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 3 follows the same formula, with DJ Kumiko and guest Tsunoda discussing readers' letters. Each letter relates a creepy ghost story which is (effectively) dramatized and then commented on in detail by Tsunoda. Tsunoda's commentary is fascinating in both its historical overview of each phenomena explored as well as the parallels to other supernatural stories based on similar principles. The result is a rather educational and creepy exploration of particular ghost stories from a traditional Japanese perspective.
Though each episode is quite brief, the depiction of horror is rather effective. This series is aimed at adult audiences and thus consistently delivers creepy manifestations. Throughout both the videos in this series which I have seen thus far, I remain very impressed at how (seemingly) effortlessly truly haunting images are here conjured up.
Juusan Yoru 1 covered nights one through four. Juusan Yoru 2 contains night five (Shisha no Koe - Voice of the Dead), six (Reibai - The Medium) and seven (Byooin - Hospital). The third video contains the following three ghostly tales:
Eighth Night: Mairu Tomo (Pen Pal)
As a housewife, Keiko is literally a wreck. While her husband is away on prolonged business trips, she is literally climbing the walls in isolation. As the dishes and garbage pile up in her house, her depression is amplified by her constantly crying daughter. All this changes, however, when she decides to go "online" in search of some interaction. On the internet, Keiko finds a bastion of voices from similarly situated housewives. Merely realizing the number of souls in her own situation seems to lift a burden from her and she is soon able to master the many chores she had left undone, leaving her with a wonderfully clean home and a smiling child. (?)
At the sound of incoming email, Keiko gleefully runs to the computer to read her mail. One particularly good friend she has recently made is Kieko. (Yes, I know Keiko and Kieko look amazingly similar, but Keiko is pronounced "Kay-Ko" while Kieko is pronounced "Key-Echo".) The excitement of her growing email friendship with Kieko does not abate, until, that is, she learns (a) none of her other online friends have ever heard of Kieko, and (b) Kieko is the name of a woman who recently jumped to her death from the balcony of the highrise they are now living. (Any guesses as to which unit she jumped from?)
When Kieko (the dead one) finally shows up for a friendly meeting... let's just say you'll think twice before ever starting up an internet friendship.
Ninth Night: Shi-go-rei (Protective Spirit)
This was an amazingly done story. Poor Kasumi soon relaizes that she has an infatuated stalker obsessed with her. Each day he leaves a little o-bento (lunchbox) with her favorite food inside. When she consistently throws them away immediately, he soon grows perturbed and becomes aggressive. The creepiness and believability of this pimply-faced stalker is all too real and remarkably effective. In fact, this kid is so creepy, it makes this entire revenge tale very sweet to behold.
As our junior's demented libido gets the best of him, he calls Kasumi late at night and threatens her with bodily harm. After a relentless barrage of psychological abuse, Kasumi can do nothing other than instinctively pray for the help of her departed (elder) sister. As the incense burns alongside her brief, intense prayer, Kasumi falls unconscious as the ghoulish yet protective sister emerges.
Our poor pubescent stalker, pounding on the door and ringing the doorbell 100 times, is in for a BIG surprise. Although exhilarated to see Kasumi's door slowly open at his persistent pounding, happiness quickly turns to horror when Kasumi's demonic sister sinisterly greets him and starts kicking stalker butt.
Tenth Night: Tegami (The Letter)
Machiko and her friend are vacationing in the Kansai region and have made reservations at a wonderfully picturesque inn. Not only does this inn boast its own hot spring (which our two gals will soon be bathing in), but also dates back 150 years to the Edo era.
It becomes immediately apparent that Machiko is the poster-child for the annoying aspects of ADHD. Between her snorting, guffawing, screaming and yelling, we (the audience) are supposed to approach an element of suspense and horror. Instead, I was hoping that Satan himself would appear and simply haul this noisy delinquent to the nether regions.
Instead, after yelling at the top of her lungs (while in the hot spring) that she would love to have a cute kid, she is visited that night by a rather creepy little girl. Even Machiko's terror-filled screams are annoying, and undoubtedly sent the poor ghost-kid into eternal hiding, not, however, before dropping her ghostly toy-ball. When Machiko wakes the next morning and finds the toy-ball, which she clearly recalls seeing the ghost-girl playing with, nestled between her legs (?) they quickly consult the episode to the inn's owner, who readily confesses that decades prior, a young child named Su-e died from pneumonia while at the inn.
The owner leads them to a small shrine with a picture of Su-e, which Machiko immediately recognizes. Out of good-spiritedness, Machiko leaves the toy-ball at the altar. Later that day, Machiko decides to write a letter to Su-e, expressing her regreat at having screamed and fainted at her appearance. Machiko's rather touching letter not only attempts to comfort the very young Su-e, but also asks her blessing in Machiko's search for a good boyfriend/husband.
Machiko's letter (read by DJ Endo and Tsunoda) confess that no such man has yet entered her life, but she is still hopeful. After watching only 30 minutes of Machiko's uber-annoying character, all I can say is that ghost kid better have some friends in very high places to find Machiko a husband (and woe be to he!).
These brief ghost tales are well produced and provide plenty of creepy/compelling moments. The stylistic depiction of horror itself will remind you of the subtle yet effective styles of the (now) classic horror features. Well worth checking out if you can find this.
Version review: Unsubtitled VHS
|Third of four videos capturing the popular TV series dedicated to ghost stories and traditional superstitions. Tsunoda Jirou appears as himself to (insightfully) comment on creepy phenomena||No display of violence here (though horrific enough so as to be inappropriate for young kids). Particularly effective ghoulies.||nada||This low-budget, experimental series produces consistently effective depictions of creepy ghosts and dreadful horror.|