Thursday, March 29, 2012

Film Review: The Devil Inside (2012)

Directed by: William Brent Bell

Starring: Fernanda Andrada
Simon Quarterman
Suzan Crowley
Ionut Grama
Evan Helmuth

Synopsis: In Italy, a woman becomes involved in a series of unauthorized exorcisms during her mission to discover what happened to her mother, who allegedly murdered three people during her own exorcism.

My Thoughts: There were some real reservations going into this film, all 5 of us had heard less than favourable things about the film, but seeing as nothing else was out we decided to brave it for ourselves. For the most part I was pleasantly surprised. Aside from the found footage approach which resulted in some weird focusing and shots of feet or the sky (seriously, if you want to be a documentary film-maker you'd better get a little better at carrying a camera steady!) the film had a decent pace, decent special effects and a high level of acting proficency from all the cast.

Isabella has travelled to Italy with her cameraman friend (we missed the first 5 minutes so I'm not entirely sure on their previous relationship) to create a documentary about the prevalence of exorcisms today and to try and discover the truth about her mother, a woman who has been locked in an Italian mental institute after killing three people during her own supposed exorcism. As well as visiting her mother for the first time in 20 years, Isabella attends classes at "exorcism school" and meets two young priests who have something of an unhealthy interest in the subject. Asserting that she'll learn more in 5 minutes at an exorcism than she would in months of classes at the religious institute, Isabella follows these two priests (Father Ben and Father David) to the illegal exorcism of a young woman the church denied.

Much like every exorcism film since The Exorcist, this film plays with the finnicky balance between religion and science. Can they exist beside one another? Can we ever be sure the answer is one or the other? Where do we draw the line? Because of the prevalence of this dichotomy, Father David ended up one of the most interesting characters, because as a medical doctor and a priest, he embodies both sides of this divide. There were a few neat little throwbacks to The Exorcist and other films on this subject, but I was actually surprised at home this film really managed to separate itself from what has come before. It's not the first sceptics view into an exorcism, nor is the the first documentary-style film about exorcism, however I never felt like I was watching the same old crap.

The pacing really began to ramp up about 20-25 minutes before it concluded, and though heavily signposted, it was still thrilling and exciting and gross. However then came the final 2 minutes of the film. Just as it was reaching it's crescendo it ended. Just like that it was over. The theatre went from joyful squeals of horror to outrage in less than a second. I do understand what they were trying to do with the ending they chose, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel cheated. Is it bad enough of an ending to have me recommend avoiding the film? Not quite, the baptism scene alone is worth a watch, however I would suggest waiting till it comes out on video. It's so infuriating that if you're spending $20 on your movie ticket you may just lose your mind.

So overall a decent and thrilling exorcism film, one of the best of the last few years, that was spoiled by the film-makers either A/ trying to be clever, B/running out of money, C/ running out of ideas in how to conclude it or D/being assholes. You've been warned.

3 tortured mothers locked in asylums for the film

-100 for that damn piece-of-shit asshole of an ending.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Film review: Skew (2011)

Directed by: Sevé Schelenz

Starring: Rob Scattergood
Amber Lewis
Richard Olak

 Synopsis: When Simon, Rich, and Eva head out on an eagerly anticipated road trip, they bring along a video camera to record their journey. What starts out as a carefree adventure slowly becomes a descent into the ominous as unexplained events threaten to disrupt the balance between the three close friends. Each one of them must struggle with personal demons and paranoia as friendships are tested and gruesome realities are revealed...and recorded

Attention Australian readers!! Skew will be playing at the Fantastic Planet Film Festival on Saturday the 31st of March, with a Q&A afterwards. For more info about the showing or the festival itself, follow this link!

My thoughts: Skew is a found footage road trip movie that is clearly a labour of love. Written by Sevé Schelenz back in 2004 and then produced in 2005 for a measly $25,000, the film shines with the dedication of the production team and the trio of actors who carry the story.

Three college friends, Rich (Olak), Eva (Lewis) and Simon (Scattergood) bundle into their car to head across country to a friend's wedding, and, it seems to me, to take some well-needed time out from their regular lives. The trip begins well, with the three of them laughing and mucking around while Simon films them all on the camera he bought for the trip. The trip takes a turn for the worse when Simon starts to notice strange blurs on people's faces when he films them through his camera, and starts to notice that the blurred strangers are dying soon after being filmed. As the film progresses so does the paranoia, tension and barely contained chaos.

The pacing in Skew gradually ramps up, but there is a sense of unease and anticipation from the earliest scenes. Though this is definitely a horror film with supernatural elements, there is also a great deal of story devoted to the personal trials and horrors of each of the three characters. They're all troubled by something, and these issues cause friction that is only amplified by the visions Simon is seeing through his camera lens. Had the cast not been as strong as it is, these personal threads would have been lost amongst the A story, but instead they tangle and build and add an element to the film that is crucial to its overall success and cohesiveness.

I'm generally not an advocate for found footage/POV films; however I really try to judge each one on their own merits. Some films just make me feel nauseated with the shakiness of the footage, while others make some of the most tenuous links as to why there needs to be the found footage element to it. Happily though, I can say that the found footage/POV style worked well for this particular film, perhaps owing to the fact that it isn't found footage in the Blair Witch Project sense of the term, instead it is simply using that personal viewpoint as a way of telling the story. I have to attribute this success to three points. First, although the actor Rob Scattergood (Simon) is not a cameraman, the shots were level, smooth and balanced. That in itself is enough reason for me to give a found footage film the thumbs up. After the vomit-inducing, headache-building camera work in The Devil Inside the other week, I can't even tell you how much I appreciate a watchable, yet still realistic, personally shot film. Second, the camera is a crucial part in the story. It is tightly connected to the story progression, to the development of Simon's character, and is the key instigator in the tension that builds between the three friends. Finally, along with the camera and POV shots being crucial to the story, it was used creatively in the film. One of the things I loved in this film was the use of rewind to add to the paranoia and tension and to finish the film. At points I wondered whether the POV shots could have been combined with traditional camera work to eliminate the scenes where you see little except a blurred friend across the room, or stare at the floor after the camera was knocked over in fear, however because of the relevancy of the camera to the story, I found it didn't bug me as much as it might have in another movie.

The ending may require a couple of watches, and judging by the myriad of reviews and blog posts available online, the ambiguity has lead to several very different interpretations. I really enjoyed the way the film concluded, but if you don't like ambiguous endings you may find it a little confronting. Personally, I had absolutely no idea what to think when it finished, and even now I'm not sure that my personal interpretation even comes close to lining up how Sevé Schelenz intended it to be read. That being said though, your interpretation very much will influence how you look back on the events of the film, and it's been really interesting to see how people have interacted with the story on their blogs and in reviews, and joined some dots I never would have thought to connect. It's almost like a conspiracy theory, and all of this eagerness to discuss the minute details of the film speaks volume on how the general public has received it.

Skew is a little bit of things you've seen before. There's a little of The Ring, The Blair Witch Project and even some Goosebumps mixed in there, however it is definitely it's own film. It takes the elements that made those films interesting and twists them to create a film that is fun, tense, creepy and nothing like what I expected. Enjoy!

3.5 out of 5 dirt smudged cameras. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Songs in the Key of Murder - Album review

We here at Hail Horrors have recently decided to broaden our horizons by reviewing horror-themed music in addition to film and literature. The first such album to horrify our aural senses is Songs in the Key of Murder by rappers MC Randumb and Jewish Dave.

I had some trouble working out which angle to approach this review from as I have never really listened to hardcore rap before and have no real experience with audio production. So basically, I have absolutely no authority to have an opinion of this album (not like that ever stopped Leonard Maltin). However, what I do have is a knack for summarising narrative structure. So, without further ado, I give you:

Hail Horrors, Hail's synopsis of Songs in the Key of Murder

1. Intro

Our protagonist Jewish Dave, frustrated by creative ennui, expresses his desire to "do something else" and asks his collaborator MC Randumb if he has any suggestions. MC Randumb proposes they "murder" establishing himself as a disaffected character, reminiscent of Meursault in Albert Camus' novel The Stranger. Jewish Dave readily agrees, leading the listener to believe that he is as deranged as his accomplice.

2. Murder 4 Fun

In this song, MC Randumb and Jewish Dave explain their motives for the massacre they are about to commit. According to the lyrics they are going to "murder 4[sic] fun", probably to alleviate the vexation they suffered in the introductory track. Their plans are either grandiose or with hyperbole, as they explicitly state they intend murder "everyone in the whole fucking world." They then go on to debate how same-sex necrophilia might define their sexuality, the legitimacy of Christ's crucifixion and art-house film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by director Michel Gondry.

3. Musta Been Murda

In the song Musta[sic] Been Murda[sic], MC Randumb and Jewish Dave personalise large-scale murder from the previous song, listing the family members and close-relations belonging to the listener that they have recently killed. It is a comprehensive list that extends as far as pets and acquaintances. The pair reveal they have no remorse for the killings they have perpetrated. The listener also becomes aware that their weapon of choice is a glock pistol, making their earlier statement about killing "everyone in the whole fucking world" even more ambitious, despite the authorities' inability to stop them so far. They also kill some hippies, which unless the listener has ties to the environmentalist community, probably will not upset you as much as the deaths of some of their other victims.

4. Murder On My Mind

The prologue to the song explains that MC Randumb and Jewish Dave are perusing a scientific solution to achieve their goal of killing "everyone in the whole fucking world," utilising the misunderstood field of hypnotism. As the song suggests that MC Randumb might be under the effects of mind control after he attacks a doctor's surgery after complaining of illness. He meets Jewish Dave and they continue on their killing spree, experimenting with rape, necrophilia and cannibalism.

5. Shut Your Mouth (Or Your Going to Get Murdered)

MC Randumb and Jewish Dave find themselves in a hostage situation that goes south after a bystander refuses to shut their mouth (and gets murdered).

6. Murder is Reality

MC Randumb and Jewish Dave discuss the nature of reality, perhaps reflecting on their own distorted version of subjective idealism. They reminisce on their career and the success they've had as both murderers and musicians. The artists also rebuke the idea that the listener could possibly murder them.

7. It's Murda

In the song It's Murda [sic], MC Randumb and Jewish Dave seem to have exchanged their glocks for knives, professing the excitement aroused by killing someone with a bladed weapon at night. They give detailed instructions as to the process they are using (They "like to start from the head and work their way down to their privates") and highly recommend that the listeners try it for themselves.

8. We'll Murda Ya!

The eighth track on the album, We'll Murda Ya[sic], lists many of the places that the listener might visit that warrants their murder. MC Randumb and Jewish Dave also murder some people and make some Playstation references.

>9. Murder Motel

MC Randumb and Jewish Dave's latest business venture is a successful five-star motel that they are using as a front for their favourite hobby: murder. This song seems to imply that the musicians are now dabbling with supernatural powers. The chorus claims that any visitor will wake up in hell, so visitors to the Murder Motel should note that they have a very strict check-out time.

10. Bloody Murder

The pair of protagonists begin this track by describing the mess created by murdering (but fail to provide any tips on stain removal). The song takes a turn in the second half, as the MC Randumb and Jewish Dave turn on each other thanks to an argument over who can murder the most people.

11. Murder On The Menu

MC Randumb and Jewish Dave expand their business portfolio by opening a restaurant that specialises in cannibalism. They exhibit a high amount of professionalism, not allowing the argument from the previous song get in the way of delivering quality service.

12. I'll Murder You 2

MC Randumb and Jewish Dave assures everyone listening that they aren't going to excluded anyone listener ("I'll murder you too")

13. Murder Me

I have to take issue with the title of this track. A much more appropriate title would be 'Murder Me?' as the lyrics suggest that the rappers are taken aback by the implication that anyone could possibly murder them. They reply indignantly by insisting "I'mma murder you."

14. The Murder Bros.

In the heart-warming climax of the album, MC Randumb and Jewish Dave patch up their turbulent relationship, reaffirming their "brotherhood". They return to their original mission of murdering everyone else, promising to murder each other only when there is no one left

15. Outro

In the dénouement, the possibility of a sequel is left open, but does not bring the current narrative to a cathartic conclusion.

In conclusion, the narrative arc of Songs in the Key of Murder is problematic and fragmented. There is little continuity between songs, leaving the audience to draw their own interpretations. What the album does have is some great homages to retro horror films, pop culture references and a very twisted sense of humour. I enjoyed listening to it, and suggest you check it out yourselves.

There is also a companion Flash game at Kongrgate

Film review: Creak (2012)

I think anyone can relate to that fear that chills your blood when you hear a noise in the middle of the night that you can’t explain. Writer and director Luther Bhogal-Jones explores this very fear in his new horror short, Creak.

Heather is awoken at 4am by a creaking noise that permeates the air around her. Unable to let it go, she convinces her partner, Ellen, to explore the house and be sure that no one is trying to break into their home. Unbeknownst to the terrified Heather and the exhausted Ellen, the creator of the creak is closer than they think.

Creak is a film that manages to brilliantly package together a well-paced and nerve-wracking tale. I especially loved the framing of the shots and the all-consuming darkness that we all fear once in a while in our own homes. I look forward to the upcoming projects from Sincerely, Psychopath/Faster Productions! 

The film is availble to watch for free on Vimeo, so if you have 5 minutes you want to dedicate to some viewing goodness head over there to take a look. Be sure to also take a squiz at Sincerely, Psychopath's facebook page as well and share the love.

4 out of 5 creaking floorboards

Friday, March 16, 2012

Film Review: Helldriver

Directed by: Yoshihiro Nishimura

Starring: Yumiko Hara
Eihi Shiina
Kazuki Namioka

Synopsis: A meteorite crashes into Japan releasing a toxic ash that turns the inhabitants of the Northern half of the country into bloodthirsty zombies. Some time later with the North now walled off from the rest of Japan a young woman is charged with leading a group of ragtag soldiers into the infected region to kill the 'zombie queen,' who happens to be her homicidal mother.

My Thoughts: If you have not yet been lucky enough to watch a Yoshihiro Nishimura film then I truly feel sorry for you. Seriously. Unless you've seen Helldriver, Tokyo Gore Police, Vampire Girl Vs Frankenstein Girl or any of the other batshit crazy films he's been involved in, then you've never truly experienced just how dedicated the Japanese are to created the most bizarre and wonderfully insane films out there.

Nishimura is actually more often employed in the special effects department, and the chances are if you've seen a Japanese film where someone loses an eye, an arm, the top of their head, or grow a mutant pair of gator-jaw legs then you've seen his work. He's incredibly dedicated to his craft, and potentially has one of the most wonderfully creative minds in the business. Each of his films employs various film techniques (i.e. Claymation, CGI etc) and blend a variety of genres to create a film completely unlike anything else ever to be made. At BIFF last year Nishimura attended the screening of this film and answered all of our questions...while wearing his sumo wrestler mawashi and balancing a zombie fetus prop on his head. In cast that doesn't give you an idea of how magically insane and wonderful this film is, here's the trailer...

Like Tokyo Gore Police, Helldriver is a very humourous and campy take on horror. It definitely falls into the splatstick subgenre of horror. If you think of the bikie/cream pie fight in the original Dawn of the Dead and dial it up in intensity and campiness by about 50 you'll be coming close to what this film delivers. However, as hilarious as this film is (I'm pretty sure I grew bodybuilder abs by the end of my first viewing of this!) it also has an interesting story behind all the flashiness. After a devastating ash cloud turns the Northern inhabitants of Japan into zombie-like mutants with weird Y-shaped horns, the country is divided into two with a large, guarded wall separating the zombies from the uneffected Japanese citizens. Kika is our protagonist and after a devastating and extremely brutal attack by her mother and uncle, she is reconstructed by the government to deal with the zombie citizens and eliminate the zombie queen. The rest of the film weaves government conspiracy and corruption, with drug addiction (the horns fetch a high price on the black market for their hallucinogenic effects), family drama and trauma, love, poverty, war and authoritarian issues.

One of the real draws of this film is the creative use of zombie enemies for Kika to come up against. While the hordes may be uniform in appearance, the individual zombies that Kika battles are each unique in their construction and fighting technique. One builds a zombie car to chase her on, one uses it's zombie fetus (umbilical cord still connected) as a projectile, one is made up almost entirely by legs and wields heavy machine guns...and so on, getting bigger and better and battier. There is a videogame-esque format as Kika battles through a certain area and then versus a "boss" before moving on to the more difficult level and boss, eventuating in the climactic fight that blows all the earlier fights right out of the water. The closest Western counterpart I can think of would be Scott Pilgrim Vs the World. They both borrow aspects from video games, pop culture and push the boundaries from what people traditionally expect in a film, however Helldriver is definitely more for horror enthusiasts considering the amount of blood, gore and destruction that goes on.

This film may not be for everyone, but if you like you the creative craziness of Japanese B-grade horror complete with gore, claymation, cameos, pop-culture references and awesome chainsaw-swords then this is definitely the film for you.

4.5 out of 5 acordian playing zombies.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Discussion: The differences between Asian and Western horror, or, why Asian horror rocks.

I don't think I've met many horror fans who haven't fallen under the spell of Asian horror. Perhaps they came to it after the rush of Western remakes, the 2002 remake of The Ring in particular, but almost everyone I know has a deep appreciation for the unique cinematic techniques and tropes utilised in Asian horror. Thanks to the films that have been coming out of Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Thailand over the past three decades or so, audiences are able to succumb to the dark and disjointed cinematic representation of our greatest fears, often through the utilisation of the creepiest ghosts and child spirits to ever grace the silver screen.

This isn't to say that Western horror is in anyway lacking, or of a lesser quality, however in Western horror it typically seems to be the smaller budget or independent films that achieve the same great heights as Asian horror cinema, while the mainstream industry is intent to repackage Scream, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Saw in a dozen different guises for audiences every year. Unlike these bigger budgeted films, Asian horror seems to align itself more closely to the horror films of the 1970s and 1980s. Although Asian horror films are often the ones which have me jump the most, they're also about much more than simply making audiences shriek or clutch their hands over their eyes. The special effects are typically comprised of physical special effects (masks, prosthetics and mechanised monsters) and film techniques created in the filming or editing processes (jump cuts etc), and the films themselves often have personal or social themes wound neatly up into the supernatural or horror story. When I watch an Asian horror film which falls within these parameters (and not all of them do) I'm reminded of films like The Fly, The Thing and Dawn of the Dead, films which had horrors that were tangible and gritty and pervasive, yet also had social commentary that struck the audience member as hard as the effects did.

There is a lot of ambiguity in Asian horror, and I find that the film tends to head in one of two directions. The first is that it appears, like Ring or The Grudge, to be a fairly typical ghost/monster horror story, yet there is a level of symbolism or discourse that simmers just below the surface, identifiable by a more observant audience member, but not necessary for an enjoyable experience. Or the film will be disjointed, non-linear and blatantly ambiguous, such as MPD-Psycho (a TV series) or Pulse. These films place the emphasis on the thematic concerns of the films, and rarely follow your traditional Western film structures.Both of these two styles employ supernatural or superhuman forces to externalise the internal fears of the characters. I've found that it is rarely a case in Asian horror that the ghost or monster is simply there to terrorise characters, there is always a deeper reason for its arrival, for its tenacity and for its endurance.

Regardless of which two categories a film fits into (and some don't fit into either) Asian horror appears to be more comfortable with letting the audience leap to their own conclusions, to make connections that may or may not have been the film-makers intention, and to take away a more personal reaction to the film. Western films seem much more intent on explaining the continuity of the film, of why everything is happening the way it is, and why that particular character is being punished. Some Asian horror made more recently seems to have fallen victim to this approach, such as the film Dark Water (2002) which had 15 minutes tacked onto the end which was completely unnecessary and simply explained what the film had already perfectly construed through the ghostly water-abounded tale of divorce, loneliness and single parenthood. This is probably the perfect moment to share a quote from horror researcher and author Andy Richards from his book Asian Horror;
 Generally, the slow-burn pacing of the Asian originals is sharply ramped up, combined with an increase in the number of scare-jolts administered to the audience, while the low-fi special effects of the originals are usually  replaced with CGI-enhanced spookery. But more significantly, while Asian horror films are content to leave certain mysteries unexplained, or for the narratives and character motivations to retain a core of ambiguity, the remakes tend to add layers of exposition hat attempt to rationalise - and thereby contain - their supernatural stories.
I have chosen to steer away from discussing Western remakes of Asian horror films, though a post on that topic may soon pop up, but much of what I've said applies to that issue as well. Asian horror may not always be at the same level of technical achievement as a Western horror, and the story and acting may also suffer compared to some of the Western horror films out there, but that never seems to matter. Even amidst the 5-10 minutes worth of dodgy CGI that Pulse employed, the complexity and weight of the film was heads and shoulders above the dozen other horror films I've seen so far this year.

There is a desperate eagerness to tell a story or to represent a current social concern in Asian horror that Western horror simply lacks, and this drive is far more important in creating an impacting and lasting horror film than million dollar special effects or the latest A grade celebrity to feel the need to add some variety to their audition reel. Simply put, Asian horror still believes horror is an important cinematic tool, much like the Western film-makers from the 1970s-80s did, and some indie horror creators still do today. They understand the genre and they continue to experiment and try unbelievable and sometimes crazy things, all to benefit the message they're trying to convey or the story they wish to tell. That's why Asian horror rocks, and that's why every Western production company is falling over themselves to recreate these films, the sad part is that they don't realise how much they're still missing.

Of course, this is all personal observation and opinion, and some of you may feel the complete reverse. Is Asian horror something you seek out to watch, or a style of horror that you just can't enjoy in the slightest?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Film Review: Dark Water (2002)

Directed by: Hideo Nakata

Starring: Hitomi Kuroki
Rio Kanne

SynopsisA mother and her 6 year old daughter move into a creepy apartment whose every surface is permeated by water

My thoughts: Hideo Nakata is a man I owe a great deal too. Ring, albeit originally through the American remake, was a milestone in developing my taste in horror fiction - moving me away from the teen slashers of Wes Craven and John Carpenter and opening me up to a much broad definition of what horror can be. Beyond being an exercise in feeding that primal need to see people go splat, an exercise which America horror seems to struggle moving past in recent years, Nakata knows how to employ subtly. He uses genuine pathos to suck you in, gives you little peeks at what's hiding under the bed and then finally he gets you by exposing you to some of the creepiest imagery every committed to cinema.

Dark Water is a solid film that Hideo Nakata should be proud to put against his name. It isn't nearly as seminal as Ring is, but it achieves a similar atmosphere, has some terrifying moments and manages to tackle some interesting themes. At its core, the film is about divorce, instability and that terrifying moment in everyone's childhood when your mum isn't there to pick you up after school. This is my favourite thing about J-horror - the supernatural is seldom an arbitrarily evil force that the protagonists most do battle with. Rather, it is a manifestation of the characters' inner fears, working first to destroy their mind before destroying the body. Edgar Allan Poe knew it, Shirley Jackson knew it and Hideo Nakata knows it. You could possibly argue that these accolades belong to Koji Suzuki who wrote both the stories that Ring and Dark Water were based off, but the difference between Nakata's rendition of Ring and Suzuki's leads me to believe that they were trying to achieve different things with the same premise (I thought Nakata's was better).

As much as I enjoyed it, I think there was a bit of fat that could have been cut off Dark Water. I find it pretty hard to believe Yoshimi was able to win her custody battle after losing her child on the late-night streets of Tokyo and having a break down and assaulting her ex-husband at a tribunal. This probably could have been tightened. The dénouement of the film probably could have been skipped altogether, seeing as it was just explicitly showing what the climax of the film eluded to. Something else I would like to see is more twists on the "vengeful spirit" archetype. It is a formula that has produced some of the best horror films of the last two decades, and I would hate to see it go stale(r).
But yeah, I recommend you see this movie. Well-paced, classic J-horror complete with nightmarish imagery. Well worth it for the bath tub scene alone.

4 out of 5 mysterious red bags.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Review: Pulse/Kairo (2001)

Directed by: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Starring: Haruhiko Katô
Kumiko Asô

Synopsis: Japanese university students investigate a series of suicides linked to an Internet Web cam that promises visitors the chance to interact with the dead.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed  Pulse, it is a slow paced film that beautifully demonstrates the disconnection of life in (and outside of) Japan both literally and metaphorically. The story is rather disjointed and non-linear, so a thorough synopsis is actually rather difficult, but what you need to know is that at the same time that men and women are committing suicide or disappearing, a student encounters a website offering to show him footage of the dead and a series of doors sealed with red tape are becoming more and more frequent. There are two main story threads that weave this movie together, the story of Ryosuke Kawashima, (played by Haruhiko Katô) a business student who first encounters the ghost website, and after it persistently appears on his computer tries to make sense of where it has come from and why it keeps forcing itself onto his computer, and Michi Kudo (played by Kumiko Asô), a young florist, who witnesses the disintegration and suicide of two of her colleagues and stumbles upon the red taped doors. The two tales circle one another for much of the movie before colliding with one another in time for the film's third act.

There are large gaps within both individual stories and the film in its entirety which made it difficult to follow the direct plot of the film, however the story is easily recognisable. In the early days of the general public using the internet, people were connecting with more frequency on websites, chat-boards and online forums, however as their online presence grew their physical offline presence decreased. They began to shrink away from the real world piece by piece before all that is left is a mere shadow of their former self. Loneliness has long been an element utilised in horror cinema and literature, but Kiyoski Kurosawa managed to take an exciting new aspect of technology (in 2001) and twist it into something dark and scary that will lead to our downfall. Considering what we know about people's online presence nowadays and their addictions to Facebook/twitter/YouTube and preferences for virtual interactions, I found the focus of this movie to be intelligent, philosophical in tone and ahead of its time. The cinematography, scripting and sounds choices equally reflected the isolation and loneliness of this story creating a cohesive film that I found a real pleasure to watch.

The disjointed aspect of production made following the plot incredibly difficult at times, but this really is a film that places the importance on the metaphysical elements rather than the plot, and those elements definitely are clear. It means the film is a real slow burner, however it isn't devoid of scares or moments of faster pace. There are some deliciously spooky moments involving creepy Japanese ghosts with tentacle-style floating hair or who walk endlessly from one end of a room to another as they flicker in and out like a stuttering computer system.

This is probably one of the more impressive J-Horror films I've ever encountered.  Because of the ambiguous story, non-linear narrative and the unconventional pacing I'd hesitate to recommend this to anyone unfamiliar with this style of film, however  it is a film I think the right audience will appreciate for the beauty, philosophy and impeccable cinematography and directorial decisions.

4 out of 5 red tape sealed doors.