Shadow of the Wraith

Starring: Yuichi Matsuo, Koji Matsuo and Hitomi Miwa
Ventura International
RRP: 15.99
Certificate: 15
Available 25 July 2005

Ryoji is kind to a quiet girl, Asaji, who is being picked on at school. The good deed immediately comes back to haunt him when her crush on him reaches dangerous levels. She begins to stalk him, and her knowledge of him is far beyond being healthy. Ryoji is further unsettled when Asaji appears to him in dreams, and as a brief apparition when he is on stage playing in his brother's rock band. Ryoji is forced to take matters into his own hands when his girlfriend, Mariko, is threatened. Mariko phones Ryoji asking for help, but Asaji is with him. She can't be in two places at once, can she...?

Naoko and her mother move into a new apartment, after a series of deaths have happened in the houses progressively leading up to their own. However, she meets Kazuhiko taking pictures of the buildings, and he tells her that people have been injured or killed in the apartments on each floor ending in "05". Naoko is in 505. Almost immediately strange events begin to occur. A large, mysterious and immovable block of concrete sits on the balcony, the closet door opens and closes of its own accord, revealing what Naoko at first believes are hallucinations of a tragic little girl. When her mother is hospitalised, Naoko becomes increasingly cut off, with her only help coming from Kazuhiko.

As the synopses above suggests, this film is in fact two unrelated stories linked by the two brothers Ryoji and Kazuhiko. Ghostly tales are something the Japanese seem to handle preternaturally well. It's possible they realise at present only one aspect of horror remains skin-crawlingly creepy, the others being entertainment using violence, psychotic madmen or the shock tactics of loud noises and sudden movements. Of course, I'm talking about the Ghost Story; something from the past which affects the here and now. If scripted and directed well and kept simple, there's simply no comparison to its effectiveness.

The two hour-long segments here, individually titled Shadow of the Wraith and The Stone Sky respectively, are definitely not in the same league as the original Japanese versions of The Ring films or even The Grudge; if I'm finicky both stories would have benefited from tightening-up, and better music would have improved the tension considerably. For a master class on Eastern creepiness check out The Eye. However, Shadow is a worthy contribution into an increasingly expanding sub-genre. The spooky young pale-faced Japanese woman is fast becoming a recognisable ikon image.

Ty Power

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