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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!



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.



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.



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.



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!)



Kichiku Dai Enkai
[Banquet of the Beasts]

Genre: Extreme Youth Political Violence

review in one breath

In 1972, a small group of students affiliated with the Allied Red Army (Reng�e Sekigun) held a hostage in the mountain village of Karuizawa in Nagano-ken (Japan). The stand-off and ensuing battle between the student revolutionaries and the police were broadcast live into Japanese living rooms via intense television coverage. When the police finally overcame the leftist radicals, they found that the small group had violently turned upon themselves, committing brutal murders in order to purge themselves of those not fully committed to the path they had taken. This infamous scenario became known as the Asama Sans�o Incident (Asama is the name of the mountain there) and is generally viewed as the collapse of the New Left student movement of the 1970's.



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.



Embalming
[Embamingu]

Genre: Frankenstein Meets Psychoanalytic Acupuncture!

review in one breath

When the embalmed head of a powerful congressman's son goes missing the investigation leads to, among other things, a shady buddhist priest, a renegade embalmer, a highly dysfunctional teen love gone terribly awry, and black market organ trade. Throw a little acupuncture and schizophrenia into to the mix and you've got the perfect recipe for this truly bizarre tale!



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 ...



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.



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.



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