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-Lei: Shinrei Mystery File was the first in a growing collection of JuRei/Ju-Lei (Cursed Spirit) videos/films. This and its subsequent two sequels (Ju-Lei 2: Satsujin genba no noroi (2000) and Ju-Lei 3: Noroi no Exocist (2001)) were straight-to-video productions, and were followed by two theatrical releases, Jurei: The Movie (2002) and Jurei: Kuro Jurei (2004). (And yes, they actually changed the spelling of "Ju[l/r]ei" for the theatrical releases.) All of these versions were originally produced by Broadway Productions which is notorious (in my book) for outrageously bizarro and ineffective "documentary-style" horror. Even after diligently watching the masterpiece which is Ju-Lei: Shinrei Mystery File, my opinion of Broadway has not changed...
Of the five versions, I've been able to get ahold of four and have reviewed each on this site. (I'm still hunting for Ju-Lei 2.) [Update: I actually found a video store here with this title on the shelf, but according the the clerk someone has apparently stolen the video. (arrgh!) My hypothesis: the renter simply dropped dead in the middle of what could have only been an unbearably painful viewing experience, rendering him unable to return this cinematic gem.) The other films in the series are:
Ju-Lei: Shinrei Mystery File (2000)
Ju-Lei 2: Satsujin Genba no noroi (2000)
Ju-Lei 3: Noroi no Ekusosisto (2001)
Ju-Rei: The Movie (2003)
Ju-Rei 2: Kuro Jurei/The Uncanny (2004)
Like all the Jurei/Ju-Lei projects, Ju-Lei: Shinrei Mystery File consists of several separate ghost stories. (Only in Jurei: Kuro Jurei are the stories interrelated.) Prior to and between the five episodes, wanna-be spookily philosophical narration is provided by a hushed voice who, despite knowing this train-wreck first hand, dares ask audiences time and again: Now, wasn't that scary?? Hmm??
Each episode is pretty much an art-student level production, shot with digital video, often without the more luxurious technological advances such as tripods and microphones. Most of the dialogue was (all too) obviously re-recorded in the studio and dubbed over the original, often as out of sync as those old Saturday afternoon kung-fu movies on television. This technological frugality is nowhere more apparent than in the special effects department which seems to boast a single tube of day-glo red fake blood.
Be that as it may, however, we here at SARUDAMA.COM have laborously watched and analyzed this complex masterpiece and offer you the following review (all because we love you).
Episode One: Madosoto ni ukabu mono [The Thing Floating Outside the Window]
Three cute high school girls chit-chat amongst themselves. (One of these gals is Nakamaru Shion whom you might recognize from Gakkou kaidan: Norowareta kioku (1998)). Yuuko starts to tell the others about a Haunted Website she recently stumbled across while surfing the internet. The rumor goes that whoever posts a message to the site is soon haunted and mysteriously dies. (So be sure to bookmark that one boys and girls!) Though Yuuko seems quite convinced of this and is growing increasingly distraught over the fact that she has posted to the site, the others are more skeptical, so much so that another of the group, Eri, dares to post a message to the site just to demonstrate that it is harmless.
Harmless as a plunge off a tall building, that is. Both Yuuko and Eri soon turn up dead through mysterious circumstances, leaving our sole survivor to figure out what has happened. This, of course, requires her to repeatedly visit the Haunted Website (very late at night, in her darkened room) until she can resist no longer and posts a message...
Within moments, she receives a number of unmarked emails, each containing the message: DON'T LOOK OUT THE WINDOW NOW.
She looks out the window. (!?!)
And there, to her utter horror is a plastic head floating in mid-air! (!!!) It quietly beckons her to "Come out (the window). It's so quiet here." In a renewed respect for life, she hysterically cries that she doesn't want to die, slumping to the floor. The plastic head apparently rethinks its modus operandi and quietly floats away.
[Note: Here is where the narrator jumps in to ask you how scared you are after watching that story. It is also here that I started to look for a "strangle narrator" button on my remote control.]
Episode Two: Joshuseki ni dare ka iru [There is Someone in the Passenger Seat]
Hiro excitedly tells his friend Keisuke about the great deal he just got on a used car. As Keisuke admires the car from a distance, however, he is sure he could see a ghostly woman's face peering out at him from inside it. But the apparition soon vanishes and he forgets about the ordeal. Very late that night Keisuke receives a very frightened and panicked call from Hiro begging him to come and pick him up. This results in amazingly prolonged video footage of driving and driving and driving.
Finally Keisuke locates Hiro's abandoned car, but when he attempts to start it up, it seems to work without any problem. From the shadows emerges a trembling Hiro who refuses to get into the car. Keisuke offers to drive the used car back home if Hiro will drive the other car.
As Keisuke drives down the street, the steering wheel and brakes suddenly fail to respond. It is then that he sees a ghostly hand grabbing the wheel and hears a girl's voice mischieviously giggling. Looking down toward the passenger-side floorboard, he sees a bloodied young woman kneeling there staring straight into his eyes and adamantly tugging on the steering wheel. Keisuke screams and is able to stop the vehicle by crashing it into an embankment. Now the woman's face is directly next to his as she whispers: "It would have been more fun if you died."
Keisuke runs from the car hysterically screaming (and screaming), chasing after the car Hiro is driving.
[More narrator. More strangle button.)
Episode Three: Doa o tataku mono [Something Knocking at the Door]
A lone businessman settles down for the night at a hotel while on a busines trip. The modest room does offer a small work area, a TV, two small beds, and a decent bath. The room also contains a small picture on the wall, which is hanging so crookedly that the guy is compelled to straighten it. As he does so, he takes a peek behind the frame and finds a Shinto Protective Prayer affixed to the wall behind the picture. Not thinking much of it, he sits back down to enjoy his beer and TV. After about 15 minutes of footage of him sitting there staring into the TV, he decides to go to bed. As he lays his head on the pillow, he feels something strange, and looks to find A DISGUSTING AMOUNT OF HAIR ALL OVER THE PILLOW. (eeww!!) Rather than get into the other bed as any one in my universe would do, this brilliant lad takes a tissue and begins raking the pillow and sheets, eventually nabbing an entire glob of somebody's hair. (eeww!!)
By this time, his beer is kicking in and he trots off to the bathroom, where he realizes that the toilet will not flush. Removing the tank lid, he aggressively thrusts his arm into the tank water and pulls out A HUGE WAD OF HAIR. He is now thoroughly freaked out and disgusted by his hairy room (as am I), when a sudden knock at the door diverts his attention. Looking through the peep hole, he sees no one outside in the hallway. Then there is another knock. Looking again through the peep hole, he sees a bloody woman (with short hair) standing outside, beckoning him to open the door. Screaming and crying like the big baby he is, he runs to the hairy bed and hides under the covers
As the audience looks on in horror (or apathy), we see long locks of black hair slowly slither into the room from under the door. But apparently the (short haired) bloody woman's head is to wide to fit under the door, because she quickly abandons this scare tactic and simply opens the door. As our salaryman weeps annoyingly under his hairy covers, the bloody woman walks ever closer. When she is nearly on top of him (!), the guy suddenly falls silent and peers from out of the hairy covers. There, face to face, is the bloody woman who then smilingly says: I can't hear you. (Wha??)
Next thing we know, it is morning, and the sleepy-eyed salaryman wakes and gets out of the hairy bed. (Are those cigarette butts I see in the ashtray!?) He hurriedly gets dressed and heads out the door, but not before looking through the peep hole.
[Now fast-forwarding through the strangled Narrator.]
Episode Four: Oshiire [Closet] (Trivia Time!: Not to be confused with "Oshiri" which is, or course, your "Butt".)
Little 4 year old Mai sleeps peacefully in the lap of her mother, as they both enjoy the quiet warmth of the sunny afternoon. As the mother sits in the living room, she also begins to doze off, and is drawn into a vivid memory of her childhood in the same house. She remembers playing as a young girl with a bright red ball, which inadvertently rolled into a small closet. As she reached in to retrieve the toy, she is suddenly pulled into the closet, with the door firmly closing behind her. Try as she might, she is unable to open the door, and can only cry loudly for the help of her mother.
As the little girl sits in the dark closet, she suddenly hears another crying child's voice. Looking to the other corner she sees a ghostly little boy with a candle. He too is crying, repeatedly saying he is scared. As the little girl looks on in horror, the little boy turns and looks at her and then slowly makes his way toward her, all the time saying "It's scary." Just then, the closet door opens and her mother's hand reaches in to pull her out.
When the mother wakes from this daydream, little Mai is nowhere to be found. Although she searches and frantically calls out for the child, there is no reply. She then recalls the closet and hesitantly makes her way into the room, and slowly opens the closet door. IT IS EMPTY. At that moment, Mai walks into the room as if nothing had happened. (???)
[Die Narrator! Die!]
Episode Five: Hebi [Snake]
Rinka and Hitomi sit together on a park bench, each chatting away on their cell phones. From there they decide to head home, taking a short-cut through the woods. Once home, Rinka notices that her ankle is itchy, as if she has a rash. Removing her sock, she sees a strange spiral bruise as if she had been strongly gripped by a coiling snake. This does not bode well with Rinka, who has had an almost obsessive fear of snakes since a childhood encounter. By evening, Rinka is shocked to see that the coiled bruise has moved from her ankle to her thigh.
The next day, when Rinka does not show up for school, Hitomi (played by Fukami Rie who went on to star (and get killed) in Akuma ga Sumu Ie 2001) decides to visit her. What she finds is a hysterical Rinka who talks on and on about snakes. When Hitomi fails to get the point, Rinka gets angry and the two are soon struggling (woo hoo! Catfight!), during which Hitomi gets a glimpse of a large coiled bruise around Rinka's abdomen.
When Hitomi calls Rinka to see how she is doing, all she can hear is hysteric screaming. Rinka has apparently gone beserk and we see the coiled bruise around her neck. She is incessantly tearing her sheets into long snake-like ribbons, until her entire room is littered with them. When Hitomi finally reaches the house and barges into the room, she finds Rinka dead on the floor, apparently from strangling herself (is that even possible!?) with one of the ribbons of sheet. Hitomi can only note that there is no coiling bruise anywhere on Rinka.
Do you really need a verdict for this? Ju-Lei: Shinrei Mystery File is on even par with several other Broadway productions such as the brain-explodingly bad Rensa and the slumber-fest Kiku to Nowareru Tape. If you are the type who is willing to sit through agonizingly poor attempts at horror (which apparently I am), then here is yet another video from Broadway with which you can inflict irrevocable mental harm upon yourself.
Version: Unsubtitled VHS
|Don't even ask.||Despite my best attempts to kill the narrator, he seems to have survived for the sequel.||The bloody woman trying to get into the salaryman's hotel room looked promising, but that sissy totally wimped out.||Not even for the floating plastic head!|