Sunday, October 08, 2006


Directed by Shimizu Takashi, 2003, 92 min. starring Megumi Okina, Misaki Ito, Misa Uehara, Takako Fuji and Yui Ichikawa.
In the post-Ring climate of Japanese cinema, there has been the almost Scarlett O'Hara-like search for the new wave of Japanese horror. Whilst Suicide Circle almost came close, there still wasn't that frenzied anticipation that came about at the mere mention of its title. Perhaps it was the bold and somewhat cultural ideas found in that film that didn't allow it to crossover in a big way the same way Ring did, or maybe the rest of the world was looking for a "safe" horror movie. Anyone who's a fan would know that Suicide Circle is anything but safe.
Enter Takashi Shimizu, a bright young Japanese filmmaker who just looooves horror films. He takes a universal scare tactic (the haunted house) and turns it on its head by giving it an apocalyptic, heart-freezing premise that was sure to scare anyone's pants off. Throw in a modern, non-linear way of storytelling, finger-twisting build-ups, climactic dénouements, and a couple of blue-skinned and (occasionally) blood-covered spooks and you’ve got the makings of a fine chiller.
That, my friends, was the TV movie version of Ju-on.
In the hopes of reaching a larger audience, a theatrical version of the Ju-on tale was brought to life by Shimizu himself. Armed with a larger budget and all the CGI he could get his hands on, Shimizu tries his best to capture some of the terror and cleverness of his TV movies for the big screen. But while he succeeds in trying to be clever, he fails on the crucial terror aspect.
Like the video versions, the story is divided into several time frames with intertwining characters and plot points.
RIKA – We begin with a volunteer social worker named Rika who gets an assignment to check on an old lady, because, apparently, no-one else could do it. Doubting her abilities, Rika balks at first, but gets cornered into it, so she gives in and visits the house of the damned (so to speak).
Upon arrival, she immediately picks up on an ominous atmosphere. With no-one to open the door, she lets herself in and discovers the home in disarray. She finds the old woman and proceeds to inquire about her companions - none seem present. Rika explores the house and discovers a little boy hiding in the closet – a taped-up closet at that. She asks the boy's name, to which he replies, "Toshio"... it's the same boy from the TV movies...
KATSUYA – Jumping to another time frame, we see a young married couple, Katsuya and Kazumi, living in the house of horrors, together with the husband's ailing mother. The house is once more in complete disarray, since the wife has to tend to the ailing mother whilst being a housewife to her husband. At the onset, you can see Kazumi has some sort of resentment about this arrangement. It doesn’t help that a mischievous Toshio topples glasses and leaves handprints all over the place...
HITOMI – On to another time frame. Hitomi leaves a message on Katsuya's answering machine, wondering about the previous night’s events. Shrugging it off, she carries on with her business, but gets a phone call from her brother. As she answers, all she hears is the now all-too-familiar burping/croaking on the other line. Freaked out, she hangs up and heads into the ladies' room to splash some water on her face. What she gets instead is a visit from a dark shadow lady, sending her running to the guard’s office. He investigates, but as she watches on the surveillance camera feed, she sees him enveloped by the same dark shadow. She freaks, and runs home.
In the sanctuary of her own apartment, she feels safe, but not for long. Turning the TV off, she hides under the covers hoping for sanctuary - but Hitomi realizes that not even her duvet offers security…
TOYAMA – continuing the time frame from the Rika section, we see a bunch of cops investigating the scene of the crime. This being the old lady's death and the missing husband and wife. After searching the house, they decide to give Katsuya’s phone a ring. Just as they do, ringing can be heard somewhere in the house... They follow the sound up to the attic, where they find a couple of corpses...


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