Genre: Trans-Dimensional Supernatural Horror
review in one breath
The mysterious Kuroi Misa is back, this time investigating why an incredibly charred demonic girl screamed Misa's name before melting into the Tokyo street. Clues lead her to a local highschool and into a thespian club's attempt to dramatically reenact the Homunculus play. Little do the girls realize, however, that their play is actually a satanic ritual which will transport them to a sinister dimension of terror (and a gazillion lurching homunculii)!
As noted above, this is the third in the Eko Eko Azarak series (of four films). The 1995 original and its sequel were both directed by Sato Shimako and starred Yoshino Kimika as Kuroi Misa. The current film is directed by Ueno Katsuhiro and represents his first and last directoral work. (And for that you should probably be thankful.) Here Kuroi Misa is played by Saeki Hinako who also played Sadako (!) in Rasen (1998) and Kyoko in Uzumaki (2000).
All of these Eko Eko films are heavily steeped in european gothic motif and ambiance as if Japanese notions of the spiritual realm were wholly governed by judeo-christian perspectives of Satan, angels and demons. Rather than imagery derived from Onmyoji or Shinto magic, what abounds here are inverted pentagrams, Latin invocations, Lucifer and ancient Western mythology. Although this undoubtedly increases the appeal of these films to Japanese audiences, it nevertheless creates some rather bizarre ahistorical implications such as the current film's claim that the origins of the ancient magical order responsible for the birth of the Homunculus (a creation originally claimed by the Italian physicist Paracelsus (1493-1541)) is in fact located in an old Japanese schoolhouse. (etc.) And while I realize that the spiritual dimension is not contained by geographical or cultural boundaries, it remains a little disorienting to see Western mythology relocated en toto to Japanese shores. (And I'm sure the sensation would be mutual should there ever be a movie which suggested Hannya was haunting Lower Manhattan.)
ANYWAY I have dueling opinions regarding Misa the Dark Angel. On the one hand I found it painful to endure owing primarily to many quirky or overly simplistic plot elements. The film seems to be aimed squarely at junior or high school aged girls, drowning anyone outside that demographic in prolonged melodramatic fixation on, well, girlishness, which will soon have you punching the chihuahua.
In addition, this film has almost no special effects whatsoever and relies wholly on its mythology to convey horror (and remember here that this western mythology is far more mysterious to Japanese audiences than it will be to you or I).
But that brings me to the other hand, wherein it must be said that using only camera filters and gothic scenery this film does indeed create some rather creepy or effective moments. Thus I feel I must at least tip my hat to director Ueno for accomplishing what he has given his obviously scarce budget and resource.
This film strongly conjured up memories of Oshikiri (2000), a film which likewise has almost no special effects yet which rather effectively depicted two vastly different dimensions of Evil and Good using only camera technique. In fact, upon further reflection even the large european-styled buildings and the robed, faceless ghoulies seem verbatim in these two films. (!?)
Kuroi Misa is informed by her bizarre coroner uncle that a a severely burned woman had screamed out her name before collapsing in the street. The dead woman's identity is unknown, but during the autopsy a malignant entity flies screaming from the charred corpse. Through clues in a burned book fragment containing magical incantations found next to the body, Misa is soon participating in the drama club of a nearby school for (cute young) girls.
The way-too-serious thespians are diligently rehearsing the creation of the Homunculus, a soul-less man made life form. But during the scene where the life-giving ritual takes place, the girls are suddenly possessed by a powerful demonic force and transported to a parallel dimension filled with mutant homunculus, worm-filled dolls and poop-rain. (!!) As one by one the girls meet a grisly demise based on their deepest personal nightmares, only the steel-eyed Kuroi Misa seems capable of helping the dwindling survivors escape.
As I said earlier, despite having perhaps a couple (or one) meritorious point(s), this was ultimately (and literally) painful to watch. By that I mean this 90 minute girlie-fest seemed to take 3 hours to end. Between the wholly irrational behavior of the screaming girls and the completely unconvincing and often bewildering storyline, the more noble use of this DVD is undoubtedly as a cocktail coaster.
I guess that about sums it up. Cocktails anyone?
Version reviewed: Region 1 DVD available via mainstream US venues.
|Maybe some revisionist culture transplanting european mythology squarely in the Tokyo region.||Some schlock scenes and girlie demise.||One girl did wear a pearl necklace, though.||One point for Ueno's gutsy attempt to pull this off without any budget or special effects.|