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Ghost System (Nagae Toshikazu 2002)


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Ghost System
[Gosuto shisutemu]

ゴーストシステム

Genre: Supernatural Sci-Fi Horror

review in one breath

After receiving a cryptic message from a long missing friend, Misako and Wataru go searching and stumble across a large abandoned facility deep within the forest. Inside they discover a research project gone berserk, tearing down the barrier between the world of the dead and the world of the living.


intro

This film seems to be virtually off the map. Although it is now four years old and has some relatively well-known talent appearing within it, there is very little information available on this other than the basic who and what. JMDb has no listing for either the film nor its director, nor does it appear in any of the cast's filmographies. Maybe the film itself is a ghost system.

This is based on a novel of the same title by Nagae Toshikazu (長江俊和) -- who also directs this film. The majority of Nagae's directorial career has consisted of contributions to several Japanese TV horror productions including the Gakkou no Kaidan and Shibuya Kaidan - Sa-chan series. Besides these, he has one other horror film which seems to have gone straight to video, as did this current film.

This is part science fiction, part ghost horror blended in a fairly decent story with an even better plot twist. The cast here is quite sparse (not counting the ghoulies) and consists of three high school students and one beautiful mad scientist. Perhaps the most well-known of the four is Tamaki Hiroshi (玉木宏) who also appears in Christmas Eve (2000), Revolver Aoi Haru (2003) and the similarly named "Ghost Shout" (also 2004!) by Chakushin Ari 2 director Tsukamoto Renpei (塚本連平).

This is not exactly big budget fare, but nevertheless does a good job with what it has. By and large the narrative wholly takes place within either the depths of the forest or the abandoned facility they find therein. Effective cinematic styles convey a good degree of creepiness and convincingly suggest a technologically advanced "system" which the film otherwise explains very little of (and perhaps wisely so). Apart from these camera styles, no special effects are employed. And yet this tale nevertheless pulls of a convincing aura of foreboding similar in some ways to the apparition-riddled world of Kairo.

story

After a long disappearance, Mai sends a brief message, consisting only of a photograph of trees within a forest, to her boyfriend Wataru and her best friend Mitsuko. Both Mitsuko and Wataru had expected the worse after Mai suddenly disappeared without word to anyone. And now the enigmatic photograph she has sent doesn't ease their nerves. Thinking that it is indeed a call for help, the two set out to find the location portrayed in the photo with the hope of finding Mai.

They do indeed locate the spot, next to a large abandoned facility deep within the woods. Once inside the structure, they can hear the whirring of large machinery in the bowels of its basement. As Mistuko waits up top while Wataru descends the dark stairway, they both quickly discover that the site is infested with ghostly apparitions which clearly seem intent upon harming them.

To Mistuko's aid comes a strangely fixated scientist who admits of her dangerous research taking place below the facility. She and her colleagues had developed a vast machine "system" which enabled them to materialize the consciousness of departed souls. The system was built simply to create a rift between the world of the dead and the world of the living so that once and for all science might be able to peer past the shroud of death and into the supernatural.

Little did they realize the consequences their experiment would have.

verdict

This is a decent low-budget ghost tale built around an interesting premise and a fairly intriguing storyline. The vast majority of the film works very well, with the exception of perhaps two recognizable faux pas. The only real glitch in this narrative is the awkward and ill-timed romance scene between Wataru and Mitsuko. Given their chronological proximity to their major discovery regarding Mai, the whole episode seems implausible. A second element which may cause head-scratching is this film's depiction of the physics of the dead. For some reason, the ghosts in this tale lumber around as slowly as the zombies in Day of the Dead. Need to escape? Do a double-step. Although the story later suggests the ghosts can in fact be quite nimble and need not simply shuffle from point A to B, it stubbornly chooses to depict every ghost and every escape scene in terms of out pacing the attacker.

As to whether or not you can find this, I may have some doubts. However, if you do find it, it will suffice for a Saturday afternoon pop-corn matinee of GHOSTLY SCI-FI HORROR !!!

Version reviewed: VCD with English subtitles

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
See, there's this machine which, once you turn it on, out pops a ghost! Some depicted and implied violence perpetrated upon the living and the dead. If that ghost hadn't shown up, cute little Mitsuko would have gotten her first kiss, right there on the big screen! Interesting premise pulled off on a very low budget. Excellent twist at the end, too.

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