Yurei: Chakushin Ari

Here we are, about to embark on a 7-day Japanese horror marathon to celebrate the horror season, brought to you by yours truly. I'll be watching a total of seven Japanese horror movies, some of the most famous and highly-regarded ever made. 7-days, 7 movies, 7 reviews. This is Berryz Kyuuden's Yurei.

Now obviously I'm limited to what I can do, there are many great movies out there and only doing seven will mean that many great ones will be missed out. The list of movies I review is in no particular order nor intended to be a "Top 7" list, it's merely the movies I watched this halloween.

So, let's get this review down!

Today, I'm starting things off with an incredibly scary movie. Chakushin Ari, or One Missed Call, a fairly recent addition to the hall of fear. One Missed Call was released in cinemas in 2004, having been directed by Japanese cinema legend Takashi Miike. So, with that in mind I went into this with decent expectations. It should be said, however, that I'm not a big fan of horror movies. In fact, I've typically avoided them in the past. It's only in the past year or so that I've taken a passing interest in Japanese horror. There are some directors, though, whose reputation preceeds them.

So, any movie is only as good as the idea that gives way to it. The plot for this movie is, as with most horror films, pleasently simple. People mysteriously start receiving voicemail messages from their future selves, in the form of the sound of them reacting to their own violent deaths, along with the exact date and time of their future death. Yumi, our story's protagonist, with the help of Yamashita, whose sister had fallen victim to the 'curse' some 6 months prior, search for the answers to the stange happenings.

The plot sounds simple, and it is. As the story progresses, however, the story gets progressively more complex. At no point does the story ever reach the point where you should be confused by it, however. The story was linear enough that it's easy to follow.

Allow me to breifly sum up the story for you, if you don't like spoilers than it might be wise to watch the movie before reading the next paragraph, or to skip ahead.

When two of Yumi's friend's are killed, both of them having recieved the mysterious phone calls, she gets progressively more and more worried. The police had the deaths down as suicide, but she, naturally, has difficulty believing it - especially after she see's one of them killed in front of her own eyes. Kenji, who was pulled down an elevator shaft to his death by an invisable force. When she and her friend Natsumi spend the night together - clearly still shaken up about the earlier two deaths. Natsumi phone rings. The same ringtone that all previous victims have heard when the fateful phonecall comes. This time not just a voicemail was included, but a video message showing her own horrific death.

She is quickly approached by TV crews who attend to broadcast a live show as her hour nears. Including a live debate between experts on paranormal activity and sceptics. Then an exorcism. However, the exorcism fails and the studio descends into chaos as Natsumi's death prediction comes to light in what is, perhaps, the most horrific scene in the entire movie.

Yumi is the next to recieve the call. When Yamashita tells her to return back to her family, she refuses out of fear of her abusive mother. She continues to help Yamashita uncover the truth of the mysterious phone calls. And, following up on a few leads, visit the old house of Marie Mizunuma, who has been missing for 6 months. Who they believe to be the ghost responsible for the murders. This eventually leads them to the old hospital, where Marie's body is found, charred and burnt, with her cellphone close by. But the corpse attacks Yumi, and when Yamashita tries to help he is locked out of the room. Yumi see's her own abusive mother in the corpse of Marie and swears to not run away any more.

Anyway, that's most of the plot. There is another 15 or so minutes to the movie, but I shan't post spoilers to the ending here.

The film itself starts off pretty weak, but gets gradually scarier as it goes on. The horror, though, acts very typically when it comes to J-Horror in that it comes and goes in an eb-and-flow fashion. You'll get one scary scene, then 10 minutes with nothing scary, then another one. Each time getting progressively scarier until peaking at the climax of the film.

Unfortunately the climax of this movie was a little juxtapositioned. Ordinarily you'd expect the climax and then the ending. But in this movie the climax came at the hospital, after which we're meant to believe the movie is wrapping up. But the writers had one last scare for us in store with a plot twist that was clever - however anti-climactic for a scene that just followed some 20 minutes of film that was already significantly scarier and felt like an ending in and of itself.

If they had left it there, it would have worked fine, but what they did do is bring something new and interesting to the plot, which is certainly welcome. But made it difficult to feel any great sense of fear, which the scene would have benifited from. Some may say that it could have been intentional - to help create a greater feeling of unease around an already unusual scene. But I just think it was a disaster.

Then again, there aren't many movies out there which have satisfying endings. The middle of the movie is always the best part, and once you start to slow down to close the movie the audience can tell it's nearly over and start to switch off.

Of course, no horror atmosphere would be complete without a great soundtrack. Unless you are going for a minimalist approach where the lack of music creates a scarier atmosphere than having music. Which kind of movie was this? Well, it had music, but most of it was pretty forgettable. Maybe this was because it was so well used and effective that it drew you in and just don't really notice it's there. It would be pretty annoying if you are trying to get into the movie and the music keeps bringing you out of it and reminding you that you are indeed watching a movie.

But there was one piece of music that was unforgettable - in fact, perhaps that was the reason the rest failed to attract my attention, it was all overshadowed by this simple tune. The ringtone. It was used to great effect in the movie, whenever a person would recieve their "death call", their cellphone would always ring with the same tune. By the end of the movie you feel traumatised enough that just hearing the tune will take you back and remind you of the movie.

And now, most important for any ghost movie, is the ghost that haunts the protagonists. Was she scary? Well, for most of the movie you don't actually see the spirit. It is just that. A spirit. Totally invisable, and manipulates objects (such as one shot where we see the buttons on  a cellphone being pressed by some invisable force) and people, like the various deaths in the movie, with 'hands' that aren't really there.

It isn't till the hospital scene that we finally get a glimpse of our ghost in, what I personally found to be the scariest moment in the whole movie, where Yumi is alone in the dark, deserted hospital with the spirit. And down the corridor you see a jar being pushed into view from around the corner, and then again in various places around her and one is finally placed right in front of Yumi. I'm not sure what the jars contained, but for me that just made the whole thing even creepier. Not to mention the only sound heard was the sound of that jar being dragged across the floor. But it was here that we glimpse the hands of our spirit. I've not the most fearless person in the world, but it certainly gave me the chills. Shortly after we see the whole creature, which was pretty terrifying too, but without that mystery of who or what those hands belonged to, or the dread of having to find out, I felt that a whole layer of fear towards this 'creature' had been eliminated. But it was the next stage in the horror, and definately gave off it's own feeling of dread and dispair.

This movie was so well recieved that it was enough to spawn, not one, but two sequels. Now horror sequels are something I don't generally like. With the preassure on it to improve on the first film which, if it was good enough to warrent sequel movies, isn't an easy task then it will usually fail to live up to the expectations created by the first. And I haven't seen either of the sequel Chakushin Ari movies yet, but I have heard that the second movie was even better than the first. Maybe I should add it to my "to watch" list.

Either way, tune in tommorow night for another Japanese horror review. Until next time, goodnight.


Liamers said...

I dont watch horror movies but that was a really good review, I can almost visualise how the whole movie went without actually seeinga second of it. Good writing even if I didn't know what juxtapositioned meant

Alita said...

I love chakushin ari. Unfortunately the sequels as usual leave much to be desired. Still they are all fun movies.

This is one of the few that even the american remake last year was pretty decent. The only bad part was the obvious and overdone CG at the end.

I'm wondering if Kairo will be included in your review, that's probably one of the scariest Japanese films I've seen.

Dran said...

Actually Alita, I'll let you in on a little secret.
Kairo is indeed a movie I'll be reviewing. In fact it was slated for the second one. XD

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