Tag Archives: J-horror

Dream a subtitled dream

NIGHTMARE

3 Stars  2000/98m

A.k.a. Horror Game Movie; Scissors; Gawi

Director/Writer: Byeong-ki Ahn / Cast: Gyu-ri Kim, Ji-won Ha, Jeong-yun Choi, Jun-Sang Yu, Ji-tae Yu, Hye-yeong Ju, Jun-Jeong.

Body Count: 6


About the 500th Ring-inspired horror film to come from the East, but fused with slasher movie rules and a story very similar to the same country’s/same year’s Record, concerning a clique of young friends with a dreadful secret that literally comes back to haunt them.

The first forty minutes’ groundwork builds the story, concerning the suicide of Kyung-ah, an introvert member of the gang, who was revealed to be the legendary jinxed child of a small town where a couple of the friends used to live, and where rotten luck befell everyone around the girl.

When her best friend – understandably upset at the betrayal – asks her to keep out of her life, Kyung-ah throws herself from the top of a building and dies… or does she? Two years down the line, guilty-party Sun-ae, who revealed the truth in the first place, returns from a stint in a US institution, believing that Kyung-ah is haunting her and looking for revenge on the group. Meanwhile, sweet natured heroine Hye-jin recurrently encounters the child-ghost of her old friend, and the ancillary members of the group begin dying in strange ways.

While the plot is certainly competent and more imaginative than Record, it sometimes becomes confusing as to what era we’re in and, once the eventual truth surrounding Kyung-ah’s death is revealed, regurgitates several questions and highlights the liberties taken by writer/director Ahn.

The spooky twist ending also requires a vast suspension of belief and mirrors the ends of contemporary J-Horror successes such as The Grudge and Phone. Now if we could only marry the visual atmosphere created here with the ‘classic’ American genre rules, that would be the stuff dreams are made of.

The 100 Greatest* Slasher Movies Part III: #80-71

*According to me. Me, me, me. So there’re bound to be a good few ‘classics’ missing.

#100 – #91 is here
#90  – #81 is here

80: Happy Birthday to Me (1981)

At the hoity-toity Crawford prep school, the popular clique known as ‘The Crawford Top Ten’ are finding their membership numbers thinned out by a loon with an inventive streak to their methods. PTSD-suffering heroine Virginia isn’t sure if it’s her or not. High-end production and an awesome finale underscore its presence here, though it outstays its welcome by a good 20 minutes.

Crowning moment: An epic bitchfest of a showdown between killer and survivor that makes episodes of Scooby Doo look plausible and Mean Girls look tame.

79: Freddy vs Jason (2003)

The fifteen-years-in-waiting clash between the slasher granddaddies, Freddy vs Jason was enormously successful with its WWE-style smackdown and cute homages to both series’ pasts. With more kitsch than a Eurovision marathon, it’s stupid fun.

Crowning moment: Jason goes to a cornfield rave.

78: 7eventy 5ive (2007)

A group of children play a phone prank on the wrong guy, who comes over and slaughters their parents. Years later, they haven’t learned their lesson when they go for another round at a college party, which is crashed by a parka-wearing maniac rocking a big axe and a bad attitude.

Crowning moment: The initial assault, which lays to waste a number of bit-parters in quick succession.

77: Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)

Hated by the masses, is there anything more ridiculous than A New Beginning? Several years after the events of The Final Chapter, Tommy Jarvis is packed off to a home for troubled teens in the middle of the woods when guess-who begins killing everyone. Like, EVERYONE.

Crowning moment: There’s a lot of gold-plated cheese to pick from; the leather boys on the road, the tryst in the forest, or the never ending chase scene that dominates the third act.

76: Scream 3 (2000)

The ‘trilogy’ was closed (temporarily) in 2000 with Sidney Prescott in hiding and a killer offing the cast and crew of Stab 3. Much of the violence was toned down after Columbine and the laughs felt forced, but Scream 3 is still leagues ahead of many of its imitators.

Crowning moment: Sid discovers the film set of her bedroom where history starts to repeat itself.

75: My Super Psycho Sweet 16 (2009)

The MTV show stocked with objectionable brats is parodied by MTV itself as a nasty high schooler’s exclusive party – at the roller dome where a series of murders occurred a decade earlier – is crashed by the legendary Lord of the Rink maniac…

Crowning moment: A fleeing victim on roller skates tries to raise the alarm only to lose her head when the killer intercepts with an axe, leaving her decapitated body to roll into a birthday cake made of sushi…

74: Hellbent (2004)

Nearly titled 28 Gays Later…, this Hollywood-set slasher film pits a quartet of gay friends against a homicidal Muscle Mary, who stalks and beheads them during a huge Halloween festival. Nicely sidestepping any anti-gay sentiment and out-slashing many of its heterosexual counterparts.

Crowning moment: Center of the dance floor, strobe lights, and a killer with a sickle.

73: Death Bell (2008)

The smartest students at a prep school in Seoul are having their wits tested by a killer who, channeling both Jigsaw and The Crystal Maze, kidnaps the teens at the top of the class ranking and forces their schoolmates to solve equations n’ stuff to save them… There’s a ghost as well.

Crowning moment: Can you guess who the killer is? Can you?

72: Maniac Cop (1988)

New York City is being terrorized by a killer. Yawn, and? It’s a cop. The public are panicking, cops are being shot in the street, and Tom Atkins thinks it’s Bruce Campbell. Neigh, it’s undead framed-and-disgraced former supercop Matt Cordell, who is very angry with his old precinct.

Crowning moment: Cordell rampages through the police station, cutting down all who stand in his way with ease.

71: Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)

Freddy vs Jason was supposed to happen in 1988. Clearly it didn’t, so to fill the void, Paramount pit him against Carrie. Sort of. Tina, rather, a girl with telekinetic abilities who accidentally resurrects him from the murky depths of Crystal Lake. Chuck in a house full of teenagers next door and you’ve got a party!

Crowning moment: I love the preface in this one, voiced by Crazy Ralph himself… “There’s a legend ’round here… A killer buried but not dead.” It summarises everything I love about the series.

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You’ve been framed. And skewered. And slashed.

EVIL DEAD TRAP

3 Stars  1988/18/100m

Director: Toshiharu Ikeda / Writer:  Takashi Ishii/ Cast: Miyuki Ono, Aya Katsuragi, Hitomi Kobayashi, Eriko Nakagawa, Masahiko Abe, Yuji Honma.

Body Count: 7


Contrary to the implications of that title, this oddball Japanese film has more in common with Saw than Sam Raimi’s splatstick classic, and was something of a collectible outside of its home territory after release.

Nami is the presenter of one of those late night TV shows that screen weird and wacky videos sent in by the public. One day she receives a tape containing the torture of a young woman, who eventually gets a blade through the eye (its gruesomeness shown in extreme closeup).

Due to the falling ratings, Nami asks if she can take a film crew to the location of the video as she thinks it will make good television. She is denied permission and so goes anyway, taking four colleagues and a still camera.

The film pads comfortably through derivative stalk n’ slash territory, with a pair splitting off from the group for sex before the victims start to wander into traps, which include a multitude of blades skewering one woman, and a rigged crossbow ambush. There’s a also a brilliant flash-strobe attack in the dark, which, along with some ambitious set pieces drew comparisons to Argento’s visual flourishes. With all the slaying done with in the first half, events take a detour down the weird path with one of the most bizarre twists occurring once the (obvious) killer is unmasked.

The film’s leanings towards violence against shrieking young women makes for some uncomfortable moments, while the fewer male victims are either killed all too quickly or entirely off-screen, a motif common in the staple ‘J-horror’ exports of the 90’s and 00’s, which commonly center around young women in distress.

Fundamentally, the photography and inventive demises make the film, which is otherwise your common-or-garden stalker with a particularly surreal what-the-fuck!? final forty minutes in a flick that essentially runs about twenty minutes too long.

The sequel is an entirely different affair, a dreamy, wannabe avant garde horror film that I’m not even sure I made it all the way through.

Party hard

INVITATION ONLY

3 Stars  2009/18/96m

“A party to die for.”

Director: Kevin Ko / Writers: Carolyn Lin & Sung In / Cast: Bryant Chang, Julianne, Vivi Ho, Jerry Huang, Kristian Brodie, Joseph Ma, Kao Yin-Hsuan, Liz.

Body Count: 12


Taiwan’s “first slasher movie” is more of an answer to Hostel than it is a straight-up bodycount pic, with down-on-his-luck chauffeur Wade randomly passed an invite to a society function by his rich client, Mr Yang, who can’t be arsed to go and instructs the youngster to claim he is the mogul’s cousin.

Once at the party, Wade, and four other ‘newcomers’ are introduced and there’s some spiel about writing down your wildest dream on the back of the invite, that the host makes a reality. Wade wants a sports car and consequently receives one, but is soon clued in, along with his fellow debutantes, that they’ve been selected because they’re allegedly ‘impostors’ – poor people either stealing from wealthy clients or transgressing some other high-society sin.

To be honest, I couldn’t make much sense of this part: the three less ‘valued’ characters have all done somethung fundamentally wrong but I couldn’t work out what either Wade or nice girl Hitomi were supposed to have done that would earn them a death warrant.

Each newbie is attacked, slashed, and then put ‘on show’ for the baying crowd of rich folk to see tortured and murdered. A corrupt political wannabe has his balls fried with an electrified jumper cable and a light-fingered nurse has some amateur surgery carried out on her face.

Wade and Hitomi do their best to escape but find themselves thwarted over and over again until they’re forced back into the lion’s den and have to fight fire with fire. Or, rather, sharp implements with other sharp implements.

There’s a decent amount of tension and liberal bloodletting – the electrodes-to-the-bollocks scene is especially cringe-inducing and grim. That aside, there’s not much new material worth lapping up in Invitation Only and it plays out in a very similar way to Eli Roth’s American counterparts, a couple of scenes almost directly lifted from them. Still, it passed 96 minutes without boring me so it’s worth a look, if not only to see how Asia does the job.

On a side note, I love how the cast credits are rounded off with “and Liz”! As if we all know who this Liz person is. I know a couple of Liz’s. This Liz, though, evidently as important in Taiwan as Madonna or Cher, plays the red-dress victim at the beginning. All hail Liz!!

BURIED ALIVE

buriedalive

2006/18/91m

“Evil has awakened.”

Director: Robert Kurtzman / Writer: Art Monterastelli / Cast: Terence Jay, Leah Rachel, Erin Michelle Lokitz, Tobin Bell, Steve Sandvoss, Lindsey Scott, Germaine De Leon, Beth Biasella.

Body Count: 6

Dire-logue: “Great weekend…fuckin’ snakes, psychos and dweebs.”

______________________________________

Is Tobin Bell the new Pleasence or Englund? He seems to be cropping up in more and more obscure B-movies these days on the back of the Saw-travaganza. Good for him though, he’s pretty cool, ain’t he?

Anyway, Buried Alive isn’t Tobin-centric, he’s a red-herringy bit-parter this time round as a grizzled custodian at the ranch where collegiate cousins Zane and Rene – who’re a bit too close for comfort – bring a gaggle of friends for the weekend to party hard, initiate new sorority pledges and fall victim to a girl-ghoul who’s severely pissed off about something. She appears mostly to Zane (Jay) who has “stopped taking his pills” and can therefore see what nobody else does. Until later when suddenly they all can. Or something.

buried2

Zane and Rene are of the belief that their ancestry is cursed, having something to do with their great-Grandfather burying his Native American wife alive, a big fire and a symbol on a talisman that protects those who wear it. It’s a confusing backstory that’s dragged out amidst hazing pranks and sexual exploits before the slashin’ begins, courtesy of the decomposing missus, who likes to bury axes into young academics, or chop them in half or slice their faces off…

buried4

While we are privy to the cut n’ dried character cut-outs of the geek, the obnoxious jock and the sorority bimbos, it becomes clear that one of the pledges is a dark horse who not only knows a lot about symbolism and its relative lore but has the design from the talisman tattooed on her back, which saves her from becoming the resting place for the killer’s axe.

The second half of the film really cranks into gear, taking cues from recent J-horror hits and ending with a nicely done sorta-twist. Even with the upsurge in quality towards the finale (a reversal of what normally happens in horror films, which have a tendency to start well and go downhill), it’s a case of too little too late for Buried Alive to be much more than a passing interest.

buried3

Blurb-of-interest: Bell’s other recent foray into supernatural slasherism is Boogeyman 2.

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