6WH: Week 6: Japanese Horror

The final week of the Six Weeks of Halloween horror movie marathon (See Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5) kicks off with a two Japanese horror films, one disc of an Anime series, and the usual smattering of shorts and trailers.

  • The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror IV: The Devil and Homer Simpsons
  • Poor Devil (WTF is this? Franklin Mint Blog has details)
  • Hellbound: Hellraiser II (trailer)
  • Jigoku: The title of this film means “hell,” but unfortunately, only the final third of the film takes place there. The first hour or so is comprised of a tedious, handwringing melodrama about Shiro Shimizu, a good student with a loving fiancee, who seems to have drawn the ire of Tamura. I’m not sure what the deal is with Tamura, but whenever he appears (and I use that term literally), people die. This film doesn’t make a ton of sense, but it’s beautifully shot, and once you begin the descent into hell that the title promises, things pick up a bit. Granted, things still don’t make sense, but then, you kinda expect that in hell. In any case, Shiro is sentenced to an eternity of damnation in the Japanese/Buddhist version of hell… unless he can gain redemption by saving his unborn daughter. Or something, I don’t think it really matters. The only reason to really watch this movie is for its use of gore, as you see various characters from the first hour punished for their sins. Relatively tame by today’s standards, this movie, made in 1960, clearly disturbed audiences of the time and paved the way for gore as a mainstay of the horror genre. Alas, since none of the characters really matter much and since there is little emphasis on story or plot, I didn’t care much for the film. Fantastic visuals though. Probably only interesting for students of the genre. **

    The boiling cauldron level of hell

    The boiling cauldron level of hell

  • The Ring (trailer)
  • Ringu (trailer)
  • Video Dating (Robot Chicken)
  • Ju-on: The Grudge: This Japanese haunted house tale puts an interesting spin on the cliched subgenre, creates an undeniably creepy atmosphere, and produces some excellent scares, but ultimately doesn’t go anywhere. We’re informed by the title sequence that a Ju-on is “The curse of one who dies in the grip of powerful rage. It gathers and takes effect in the places that person was alive. Those who encounter it die, and a new curse is born.” And that’s basically it. A bunch of people enter the house, get cursed, then we see them disappear or die mysteriously. Writer/Director Takashi Shimizu attempts to liven the proceedings by employing a nonlinear narrative structure, and by instituting the rule that it doesn’t matter where you go, these ghosts will still find you and do their thing. The latter is an interesting twist, solving the problem of a lot of haunted house tales (i.e. Just leave the house, dumbass! Well, in Ju-On, that won’t help you). At first, this movie is wildly effective. Shimizu crafts a creepy atmosphere that sets the mood and then manages a few unsettling payoffs. The film is filled with little visual tricks that keep you on edge, constantly looking in the shadows or reflections for an unseen ghost. The sound design and minimalist soundtrack provide a lot of the scares and complement the visuals well. The unconventional narrative structure is engaging at first… a series of interlocking “chapters” that each tell the tale of one individual’s struggle to avoid the curse. Unfortunately, by the end of the film, the novelty of the atmosphere was beginning to flag, and the nonlinear timeline manages to give away the ending about a half hour before it happens, thus taking all the suspense out of the ending and making the seemingly interesting narrative structure essentially pointless. The ending is the one major flaw in an otherwise harrowing movie. That said, this is probably the creepiest movie I’ve seen during the 6WH (the only other candidate was also a ghost movie, <a href="The Others“>The Others), so I’ll give the movie a pass. ***

    It is either a little boy ghost or a cat ghost, or both.

    It’s either a little boy ghost or a cat ghost, or both.

  • Vampire 24: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 (Robot Chicken)
  • Blood+ (trailer)
  • Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (trailer)
  • Hellsing (disc 1): I wanted to get some Anime on here, as horror is a genre not particularly covered by my guides to the Anime world. I actually wanted to watch Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, but Netflix doesn’t have it for some reason, so I had to resort to this series. I picked Hellsing because it got generally good reviews and sounded rather interesting. After the first 3 episodes, it seems to be chugging along well, though I don’t think the series plot has been established yet. There’s no clear villain, except for the hordes of vampires that the Hellsing organization hunts down and destroys. Interestingly, the Hellsing organization employs vampires for this purpose. This actually makes a bit of sense; I’ve always thought that the best vampire hunters would be other vampires. One of the main characters and seemingly the most powerful vampire is Alucard, an obvious hint that he is, in fact, Dracula (Alucard is Dracula spelled backwards, and is even used in Bram Stoker’s novel). The other main character is a young policewoman who chose to become a vampire when she got between Alucard and a rampaging vampire. She struggles with what she’s become, and we get our introduction to the world of Hellsing through her. No recognizeable villain or serious challenge to Alucard’s power has appeared, unless it’s the Vatican’s hunter who has just appeared at the end of disc 1 (The Vatican’s vampire hunting unit, named Iscariot, seems to disagree with the Hellsing organization’s practice of fighting fire with fire). While I can see that Iscariot will show up later in the series, they don’t seem like the primary villain. Anyway, so far, so good. More thoughts on the series (still 10 episodes to go) will be posted separately.



That about covers it for tonight, but the festivities will continue through the week and Wednesday’s entry will be a special Speed Round edition, featuing a bunch of movies that I’ve watched recently but haven’t had the chance to write about. Thanks to NeedCoffee for the pointer to Poor Devil (they’re doing a Halloween marathon as well). Kernunrex’s 6WH is also proceeding well; he’s even been watching Kaedrin favorite Phantasm and it’s several sequels. In an interesting twist, Shamus will be posting about survival horror video games during what he calls Hallowweek. And the usual crowd is up to their Halloween shenanigans: Horror Movie A Day, Quint from AICN is still going strong, The Metal Misfit, Random Acts of Geekery, and Cal’s Media of the Month. It also looks like local horror aficionados are hosting a marathon of their own this weekend: Exhumed Films 24 Hour Horror-thon. The schedule is being kept secret for now, but it looks like fun.

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