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.
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.) They 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)
As in each of the Ju-Lei/Ju-Rel series, Ju-Lei 3 consists of a collection of unrelated ghost stories. (Only in Jurei 2: Kuro Jurei are the stories interrelated.) In Ju-Lei 3, each story is introduced by a professional exorcist and derives from letters he has received from people seeking his help from malevolent spirits. Each story is presented from the vantage of the person writing the letter and describes a terrifying experience she/he has had.
Below are summaries of each of the four stories contained in Ju-Lei 3:
Episode One: Nowareta onna no ko kokosei no hanashii
(The Story of the Haunted High School Girl)
When three girls become curious at the long absence of their friend Tamami, they decide to visit her house and investigate. Unfortunately, they choose to do so in the dead of the night, when all manner of creepy manifestations are waiting to seriously freak them out. Once inside the house, each of the three girls experiences her own version of the terror. Tomoko enters the living room where she finds time is literally going backwards to the exact moment of a dreadful event. Eri is grotesquely transformed by creepy, malevolent spirits she encounters. And Megumi, discovering the demise of her friends can only flee to the attic where, of course, nothing good is waiting for her.
Episode Two: Oyako Shinrei no noroi hanashii
(The Story of the Mother and Child Spirits)
A young couple out enjoying a brief day trip stumble across an old buddhist shrine. The appearance of the place makes them curious enough to disregard the "No Entry" signs and enter into a hewn enclave in the rock housing various statuettes of Buddha, each with a prayer attached. Somewhat irreverently, the girl asks to have her photo taken as she leans against one of the Buddhas. Immediately following the photo session, the boy experiences crippling migraines which cause them to seek immediate shelter for the night.
As the girl nurses the increasingly unstable boyfriend, things go from bizarre to berserk as she slowly realizes the error of her irreverent ways at the shrine. She is forced to muster all wit and courage when terrifying apparitions soon display themselves in all their force. Meanwhile the boyfriend lays in bed, slowing transforming into a glowing, growling demonic puppet of the mother and child whose spirits the couple foolishly disturbed.
Episode Three: Mura no nowareta shoujou no hanashii
(The Story of the Haunted Village Girl)
A young hiker makes his way through a small village in rural Saitama-ken. As night falls, he sets up camp near a small shrine, but is soon awakened by a strange growling sound. As he follows the noise to an adjacent building, he peers inside to discover an exorcism taking place. Inside the small room he sees a young woman tied hand and foot with rope, loudly moaning in the voice he recognized as the earlier growl. Before her sits several young people and an elderly robed man who is apparently an exorcist. As each of the young people tell the exorcist of their dreadful, life-threatening experiences with the girl, we relive each episode. Evidence that the girl is indeed possessed seems to mount.
And the girl is indeed creepy, not only because of the haunting stories the others tell about her, including the guy who says he had actually killed and buried her only to see her rise again from the grave (!), but mainly because she kicks the exorcist's robed butt once he begins the exorcism showdown. With the exorcist sprawled out on the floor, drooling into the tatami, the possessed girl easily snaps her bonds and gleefully turns her attention to her accusers, demonstrating the eternal aptness of the ancient zen proverb: Make sure the girl from hell is securely tied before you start bad-mouthing her. The shockingly ghoulish smirk of this demoness then turns to peer straight into the eyes of our voyeuristic hiker as he quietly peeps through the window. He then moves fast, but she moves faster.
Episode Four: Nowareta kodomo no hanashii
(The Story of the Haunted Child)
While her husband is away on a business trip, a mother is increasingly disturbed by the bizarre behavior of her young boy Taoyaki. Taoyaki recently seems obsessed with water, waking in the wee hours of the night to drink glass upon glass of water while staring into the static of the television screen. Little Taoyaki seems to have found an invisible friend with whom he talks and laughs, and occasionally screams for help from. In those instances, the mother rushes in to find a ghostly apparition of a disheveled man floating above Taoyaki. Due to the influence of this malevolent water-loving apparition, Taoyaki soon seems possessed, becoming a serious danger to himself, his mother and his freaked-out little classmates.
This was by far the better of the (two) video versions of Ju-Lei I have seen. The stories here are relatively creepy, particularly Episode Three which has enough potential and content to be expanded into an independent horror project. For the most part the stories are original and are not simply derivatives of other ghost/horror films. Although the production quality is definitely straight-to-video caliber, the ghost stories here are interesting and entertaining. One can only imagine what they might have been under more skillful and serious production.
Version: Unsubtitled VHS
|Not much culture here other than a paid advertisement for professional exorcists.||Some disturbing scenes ranging from murder victims to elementary youth holding a knife to his neck.||Although the girlfriend booked a hotel room for the two of them, he had a terrible headache.||Some interesting, original ghost stories, albeit less than effectively captured on film.|