Japanese title: Shibuya Kaidan (translates as Shibuya Ghost Story)
Recommended for fans of Japanese ghosts with long black hair
A group of frisky young adults on a camping trip unwittingly release a deadly curse connected with an urban myth. There’s a group of public lockers in the heart of Tokyo’s busy shopping district, Shibuya. If you leave a gift in one of them, it will mean you’re lucky in love. But lately, this schoolgirl superstition is going horribly wrong, with a string of inexplicable deaths.
It would make sense if these two Shibuya Kaidan films, (released together on one DVD as The Locker in the US) were made just after the initial success of the two Ju-on/Grudge v-cinema films. They use a similar plot and similar scare tactics, but was made several years later.
The child-ghost Sat-Chan on the cover of a Japanese DVD
The Locker 1
I know that there has been a glut of Grudge and Ring lookalikes sweeping South East Asia, but I will recommend the ones that ‘work’. At least this is successfully scary. Though it does cheat on many occasions by pumping the volume up suddenly, or using bone-crunching sound effects, when onscreen there is little or no evidence of any such damage.
As three couples go camping, telling ghost stories to frighten each other, a sacred statue has its head ripped off (which I'm noticing more and more as a plot device in these supernatural revenge stories).
After the group returns to the city, baby handprints start appearing around them, and they start hearing (really loud) unnerving baby cries which no one else can hear. When the haunting peaks, they die violently by unseen hands.
The damaged statue was part of a shrine dedicated to aborted babies, and there’s the rub. The six sexually-liberated students are being haunted by a rather strict ghost of ‘sex before marriage’. But after they repair the statue, the hauntings continue and the plot thickens…
Both films are quite short, but have both been included on the same DVD in the US release called The Locker, which is well-presented in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen. They are also both in an English-subtitled VCD called Spirit of Vengeance, from Hong Kong.
Both films are also in this VideoCD edition
The Locker 2
Don’t you hate it when horror movies end with a trick ending? The baddy is dead, then there’s that final scary shot that means it’s not dead? Blackout. End credits. But… but… that means the story isn’t over. What happens next?
Well, The Locker 2 has the luxury of picking up exactly when the first film ended.
But instead of a group of young asults, the sequel centres around a schoolgirl who’s getting bullied. Her friends and enemies all know about the supposedly magic locker in Shibuya… Meanwhile, the doctor who was caught up in the case is trying to help the police find a link between the mysterious deaths...
There’s more ghosts and noisy deaths, but the plot is less carefully constructed, with locker key number 9 magically moving around as it pleases. Which makes for lazy storytelling rather than an inventive narrative.
It looks even more professional than the first instalment, with less handheld camerawork and slower steadier tracking moves. The acting is good and the music continues to be catchy.
The second Locker ends up even more open-ended than the first, but perhaps it's because they were already planning a third.
These films are likeable and scary, and are a far more commercial venture for Osamu Fukutani, the writer/director of the rather dull Suicide Manual (which I didn’t enjoy at all, reviewed here).
Poster for Shibuya Kaidan: The riaru toshi densetsuThe Locker 3
After a break of two years, I think a third film was made. Called Shibuya Kaidan: The riaru toshi densetsu (2006) - it’s listed on IMDB as a TV series. An unsubbed version is available from CD Japan, but is listed as a movie. I’ll track down a subtitled version as soon as I can to find out more.
There's also something called Shibuya Kaidan: Sacchan no Toshi Densetsu, listed on the Japanese Horror Movies Database as appearing on the internet in 2004, and available from CD Japan as 14 (10 minute) episodes. I’m guessing that this was a publicity tie-in on the web, to launch the second film.
Do you want to know more?
A longer review of the first two films appears on Sarudama with some screengrabs.