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J Horror Anthology: Underworld (Inagawa Junji 2005)


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J Horror Anthology: Underworld
[Inagawa Junji no Senritsu no Horaa]

Genre: Six Supernatural Ghost tales

review in one breath

This is one of two recently released collections of ghost tales from the prolific productions of Inagawa Junji, Japan's predominant contemporary master storyteller of Japanese ghost tales. Here you experience six supernatural ghost stories haunting contemporary Tokyo-ites.

intro

Correctly appreciating this collection of tales will likely require some knowledge of Inagawa Junji whose name appears in the Japanese titles of the two "J-Horror Anthologies" and countless other ghost-themed productions. Inagawa is a widely known TV personality in Japan, often originally appearing in rather mainstream TV dramas or Quiz/Talk shows. Over the years however, he has found his true niche in producing and narrating a hugely popular and long-running series of shows dedicated to ghost stories, ranging from documentaries of supernatural phenomena to urban legends to ancient kwaidan. (For a partial list of his works, look here.)

This collection of tales under review here is comprised of six of Inagawa's tales. Each is a short story with a running time of approximately 15 minutes. (The directors of these tales are predominantly TV directors and so I will not go into any detail regarding their history.) Each tale is preceded and followed by brief commentary by Inagawa himself.

This collection and its counterpart, J Horror Anthology: Legends together account for 12 tales, representing three original Inagawa collections (of four tales each). This English release's subtitle ("Underworld") does NOT correspond to any of the original series titles. Each English release contains one full original series. The third series (listed third below) is then split between them.

The original series are entitled:

Inagawa Junji's Horror of Legend
Inagawa Junji's Horror of a Shiver
Inagawa Junji's Horror of Truth

This particular collection is predominantly comprised of the four tales from Inagawa's "Horror of a Shiver" (senritso no horaa) collection. The other two tales here are taken from the "Horror of Truth" (shinjitsu no horaa) series.

As the subtitle "Underworld" implies, all six of these tales involve haunting apparitions from the spiritual realm. Unlike the Legends collection which contained three traditional ghost stories, all the ghoulies here are phenomena haunting contemporary citizens of Tokyo. Another difference between the two collections is that "Underworld" (reviewed here) contains a greater amount of mature content ranging from sexuality to gore.

Though brief and clearly made-for-television, these are nevertheless entertaining tales well worth checking out for a night of popcorn and casual chills.

The following are brief descriptions of the tales contained in this collection. The first four tales are from the original Shiver/Senritsu series and the final two are half of the original Truth/Shinjitsu series.

Chain Mail

The basic premise of this tale is very akin to that of Chakushin Ari [One Missed Call]. A small group of high school girls receive text messages on their cell phones purportedly from Tomie, the young girl who committed suicide shortly after a horrendous bullying from the girls. Accompanying each text message is a grainy photo of a young girl in some form of suffering. The messages recommends that each girl pass along the message to three companions lest they themselves suffer the same fate as the girl in the photo.

Left Behind the Mountain [Yama no Naka no Wasuremono]

Aided by the ease of online dating sites, a young man increasingly meets a variety of young woman for first dates involving a long drive into the mountains to enjoy refreshing scenery. When they all fail to "put out", his anger causes him to routinely leave each girl abandoned at the remote spot. On one occasion, however, upon returning to the city he is suddenly met by the young woman he had just abandoned. In a manner he finds unable to refuse, she insists they drive back to the remote spot in order to find something she had "left behind"

Tattoo

A young woman looking for a racier expression of herself decides to get a Tattoo from a mysterious shop. Inside the shop, the amazingly seductive tattooist easily and quickly creates on the young girl's chest a beautiful butterfly tattoo. The tattoo seems to carry with it some bizarre characteristics and soon the girl is regularly having nightmares of a bloody and brutal killing.

Viewfinder's Memory [Findaa no Kioku]

Three high school boys enjoy a summer vacation at a parent's cottage next to the ocean. While enjoying the beach, they encounter a beautiful young woman who quickly takes a liking to them. As they enjoy each others' company on the beach, one boy peers through the video camera he had brought along to capture the memories. What he sees in the camera, however, brings back startling other memories.

Guardian Angel [Dareka ga Miteiru]

After squandering her grandmother's inheritance on the foolish business ideas of her runaway boyfriend and being hounded by increasingly boisterous creditors demanding their money, a young woman contemplates suicide as the means of escape. Try as she might, however, her attempts are always thwarted by a mysterious force inside the house.

Mortuary [Reianshitsu]

A new hospital intern is asked to bring the body of a young boy recently killed in an auto accident down to the hospital's morgue. Once in the quiet morgue, the child's mother arrives to inquire about the fate of her boy.

verdict

These are all fun and entertaining tales. As mentioned earlier, the running time of each is approximately 15 minutes and so you should probably not expect from this the same experience as you would receive from a prolonged, well-woven ghost tale. These are intended (by Inagawa) as short, spooky tales with a variety of content. The emphasis here is upon ghostly entertainment rather than directorial or ground-breaking achievement.

Its a fun view, well worth the cheap price of admission.

Version reviewed: Region 1 subtitled DVD available via mainstream US venues.


Inagawa Junji

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
These tales are the first Western emergence of Inagawa Junji's collections. No historical/traditional tales here though. Significantly more gore than the "Legends" collection, including hokey BSDM and knife play (and knife death). Plenty of bikini babes, bulky laced bras, whitey-tighties, and sexy tattooed thighs. Oh yeah, and the scene where she's tied up to the bed by that soon-to-be-sorry pervert. Enjoyable and fun short ghost stories. Nothing earth-shattering here though.

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