Scary True Stories - Honto Ni Atta Kowai Hanashi (Tsuruta Norio 1991)


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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.


prologue

If you are like me, you are near the point of utter exhaustion over similar/identical recurring themes in japanese horror ("j-horror") films. School-aged girls haunted by kiddie ghoulies or long black flowing hair... how (OH SO) many films contain all the basic tried and true elements!

Thus Scary True Tales would seem to arrive in a veritable glut of similarly themed DVDs recently released to the West. BUT, dear readers, there are CRITICAL differences between this collection of tales and all the others like it.

For example, this collection is the *first* of the "Honto ni Atta" videos. In other words, ALL the others (and there are something like forty more direct or indirect sequels) have piggy-backed on the creativity and effectiveness of this original collection by Tsurata.

Secondly, those in the know consider this collection a critical genesis in the formation of what has come to be known as "j-horror". Keep in mind that this collection predates Ringu by seven years. I recently read a very fascinating article by Nicholas Rucka at Midnight Eye regarding the rise and fall of "j-horror" in which this collection of Tsuruta's "True Stories" figures prominently.

intro

This DVD is entitled, and I quote: Scary True Stories: Ten Haunting Tales from the Japanese Underground. It has a running time of 138 minutes. This rather epic length of the Western release is due to its being a composite of three separate collections, each directed by Tsuruta. Miraculously, this DVD retains the order of the original series.

Each tale herein is purportedly a TRUE ghost story described and/or narrated by the survivor involved and commences with the name and location of the one submitting the story. Each of the three collections begins with a series of creepy real-life photographs in which strange appendages or faces appear while a rather ominous narrator suggests you are now entering the highway to HELL.

The following are brief descriptions of the ten tales and their three original collections.

I. Honto ni Atta Kowai Hanashi (1991)

The Lonely Girl
When everyone else has left for the evening, a poor girl learns the reality behind her high school's locker room secret.

Spiritual Flight
After the death of her spiritualist grandmother, a young girl is propelled into a dream-like flight across the landscape toward a haunting graveyard. After waking, she cannot but help investigate whether her dream was real.

Mystery of the Red Earring
After finding a mesmerizingly beautiful earring next to a high-rise apartment, a young girl discovers it holds a strange and frightful power. When she invites her friend to witness the phenomena, the gruesome source of the haunting is revealed.

II. Honto ni Atta Kowai Hanashi Dai Ni Yoru (Night 2) (1991)

The Gymnasium In Summer
Three junior high girls decide to investigate the reality of their school's ghost tale once and for all.

House of the Restless Spirits
Due to the father's sudden job change, a family is forced to move from their home in the country to a rather dilapidated house in Tokyo. What the home bound wife and daughter soon realize, however, is that the house is hardly their own.

The Hospital at Midnight
A newbie nurse is quickly acquainted with the PLETHORA of departed ghoulies apparently lurking around every Japanese hospital.

III. Shin Honto ni Atta Kowai Hanashi Yuu Gen Kai (Realm of Spectres) (1992)

Be Gone Crone!
A young girl quickly learns whether an urban legend incantation works or not.

My Friend at the Stairwell
The new girl at school finds that she can see and hear the subject of the school's urban legend and decides to try to help the mournful ghost.

Paralysis
A young female professional experiences a truly bizarre and frightful night after a seemingly innocent evening.

The Black Hair at the Abandoned Building
Three adventure-seeking young people lurk through a supposedly haunted building only to find to their great demise that yes... it is MAJORLY HAUNTED!

verdict

Well, there are two distinct levels and thus two distinct impressions here. I would recommend you approach this particular collection in light of its historical context, namely that it precedes Ringu (the "ground-zero" of Western notions of "j-horror") by seven years and has been recollected by major j-horror directors as "influential". Thus before you dare say "I've seen that before", please note that NO ONE saw it prior to this collection.

And then, of course, there is the matter of content (regardless of context). And in this regard this is clearly made-for-video fare but of a much more effective nature than much of the "Honto Ni Atta" videos which follow. In fact, I will dare say that, for the most part, these tales can be genuinely creepy if you allow yourself to adopt the general Japanese mindset that GHOSTS ARE REAL.

I've read other casual reviews of this collection suggesting the third set of stories is discernibly the "scariest" or most effective. I personally didn't perceive any marked difference amongst the three, though you'll notice that the last series was produced somewhat later than the others, resulting, perhaps, in its being more polished.

Version reviewed: Region 1 DVD with English subtitles

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
The Father of all "Honto ni Atta" videos and an undeniable influence upon later "j-horror" directors.. One continuously plopping lady and an inexplicably bloody rubber baby head. Despite cute girls in bathing suits, pajamas and nurse uniforms, nothing worth saluting here. Director Tsuruta Norio actually debuts with this collection and subsequently impacts an entire generation of horror-inclined Japanese directors.

2 Comments


this looks scary to me


Well, I'm not like you. I love this kind of stories

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