon hearing Soetsu's request, the arrogant and ill-tempered samurai murders Soetsu and has his body dumped in nearby Kasane Swamp. This sets off a chain of events which not only drive the samurai to madness but will also take from him and his entire household what they hold most dearly.



Mansion of the Ghost Cat (aka Black Cat Mansion)
[Borei Kaibyo Yashiki]

Genre: Classic Japanese Horror

review in one breath

When Dr. Kuzumi moves his practice to the countryside in order to allow his wife to regain her health, little does he realize that the old mansion they have rented "possesses" a notorious history of its own. When a mysterious old woman repeatedly appears, apparently with the intent of killing his wife, what he initially believes to be hallucinations soon leads him to the local Buddhist priest who recollects for him the notorious history of the the house. This is a creepy classic horror tale which conjures up both a whirlwind of Japanese superstition and history.



Kaidan Shin Mimi Bukuro [Tales of Terror]

Genre: Collection of Supernatural Ghost Stories

review in one breath

A collection of eight contemporary folk tales of the ghostly and supernatural produced by seven up-and-coming directors of the new J-Horror genre. Ranging from the comedic to the truly spooky, this collection of entertaining and fun short films is a contemporary version of the Edo Period's "Mimi Bukuro", a ten-volume collection of kaidan tales.



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.



Curse, Death & Spirit
[Honto ni Atta Kowai Hanashi: Jushiryou]

Genre: Early Short Horror Stories by Nakata Hideo

review in one breath

This is a trilogy of very early (short) horror "films" by Ringu director Nakata Hideo. Though produced on a made-for-television budget, Nakata's central intuition regarding the malicious nature of departed spirits comes through loud and clear.



Kazuo Umezz's Horror Theater Vol 1:
House of Bugs / Diet

[Umezu Kazuo Kyoufu Gekijou: Mushitachi no Ie / Zesshoku]

Genre: Powerful Psychological Horror

review in one breath

This collection contains two horror stories based on manga by Umezu Kazuo. These are both very effective tales of psychological horror in which audiences will find themselves led along truly bewildering paths. This is the first of three volumes and is well worth watching. Director Kurosawa Kiyoshi directs the first tale here.



J Horror Anthology: Legends
[Inagawa Junji no Densetsu no Horaa]

Genre: Six Supernatural Traditional/Urban Legends

review in one breath

This is one of two recently released collections of ghost tales from the prolific productions of Inagawa Junji, Japan's predominant contemporary master storyteller of Japanese ghost tales. Here you experience six supernatural "legends" ranging from the ancient to the modern .


J Horror Anthology: Underworld
[Inagawa Junji no Senritsu no Horaa]

Genre: Six Supernatural Ghost tales

review in one breath

This is one of two recently released collections of ghost tales from the prolific productions of Inagawa Junji, Japan's predominant contemporary master storyteller of Japanese ghost tales. Here you experience six supernatural ghost stories haunting contemporary Tokyo-ites.


Kadokawa Mystery & Horror Tales: Vol. 3
[Kadokawa Horaa Bideokan: kiken na kaori no onnatachi]

Genre: Three Supernatural Ghost Tales

review in one breath

This is the third and final of the Kadokawa Horror Bideokan series. This third collection contains three genuinely creepy and unique Japanese ghost tales which are nothing short of entertaining. In light of (re)viewing all nine tales in this series, I can wholly recommend this for some refreshingly creative and effective ghost tales.



Kadokawa Mystery & Horror Tales: Vol. 2
[Kadokawa Horaa Bideokan: O-daidengaeshi no karakuri emaki]

Genre: Three Tales of Ghosts and Horror

review in one breath

This is the second in a series of three collections released by Kadokawa Films. Each of the three tales contained herein is an impressively effective and well-done supernatural tale, making for a very strong horror collection.



Kadokawa Mystery & Horror Tales: Vol. 1
[Kadokawa Horaa Bideokan: zekkyou yashiki e youkoso hen]

Genre: Three Tales of Horror or Karmic Woe

review in one breath

This is the first in a series of three collections released by Kadokawa Films. Each collection contains three tales by (potentially) up and coming directors versed in either supernatural horror or dismal karmic consequence.



Onryou

Genre: Eerily Familiar Supernatural Ghost Stories

review in one breath

This is a collection of 5 tales which I am sure you will find quite HAUNTING. By "haunting" I mean these tales are the mere ghosts of plots and twists which were alive and well in much more effective and successful films and collections of the recent past. Watch this alone; Watch it with friends; Watch it with your eyes closed. It will make no difference. Onryou will remain the haunted graveyard of mediocrity!



Scary True Stories: Ten Haunting Tales from the Japanese Underground
[Honto ni Atta Kowai Hanashi]

Genre: True (!!) Ghost Story Vignettes

review in one breath

Well, here we are, back at the beginning. Some well informed sources say that this series of "true ghost stories" spawned what we now know as J-Horror. Directed by Tsurata Norio, this early collection of ten ghost tales sets the tone and ambiance for the avalanche of japanese horror films which will follow.



Gakkou no Kaidan 2
[aka Gakkou no Kwaidan 2 or Haunted School 2]

Genre: Child-centric Ghost Story

review in one breath

Less than one year following his smash hit Gakkou no Kaidan director Hirayama is back at it, this time with another creepy elementary school chocked full of ghoulies just waiting to scare the jello out a group of unsuspecting kids. Though the basic premise is the same, this sequel provides a much darker and dangerous tale than the original.



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