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Shibuya Kaidan - The Locker (Horie Kei 2003)


Shibuya Kaidan
[The Locker]

Genre: Creepy Urban Supernatural Horror

review in one breath

A Tokyo urban legend comes to life in unexpected, terrifying ways when a group of young people use a coin locker at the Shibuya station. As members of the group begin dying in bizarre and excruciating ways, the survivors frantically try to understand the curse they find themselves in. This prequel was recently released to US audiences along with the sequel on a single DVD entitled The Locker.

Yowza!! Make way for another VERY CREEPY little kid!

There is an urband legend circulating around Shibuya regarding its coin lockers. Rumor has it that by placing a gift and a prayer in a coin operated locker, your chances of catching the boy or girl of your dreams is miraculously enhanced. Thus young people throughout Shibuya eagerly place their gifts inside these lockers and wait for the romantic outfall. There will soon be another legend circulating, one of a haunted locker which, once opened, brings a terrifying curse. Shibuya Kaidan tells the tale of how six young people unwittingly open this pandora's box and find themselves within a nightmare of hauntings, madness and possession.

Sitting around a campfire, our six main characters (three boys and three girls) swap spooky stories until Reika (Mizukawa Asami) hears an infant's cry coming from the woods. Unable to hear it, the other five giggle at Reika's vulnerabililty to getting scared after such campfire stories and quickly shrug the incident off. Returning to Shibuya the next morning, they all walk to a rather remote collection of coin lockers under the Shibuya station to retrieve the handbags the girls left behind before the trip. On their separate ways home from the station, two of the others, Akihiko (Wada Toshihiro) and Ai (Suzuki Mayuka) hear an overpowering cry of an infant's voice and feel a wave of terror spread over them. When the group meets together after a couple days, both Akihiko and Ai have turned up missing and are not answering their calls. A visit to Akihiko's apartment brings them face to face with a psychotically terrified Akihiko, who screams in terror as his spine literally snaps from no apparent cause as they look on in horror.

In just a short while each of the others will have heard the same chilling cry, and soon thereafter catch elusive glimpses of a ghostly child. When they mention this to each other, Keitarou (Yuge Tomohisa) confesses that he defaced a small statue of Buddha at the campsite and believes this may have caused the hauntings. Racing back to the site, they search for and then reattach the stone head, saying prayers that the curse might be lifted. Later that night all seems back to normal, until Keitarou's countenance suddenly shifts from that of laughter to fearful panic as his head suddenly moves as if out of his control. As the others look on is shock, Keitarou seems to succumb to an overpowering force. In the reflection of the window, Reika can see a small child manipulating Keitarou as if a puppet.

During all of this Reika maintains her responsibility of tutoring Ayano (Horikita Maki), a junior high school student. Through Reika's friendship, Ayano finds some respite from an otherwise gloomy outlook on life. Ayano is convinced that she is unwanted in this world, since her mother died giving birth to her, and in a fit of anger her seldom present father accused Ayano of "killing" her mother. Reika can only attempt to assure her that there is no such things as an unwanted birth.

Later, when Yuuna (Morishita Chisato) is grotesquely transformed in front of the terrified Reika, only two of the original six friends remain. Reika and Ryouhei (Kashiwabara Shuuji) see no other recourse than to go back to the locker in an attempt to confront, if not merely understand, the curse that has befallen them. Their visit not only reveals the cause of the evil, but also proves to be their undoing.

Shibuya Kaidan is a rather impressively polished urban horror tale which contains plenty of creepy moments. Director Horie Kei (who appeared in Juon 2) effectively leads audiences from one set of assumptions to the next as the reality of the curse unfolds. A strong underlying theme here is that of being loved. This is manifested initially in the simplistic desire to obtain a boyfriend/girlfriend via the locker legend, but quickly shifts to a much deeper nuance through the discussions of Reika and Ayano regarding the existential importance of being loved by at least someone in this world. This existential implication not only comes back to haunt Reika, but is also used to establish the cause for the evil lurking in Shibuya coin locker # 0009.

Shibuya Kaidan is followed by a sequel, Shibuya Kaidan 2 (also directed by Horie) [Update: Shibuya Kaidan 2 is also contained on the same US release DVD entitled "The Locker"] which picks up precisely where this film leaves off and advances the story using several of the same characters appearing here. This is definitely one to check out if you enjoyed the type of horror contained in Juon or Ringu. Though perhaps not quite as groundbreaking or accomplished as these prior horror tales, director Horie creates a very effective atmosphere and storyline which will undoubtedly satisfy those who enjoy a good chill.

Side Note: The subtitled US release of this film was made available today under the title The Locker. I was pleased to find that the DVD contains BOTH Shibuya Kaidan 1 & 2.

Version reviewed: Region 1 subtitled DVD

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
Could this be the debut of the next Sadako? Not much blood, but plenty of bone-crunching and back-snapping. Nada. One shocking onscreen hug. (gasp!) This little ghoulie is beyond creepy and is a clear successor to Sadako, Kayako and Toshio!

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