NTSC region 3 HK DVD (Widesight)
Highly recommended J-horror film
Takashi Miike proved that he could make a crowd-pleasing box office hit as easily as his surreal low-budget shockers. Before Zebraman and The Great Yokai War, came this straightforward horror film that was so popular, it kicked off a franchise.
But Miike doesn’t use humour, so much as genre in-jokes, taking a similar premise to The Ring and running with it. The J-horror cliches are all there, but he uses them effectively and often trumps the scares with his own inventive twists.
It’s about a deadly curse that's transmitted by mobile phone – the predicted victim gets a call from the future at the precise time and date that they'll die, as well as a sneak preview of what their final moments will sound like. After several shocking deaths, with no proof of suicide, the press get wind of the serial phenomenon and arrange live television coverage of the next victim's allotted demise. The TV producer tries adding an exorcist to hedge his bets, hoping to either cure the curse or unmask it all as a hoax. Unfortunately, the curse is real and the exorcism doesn't work...
The scares aren’t always logical, Miike is having fun with an all-out scary movie and adds extra frights to keep up the momentum, and the film is way more bloody than the Ring films. Of course there's a long black-haired female ghost, but this movie has something extra - a fast pace.
Some great fx work and icky special effects make-up make this one of the strongest and straightforward Japanese horror films. My only reservation is that tying up all the plot threads makes the ending a little anti-climactic - but full marks for respecting the storyline and following it through logically.
The able and attractive Kou Shibasaki heads the cast. She went on to star in The Sinking of Japan, and appeared in the scary scarecrow movie Kakashi (2001) and Battle Royale (2000).
Two sequels followed, and a TV series that I wrote about here.
The film is out on region 1 DVD (pictured) in the US, but I'd already bought the region 3 release from Hong Kong, which has great audio and excellent English subtitles.