Using a similar but more low-key approach as America's
Masters of Horror series, Dark Tales of Japan has
a feature-length running time comprised of five short horror
stories loosely linked together. The idea here is to collect
together some of Japan's best horror directors to display
their respective skills in segments lasting between a mere
few minutes and half an hour.
You Like to Hear a Scary Tale (directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura),
although billed as one of the six tales, is actually a frankly
superfluous linking piece split into three - one at the beginning,
one at the end, and the other dropped into the middle. It
has a lone elderly woman passenger on a night bus. She asks
the driver if he wants to hear a scary tale. Each time she
spends literally a few seconds telling what is supposed to
be a frightening story, but the content is so sparse that
it hinders rather than helps the general high quality of the
Spiderwoman (also scripted and directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura)
is by far the best segment on offer. It has a group of young
people in a car devising the abilities of the so-called Jet-Hag
when they think they see a creature under a bridge. Hasagawa
is a freelance journalist who investigates the reported sightings
of a half-woman, half-spider. He collects together a lot of
hearsay but wants the facts. Nevertheless, the sales of the
magazine in which he publishes the reports rocket and letters
begin to flood in. Hasagawa discovers that many have been
sent by the same person. When he pays a visit he finds an
apparently sick woman, and a lot more. This is a good story
well told, considering the time allotted to tell it is so
limited. It follows how an urban myth can grow through word
of mouth, but in this case it turns out to be true. The end
nicely links back the the first scene, and we see what terrified
the teenagers under the bridge.
Crevices (directed by Norio Tsuruta) has Kodera arriving
at Shimizu's apartment looking for his missing friend. Here
he finds every single gap between items sealed with heavy
red tape. When he checks out the computer all that will show
up on the screen are the words "They're watching!" As he spends
more time at the apartment attempting to learn what happened,
Kodera begins to experience what his friend had. Something
is trying to force its way through the crevices. This tale,
more than most in this collection, uses some of the supernatural
mythos of The
Ring. I suppose it was inevitable as The
Ring was the film which kick-started the Japanese horror
revolution. However, it is careful enough to only hint at
a similarity rather than plagiarise.
In The Sacrifice (scripted and directed by Koji Shiraishi)
Mayu returns to her family home to care for her sick mother.
When she was a child Koji saw something in the Buddhist alter
room which only had a face. Now, as strange symbols begins
to develop on her arms and on the ceiling of the house, Koji's
mother is spending all of her time chanting in the alter room.
The creature in this one (looking a little like Jabba the
Hutt from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi) is well realised,
but the symbols have more potential for plot progression.
However, this one is too short and consequently doesn't have
the time to explain itself.
Kwaidan (scripted and by Takashi Shimizu) has Yoshio Ishiguro
staying in a colleague's apartment whilst on a business trip
in Hollywood. He has a liking for blonde women and plans to
meet some while in America. He realises from photographs that
his colleague's wife is blonde. Falling asleep to a strange
book he finds on the night stand, Yoshio feels a woman's touch
but wakes to find nothing there. Nevertheless, he feels a
woman's presence. When he receives a phone call to say his
colleague has committed suicide, he tries to leave the apartment,
but his hand becomes snared in masses of hair beneath the
bed. Something won't let him leave. This is also a great story.
There's no explanation, but then some some of the best films
have been inexplicable (the first Cube film springs
to mind). The only gripe I have is that for a character wanting
to go out and find blondes (he shouts enthusiastically at
them from a cab window at the beginning) he spends all his
time in the apartment wandering around and sleeping.
(scripted and directed by Masayuki Ochiai) sees Fukawa
about to leave work to rendezvous with his young family on
holiday. Instead he steals data from the credit company where
he works and plans to meet up with his lover on a train. When
he becomes trapped in a faulty lift, with a curiously unconcerned
elderly couple and a young woman, Fukawa begins to panic.
Then his mobile phone rings and his lover says if he is not
on time for the train she will throw herself under it. Events
take an even more macabre turn when he discovers he is the
only person who can see the trio and that they are present
to witness his death. Teruyuki Kagawa as Fukawa turns in a
great performance of panic, hysteria and fear, particularly
considering he has little or no motivation. Not much really
happens in this segment and yet it is the longest. Not the
best of the bunch to finish on.
good idea in principle. Most of these tales deserve more time
to flesh out the plot and characters (especially The Spiderwoman,
which would warrant a full film) but they make their point
and leave you wanting more. The Extras amounts to a Making
of Featurette only (28 mins). It would have been nice
to have had commentaries from the directors.