Genre: Documentary Style Tale of the Supernatural
review in one breath
A real life investigation looks into a young man who suddenly dropped dead after watching a "cursed video". The trail of clues leads to several horrifying (and not so horrifying) tales of the woeful consequences of viewing this VHS from hell. By the documentary's end, the demonic recording is located and offered to you for viewing, but not without a major disclaimer!
The very prolific honto ni atta! noroi bideo series has been quite popular in Japan for several years amongst a certain audience prone to believe in the possibility of the supernatural being captured on video tape. The series currently consists of 14 straight-to-video productions and 10 "specials". The film under review here is the first of two theatrical releases and is one of the "special" versions (as is our other review in this series Ju-Kai). All of these versions are thoroughly documentary in style and follow an investigative team as they try to uncover the scope and cause of particular supernatural phenomena caught on tape.
Although hearing that this is a documentary style horror tale investigating a cursed video may conjure up images of Blair Witch or Ringu, it is far from either in both intent and content. This is intended to portray a real (honto ni atta!) documentary and as such contains no discernible dramatizations. The storyline consists solely of interviews with survivors claiming some run-in with the ghoulie in question which are then pieced together in an attempt to explain further the paranormal phenomenon. What is striking about the honto ni atta! noroi bideo series is that it really seems that these people believe in what they are talking about. By that I do not merely mean they are convincing actors. I mean this really appears to be about a ghoulish phenomena these people believe in.
Director Shiraishi Kouji also directed Ju-Rei 2: Kuro Ju-Rei (which was recently released in Region 1 DVD format under the title Ju-Rei: The Uncanny) as well as a number of lesser known horror/ghost tales. Working with Shiraishi as producer on this project is Suzuki Wataru who himself produced an amazingly prolific 80 (!) video productions, many in the horror genre, between 1983 and present.
On the morning of July 22, 2002, a corpse was discovered in an alley behind a busy Tokyo thoroughfare. Although police were able to identify the corpse as Hara, a man in his early thirties, they were unable to discover any cause of death and foul play had been ruled out. Police reports referenced eye-witnesses who saw Hara only 30 minutes prior to his being found standing at the mouth of the alley staring blankly down the corridor. Further interviews with his girlfriend and close friends mentioned only that the night prior they had all sat down to watch a video together.
Based on a tip from one of the friends who had been with Hara the night prior, the honto ni atta! noroi bideo investigative team is prompted to look more closely into Hara's sudden, inexplicable demise. To the investigators Hara's friends admit that they had watched a supposedly "cursed video" and that Hara seemed to have an intense interest in the content. The investigators are then surprised to learn that the video watched was in fact an earlier version of their series, honto ni atta! noroi bideo 2.
This information sends them back to their trove of viewer mail in search of similar adverse effects deriving from a viewing of honto ni atta! noroi bideo 2. What they discover is a number of ill consequences from watching the cursed video, but nothing remotely approaching sudden death. (But then again, if death did result, it would be kind of difficult to write in and let people know about it, eh?) The lack of similarly serious consequences (not only causes a sigh of relief in their legal department but also) sends the investigative team back out to look for more clues.
Looking into Hara's past, they interview close high school friends and college acquaintances, and thereby discover that Hara had an early attraction to such cursed videos and had claimed to possess such a tape. After locating a high school friend who was privy to Hara's infatuation of the haunted tape and the destructive power accompanying it, the investigative team finally obtains the original tape. But not before interviewing several other young people who after viewing it suffered rather frightening and formidable consequences.
After a rather serious disclaimer to viewers, the investigation ends which a prolonged viewing of the cursed tape allowing you to see what has caused so many others only gross misfortune.
Despite the utter lack of narrative and dramatization, this actually has a few intense chill moments. These all revolve around your sudden wonderment as to whether or not you really ought to watch the cursed video they have so diligently tracked down amidst creepy tales of sudden death and hauntings. If you watched the original Ringu, you will undoubtedly remember the sensation you had when they finally sat down and play the video for you. With eyes wide open yet wondering what consequences it might hold, you couldn't help but peer and witness what had been the demonic demise of others. This moment of sensation is precisely how this entire investigation builds with reinforcement upon reinforcement of various eye-witness tales of creepy consequences and downright fatality following a viewing of Hara's tape. Thus the final moments of this investigation are indeed climatic as you find yourself drawn between curiosity, common sense, and a fear of the unknown.
That said, however, I can recommend this only for die-hard fands of Japanese horror, and by that I mean fans of such intensity that they will enjoy seeing popular Japanese formulas that would not, could not fly with Western audiences. This film is all about the real possibility of a cursed video. If you don't buy into that possibility or you can't allow yourself to tap into a Japanese superstition which allows for such, you will most likely view this as ineffective and uneventful. There is a reason for there being nearly 30 versions of this series, and if you think you can intuit why, I believe you will enjoy this.
Version reviewed: Unsubtitled VHS
|One culture skull for being a window into the actual Japanese superstition regarding cursed videos.||Plenty of interviews involving recollections of fatalities and accidents, but no dramatized violence.||Needless to say, I am still waiting for the "Cursed Porno Video".||Here's a documentary-style horror tale where you realize these people really believe in what they are saying. And by the time they show you the cursed video, you may be believing too!|