Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Kadokawa Horror Collection Pt. 1

Out of respect for the season, I'm working my way through the Kadokawa Horror Collection. These four films date back a decade to the glory days of J-horror when long-haired lady ghosts ruled and everything from video cassettes to PCs was haunted! As with any box set, the quality control is a little wonky, but overall I'm having a pretty good time.

Shadow of the Wraith (Ikisudama, 2001)

A dozen years before Shadow of the Wraith, director Toshiharu Ikeda gave us the immortal Evil Dead Trap. It appears Ikeda-san mellowed considerably in the interim. Only mildly scary, Wraith plays more like a promotional video for the band Doggy Bag (whose idol brothers Koji and Yuichi Matsuo play and act in the film). There are actually two stories: 1) A spooky high school girl stalks the red-headed Japanese boy of her dreams (Koji), killing the competition with the help of her own malefic doppelganger; 2) A normal high school girl fights a powerful yet diminutive ghost in her new apartment with the help of a dreamy guy from her homeroom class (Yuichi). Only a faint aura of Argento influence remains in Ikeda's treatment of the freakier scenes (bright colors, creepy synths) compared with the more elaborately giallo-influenced set pieces of EDT. On the whole, unless you're a hardcore Japanese pop culture enthusiast with an interest in idols, you'll probably want to skip this one.

Isola (2000)

Hey, what if you had multiple personalities and one of them turned out to be the malevolent disembodied spirit of a woman scientist who died in an isolation tank and is now killing everyone around you? Dig the conceit? Then you'll enjoy Isola. Set in Kobe during the aftermath of the Great Hanshin earthquake, everything's all rubbly and the aura of crisis hangs heavily in the air. A pretty yet troubled young psychic arrives on the scene and soon bonds with a high school girl afflicted with the above-mentioned personality disorders. Can they stop the evil spirit before she kills again? I enjoyed this film, and found it slightly weirder than the average J-horror. The beautiful girl with the 13 personalities turns out to be Yu Kurosawa, teen idol and granddaughter of Akira Kurosawa. Shortly after making this film, she married and retired from the business. Too bad, she had a truly hypnotic allure. Also present in a small role as a suicidal old man, is Hideo Murota -- he's been in everything from Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs to Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence.

OK, on to the other two ...

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