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Recently in supernatural 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.



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.



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.



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.



Yumeji

Genre: Taisho Era Artistic Spiral Into Madness

review in one breath

Artist Yumeji has gained fame and recognition for his skills at painting as well as notoriety for his untamed lifestyle. Despite his betrothal to a beautiful and timid young woman of high birth, his libido turns to his many female models. Despite this freedom from constraint, his lust and artistic sentiment cause him nothing but an increasing awareness of the elusive embodiment of true Beauty. While traveling he encounters a mesmerizing widow who relentlessly searches for her husband's body in the nearby lake, believing him killed at the hands of a ferocious roaming bandit. Infatuated with her beauty, he feigns to help her look for the corpse, only to unlock the mystery himself thereby sending him to further depths of debauchery and despair. This is the third and final film in director Suzuki Seijun's critically acclaimed Taisho Trilogy.



Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis
[Teito Monogatari]

Genre: Battle Of White and Black Onmyoji Magic over Tokyo's Urban Development [Taisho Era 1912-1926]

review in one breath

This incredibly ambitious and well-cast film depicts a spiritualized version of Japan's gradual turn away from its ancestral religion and toward modernity starting in the early Taisho Era and ending in the Showa Era. Whereas actual secular history accounts for the great earthquake of 1923 and the subsequent rebuilding of Tokyo using modernized architecture and technology (such as a subway system), here we are told of both evil and benevolent spiritual forces at work behind all these events. Available now in subtitled Region 1 DVD and running at slightly over 2 hours, this is a highly involved and sometimes confusing tale of Japan's irrevocable turn toward modernity.



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.



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.



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.



Yakouchuu
[Noctiluca Scintillans??!]

Genre: Supernatural Boob-Fest or The Horny Adventures of the Invisible Man

review in one breath

While police investigate the suspicious death of Okuda Koichi, one by one his co-workers die (usually in the throes of passionate sex) in very bloody and mysterious ways. The diabolical killer has skillfully eluded all police detection, almost as if he were invisible, which of course, will also allow him to watch huge numbers of buxom girls disrobe and jiggle before getting on with his modus operandi.



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.



Sky High
[Sukai Hai]

Genre: Supernatural Crime Drama

review in one breath

Sky High is based on the popular manga by Tsutomu Takahashi. (Takahashi also authored another manga entitled Alive which director Kitamura Ryuhei cinematically recreated one year prior to this film.) This theatrical version by Kitamura serves as a prequel to the very popular 10-part TV series (entitled Sky High) produced for TV Asahi (which aired in March 2003) for which Kitamura directed the 10th episode. While the TV series focused predominantly on the predicament and adventures of Mina (Shaku Yumiko - who plays the same character in the movie), the Keeper of the Gate through which slain, departed souls must pass, this theatrical version focuses nearly exclusively on the events whereby Mina becomes this Gate Keeper.



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.)



Reborn from Hell 2: Jubei's Revenge
[Makai Tensho: mado-hen]

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

review in one breath

"Can Jubei rescue the Princess Ohiro and stop the Demon Warriors in time to save the ENTIRE WORLD???!!"

Alright! Our one-eyed hunk of samurai, Jubei Yagyu, is back to kick some demon derri�re, and this time he means business! By the end of the prequel Reborn from Hell: Samurai Armageddon we had no doubt that Jubei rocked! By the end of this movie, we will be utterly awash in Jubei manhood and the shameful puniness of our own pectorals!



Reborn from Hell: Samurai Armageddon
[Makai tensho: The Armageddon]

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

review in one breath

Here is a bizarre tale that mixes apocalypticism, classic goth horror, one-eyed samurais, and nekked virgins!



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. (!)



Onmyoji 2

Genre: Quasi-historical Supernatural Drama

review in one breath

Abe no Seimei, Japan's greatest Yin Yang Master is back! And this time he must battle the evil reincarnation of one of Shinto's most primordial deities!



Onmyoji
[The Yin Yang Masters]

Genre: Quasi-historical Supernatural Drama

review in one breath

Set in Japan's Heian Period (794 to 1192 AD), Onmyoji draws a picturesque world straight out of the Genji Monogatari. In many ways, the Heian Period can be viewed as the cultural zenith of Japan, for during this time Japanese art and literature flourished. It is during this period that the samurai class is first established, that the Japanese writing style of Hiragana is developed, and higher Japanese culture distinguishes itself from that of monolithic China sitting just across the Japan Sea. The period is marked by the temporary movement of the capitol from Edo (Tokyo) to Heian-kyo, today's Kyoto. The most culturally significant piece of literature produced during this era was the Genji Monogatari, a story of dynastic succession and turmoil. The Genji Monogatari's value lies not only in its status as one of the earliest epics in Japanese literature (and as a cultural treasure due to the wonderful paintings contained in the scroll), but also for the unparalleled vivid description of life within Japan's High Court and Royal households.



Makai Tensho
[Samurai Resurrection / Reborn From Hell]

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

review in one breath

Makai Tensho, Makai Tensho, Makai Tensho (Makai Tensho).

Only a mere five movies share this same title, attesting to the fact that this is a very popular traditional tale. Each retelling is undoubtedly different in both seriousness and content. The story itself does not seem to be fixed and can take on several forms, as long as most of the main characters are present. (For a very over-the-top rendition of this tale, be sure to check out the (hilarious) two-part Reborn From Hell: Samurai Armageddon .)



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.



Kamen Gakuen
[Persona]

Genre: Supernatural Psychological Mystery

review in one breath

Into the bully-infested home room class struts a fearless, ceramic-masked student. Squarely confronting a gang of ruffians, it is soon discovered that behind the mask is none other than Danta, an otherwise weakling student who has heretofore been picked on relentlessly by these same bullies. Donned with his mask, however, Danta exhibits a totally other personality, lacking fear and intimidation. The other students, looking on, soon experiment with the power of masks and find to their glee that behind a facade of anonymity, they experience an overwhelming power to act without the confines of self-consciousness.



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.



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

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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.



Izakaya Yurei
[Ghost Pub]

Genre: Humanitarian Ghost Story

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Sotaro (Hagiwara Kenichi) is a hard working owner of a traditional Japanese izakaya (pub) which nightly serves its neighborhood patrons his traditional style cooking, cold beer, and warmed sake. After every day's long, hard work, Sotaro retreats to his living quarters above the pub, where his deathly ill wife Shizuko (Muroi Shigeru) quietly lies. Through his gentle encouragement she is able to smile and chat, but she feels the inevitable approach of death encroaching upon her. Almost jokingly, Shizuko disapprovingly suggests that after her death, Sotaro will quickly find another woman. And though Sotaro adamantly swears to the contrary, Shizuko does not seem satisfied until she makes him seal his promise, warning that if he should break it, a haunting obake (monster) will surely come.



ISOLA
[ISOLA: Tajuu jinkaku shojo]

Genre: Supernatural Psycho-babble Horror

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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!)



The Haunted Lantern
[Otsuyu - Kaidan botan dourou]

Genre: Traditional Japanese Kaidan

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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?(!)



Gakkou no Kaidan 2
[Haunted School 2]

Genre: Child-centric Ghost Story

review in one breath

The original 1995 version of Gakko no Kaidan, directed by Hirayama Hideyuki was an instant hit with Japanese audiences, resulting in a series of direct sequels, TV series, and a remake. Gakko no Kaidan 2 is also directed by Hirayama and, as the name implies, recreates the basic formula of the original, a haunted school which provides the setting for creepy and harrowing experiences. Apart from the director, however, there is very little overlap with the original. The sequel introduces an entirely new cast, again made up predominantly of elementary students. Even the haunted school itself is a different school from the original's.



Doppelganger
[Dopperugenga]

Genre: Quasi-supernatural Psychological Suspense

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In Doppelganger director Kurosawa Kiyoshi continues his fascination with the notion of human individuality. The exploration of this theme can be found in most of his major films (including Cure (1997), Kourei (2000), Charisma (2000), and Akarui Mirai (2003)) and generally involves the evolution of the main characters' moral standing in the face of strange and difficult experiences. In Doppelganger, Kurosawa's exploration takes an entirely new approach and involves the impact upon individuality when the main character confronts potential madness and the sudden appearance of an evil twin ("doppelganger").



Dead End Run

Genre: Experimental Supernatural-Action Vignettes

review in one breath

Director Ishii Sogo is on an excellent roll in terms of producing top-notch Japanese cinema. Consider, for example, his most recent films. Gojoe (2000), at a rather epic 138 minutes, was excellent both cinematically and choreographically and continues to rank at the top of my "swordsmanship extraordinaire" category. His next film, Electric Dragon 80,000 V(olt) (2001), is much more brief at 55 minutes and filmed entirely in black and white, but has nonetheless earned the reputation of an action packed (electric) explosion.



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.



Cure
[Kyua]

Genre: Quasi-supernatural Psychological Suspense

review in one breath

Cure is the first theatrical film directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, who later went on to direct many popular thriller/horror films including "Hebi no Michi" (Serpent's Path, 1997), Charisma (1999), Kourei (Seance, 1999) and "Ka�iro" (2001).



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.



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

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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.



Afterlife
[Wonderful Life / Wandafuru raifu]

Genre: Supernatural Drama

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This film, written and directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, gets an "A" (in my book) for conceptual creativity. Afterlife (also known as Wandafuru raifu or "Wonderful Life") truly challenges its audience (as well as its characters) to ponder deeply the meaning of life and death. The story is set in what one might call "limbo", although here this consists of an entire world which looks, feels and is populated exactly as the real world. The characters, however, are all deceased and we accompany them through their first seven days of this "limbo" during which they must decide on only one memory from their life with which they will spend the rest of eternity. While the many characters wrestle with isolating a single significant memory from among many, or from among none, we in the audience will inevitably begin thinking along these same lines, searching for criteria whereby some past moments are deemed more valuable than others. Should a "fun" moment be prioritized above a "serene" moment? Or how about the moment of sexual ecstacy or the moment of secure love?



Death Train [Kyofu Ressha]

Genre: Mind-Bending Death Tale

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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

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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

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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!!

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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
[Desu Noto]

Genre: Supernaturally-Fueled Crime Thriller

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This highly involved and plot-twisting anime series revolves around a supernatural "Death Notebook" which falls into the hands of an over-zealous young man intent on bringing about a new, more "just" world order. Those whose names are written in the Death Note promptly die in a highly untraceable manner, creating the ultimate weapon against Japan's rising crime rate and ineffective judicial system. But the new found tool comes at a price, as soon the deadly line is blurred between justifiable corporal punishment and sheer Utopian ideology. This is the anime version of the highly popular manga and subsequent live-action film versions.



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

Genre: Supernaturally-Fueled Crime Thriller

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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.




Nightmare Detective [Akumu Tantei]

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

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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

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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)

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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)

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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.



Apartment 1303 [1303 go shitsu]

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

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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

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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

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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

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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.




Kunoichi: Deadly Mirage [Genma Sappocho: Shensengumi Hishou]

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

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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

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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

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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!



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

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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]

????????

Genre: Supernatural Sci-Fi Horror

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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.



Legend of the Eight Samurai
[Satomi Hakkenden]

?????

Genre: Melodramatic and Colorful Retelling of the Hakkenden

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Eight karmically bound warriors find themselves at the forefront of a battle with demonic strongholds over the future of Japan. This is director Fukasaku Kinji's cinematic adaptation of the Hakkenden, Japan's oldest and longest literary epic.



Kibakichi
[Bakko Yokaiden Kibakichi]

Genre: Traditional Schlock-Gore Monster Horror

Version reviewed: Region 1 subtitled DVD

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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

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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

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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.



Ghosts of Kasane Swamp
[Kaidan Kasane ga Fuchi]

Genre: Classic Japanese Horror

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.



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

Genre: Six Supernatural Traditional/Urban Legends

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.



Aragami
[The Raging God of Battle]

??

Genre: Supernatural Samurai Action

review in one breath

Aragami was released in Japan as the second half of a cinematic "double feature" entitled Duel (2003). The first feature is entitled 2LDK, directed by Tsutsumi Yukihiko. The (well-known) story goes that Tsutsumi and Kitamura made a wager as to who could develop the more exciting "duel" film given the following criteria: (a) the film must only involve a duel (to the death) between two individuals, (b) the film set must be limited to a single location, and (c) the film must be shot within seven days.



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