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?
Both Kaisha no Kaidan 1 & 2 were straight-to-video productions distributed through KSS Video. Like its sequel, Kaisha no Kaidan 2 contains two separate ghost stories, related only through the same main character played by Shirashima Yasuyo. Shirashima has appeared in several B-grade Japanese horror films, including a major role in Joyuu Rei (1996), an early horror film written and directed by Nakata Hideo (of Ringu and Dark Water fame).
These ghost stories seem aimed at audiences in their 20's and 30's, and include the boredom associated with low-level office (kaisha) work and plenty of sex. (!!) The several characters we meet, ranging from the libidinous Division Manager with a thing for his young female subordinates to the plump Office Manager diligently striving to lead an uncooperative group of employees, are intentionally humorous if not slightly overblown. The perspective taken is that of Akasaka Miki (played by Shirashima), an investigative reporter looking into strange phenomena here and there throughout Tokyo. Miki takes on various entry-level jobs at the locations of these bizarre happenings to get the "inside scoop". In addition to the scoop, she also gets thoroughly mired in the mundane boredom of the worker-bee jobs she enters.
Kaisha no Kaidan 2 contains two ghost stories both taking place within the fast-paced environment of contemporary Toyko business offices. In both stories, Miki is sent in to discover the possible truth behind rumors of hauntings or strange occurrences. What she discovers in both amounts to a terrifying encounter with the supernatural, the boredom of menial labor, and the often cringe-inducing relationships required in the workplace. The following are brief summaries of the two stories.
Otsubone-sama no iru koukei (The Appearance of the Former Worker)
Miki's publication manager Shibara catches wind of strange goings on at a downtown office building, so she soon finds herself hired by a small third-floor office in the building tallying endless receipts of customer accounts. As Miki enters the office on her first day she looks around and sees three other uniformed female workers with heads bowed furiously flipping through receipts and typing the totals into their computers. When greeted by the plump yet stern office manager, Miki is introduced to only two of the three girls and is then given a desk next to the much quieter, unintroduced girl. Looking at the girl's name tag Miki can make out the name Shizuno Shyoko.
One evening after work Miki finds herself virtually alone in the building. Before she heads out, she makes a trip to the third floor bathroom. Standing in front of the mirror she suddenly catches a glimpse of Shyoko slowly walking by and entering a stall at the end of the bathroom. Turning around, however, Miki sees nothing and when she inspects the stall, she finds it empty. As she starts to get freaked out, the bathroom door suddenly slams shut with a bang. Walking down the hall to investigate the source of the slamming she walks by a closed office door...
Here, the camera stops, points momentarily toward the door, and then effortlessly glides through it to reveal the randy Division Manager quickly ripping the clothes off an overly eager chubby young woman, one of the two co-workers introduced to Miki. As the camera diligently highlights these two gradually go at it, you, the audience, will suddenly realize that this sex scene is getting far more film time and detailed attention than the previous storyline. And then it will dawn on you that this is completely gratuitous, hot and steamy sex filmed for no other reason than the delight of the director (who, you may recall, had directed Orgasm Mariko just a year prior.) That's right boys and girls, we interrupt this eery ghost pursuit to bring you Chubby Chieko Does Tatsuro!
ANYWAY, after the hot and "heavy" (get it?) panting subsides, the cameraman finally backs out of the closed room and once again catches up with Miki who by this time is halfway home. The next morning, however, when she mentions to the office the strange noises in the third floor bathroom (not to mention the groaning behind that closed door), everyone's face turns somber as the room falls silent. The Office Manager nervously urges her to go back to work and forget the whole thing. Miki sits down at her computer and glances at Shyoko, already furiously typing away. Late in the afternoon, the (libidinous) Division Manger enters and requests the girls to work late. The others quickly makes excuses and complaints, leaving only Miki and Shyoko with the obligation. Late in the evening, when the two girls are trying to wrap things up, Miki looks to find Shyoko panicked, counting through her booklet of counted receipts. Out of the stack of 100, there seems to be one missing. As Shyoko's panic grows, large tears of blood begin streaming from her eyes, as she repeats over and over, "One receipt is missing". As she approaches Miki, who by now is a fearful gelatinous mass, Shyoko suddenly disappears from sight as Miki slumps to the floor in a faint. When the Division Manager finds her sprawled on the floor, he wakes her and listens to her strange story. He incredulously scoffs at her, telling her that no one works at that computer where she saw Shyoko sitting.
Early the next morning when the cleaning lady enters the last stall in the third floor bathroom, to her shock she finds the Division Manager drowned, face down in the toilet. Blood runs from his broken fingernails and large blood stains cover deep scratches in the stall walls. After being questioned by two Keystone Kops, Miki tells the Office Manager all about seeing Shyoko. The Office Manager seems incredibly shaken at the name and again urges her to simply go back to work. Later that day, Miki again catches a glimpse of Shyoko in the bathroom mirror, and wonders aloud regarding what truly happened here. At that moment, she is suddenly transformed into Shyoko and sees the original events through her eyes.
What follows is a cruel story of bullying and the sad demise of a distraught girl whose spirit remains in this world to mete out vengeance against those who wronged her. (And another steamy sex scene demonstrating yet another popular sex position!) The modus operandi of Shyoko's vengeance involves forcefully dragging her victims into the bathroom stall where she possesses them to do all manner of (bizarre) harm against themselves. Except, of course, for the girl who jumps headlong out the third story window into the street below. When all is said and done, you can bet there will be many "Help Wanted" signs in the office window.
Having survived her encounter with Shyoko, Miki is off to her next assignment, this time at a construction firm specializing in large condo high-rises in Tokyo. As Miki shows up for her first day at work, she sees a crowd of people gathered around a hysterical woman dousing herself with kerosene, mumbling wildly that the corporation must return her home and family to her. As the woman lights a match and is about to set herself ablaze, she is greeted with forceful fire extinguishers and hurriedly shuffled away from the entrance of the building. In the fracas, Miki is introduced to her new boss, Tada, with whom she promptly falls head over heels. That evening, she is visited by a creepy little girl sprouting fire from every orifice and appendage, warning Miki "Don't take my daddy!". The next morning, thinking it all a dream, she is surprised to see a small burn mark on her forehead where the child had touched her. But Tada proves to be a very eligible bachelor as well as a successful manager for the company. His sad history, however, contains the tragic loss of his wife and daughter to a fire, a loss which he still struggles with.
When Miki proves to be amazingly adept in the construction business, she uncovers a startling trend which she quickly shares with Tada. It seems the buildings their company have constructed are burning up at an alarming rate. Shocked at the discovery, Tada shares the analysis with his superior, the Director, who seems quite serious about getting to the bottom of things. He informs Tada and Miki not to worry themselves further, that he will initiaite an investigation.
Not being the type to forgo clue-gathering, Miki sneaks around a construction site that night and discovers the use of highly flammable materials in the building. Despite it being late at night, she rushes to Tada's home where she quickly collapses in his arms. As the two comfy up to each other with a beer or three, she ventures to take a peek at the pictures on the mantel and there sees a photo of the young flaming girl she had encountered. No sooner does she realize this than the girl suddenly appears, intent on doing major damage to this shapely hussy who dares seduce her otherwise attentive and loving father. As Miki screams out, Tada rushes into the room, yelling at his daughter to stop. Tada then explains that although he himself is unable to see his flaming ghostly daughter Saori, each of his previous girlfriends have experienced the same burning ghoulie before quickly saying "Toodle Loo Tada".
Will the budding romance between Miki and Tada survive the fiery rage of a ghostly 6 year old brat? Will the Director really investigate the cause of these mysterious, destructive fires? Will Tada get the sushi beat out of him while Miki gets her boob squeezed by yakuza wannabes? Will someone finally slap that whiney little kid?
All these questions AND MORE will be answered before this terrifying tale concludes!
These were fairly fun albeit rather brainless ghost stories. Definitely low-budget and sorely lacking on the special effects, this amounts to the type of stuff one could end up watching on a Saturday morning while nursing a major hangover. No major brain functions required, with a little gratuitous titillation thrown in. Although thoroughly involving ghosts and the supernatural, these are less "horror" than "suspense", as the focus of each story is upon the discovery of the strange occurrences (which in both stories amount to crimes). When the ghoulies are indeed outed, which happens rather early on in each tale, there is very little if any resulting "horror". In fact, let's just say there is absolutely no horror. But I think this series knows that and intentionally tries to come across as slightly humorous and light-hearted.
This is certainly nothing you would want to purchase, but if you can find it to rent for a couple dollars it is worth seeing. (Heck, that one sex scene alone might be worth two bucks.)
Version: Unsubtitled VHS
|No cultural insight from this low-budget production other than a view of the boredom caused by entry-level menial jobs.||At least three flowing pools of blood. Several rather vicious self-clawings. One drowning by flush. One libidinous insertion of light bulb gone terribly awry. One headlong leap into traffic below. Four untimely hysterical conflagrations.||How do I love thee? Let me count the ways... Well, there's the front way, the back way, the top way, the other way, and of course, the moaning loudly way. (Did I forget any?)||No points for strangeness, though a nice try by confining these stories to comically dreary work environments.|