Genre: School-based Ghost Stories starring Too Many Starlettes
review in one breath
In three separate ghost stories Japanese folk intuitions regarding malevolent spirits, Shinto-based animism, and cute young girls prevail. Each tale takes place in or around a school building and involves the haunted demise of bewildered female students at the hands of unforgiving supernatural manifestations.
Kyoufu Gakuen was the directorial debut of Yamaguchi Makoto who later went on to direct several of the Honto ni Atta video series, Chizu kara kieta mura: Sugisawa-mura no noroi (The Town which Disappeared from the Map: The Curse of Sugisawa Mura - 2001) and produced Kikuto no Nowareru Tapu (The Cursed Cassette - 2002).
Although the film's title is commonly known as Terror School (the literal translation), I have also seen this referred to as A Frightful School Horror (eg, here). This collection of three separate ghost tales involving haunted schools undoubtedly rode the contemporary popularity of school-based horror. Other older yet similarly-themed series such as Gakkou no Kaidan had already churned out a large collection of sequels which the public thoroughly consumed.
In order to (attempt to) distinguish itself from the pack, Kyoufu Gakuen boasts the unique tag line of casting "15 shoujou (young female) idols!". Thus if you're getting bored with the haunted school theme but still like cute young girls prancing around then step right up. This practice of advertising cute young girls as sub-plots actually caught on with several later b-horror/z-horror films. In fact, the producer for the current film, Yukawa Kenta went on that same year to nearly outdo Yamaguchi by directing Akuma ga Sumu Ie -2001 (The House where (d)Evil Lives) a schlock-slasher which boasted (and delivered) the grisly demise of (and I quote from the film's tag-line) "14 Young, Beautiful Idols". Although Kyoufu Gakuen is far less grisly than its producer's competitor, the netherworld clearly does not adore young girls as much as these films' target audiences are assumed to.
The following are brief descriptions of the three tales in this collection:
[Exchange Student from the Spirit World / Reikai kara no Tenkousei]
While playing on the school grounds with (cute young female) friends on the last day of summer, Shyoko learns that a new exchange student will be joining the school. Not long after she sees a lone little girl wandering the schools grounds, but when she informs her friends, they seem unable to see her. With her curiosity peaking, Shyoko follows the little girl into an abandoned portion of the school and there learns/experiences a horrible secret.
Note to self: NEVER follow strange little girls into abandoned buildings.
[The Haunted Science Lab / Nowareta Rikashitsu]
After three (cute young female) slackers are assigned to clean the school, they instead exchange ghost stories involving the bizarre demise of three young girls who venture into the school's science lab late one night. This story could perhaps be better titled "Revenge of the Biology Specimens" as the tables are ultimately turned and the Ghost of Toad does a little of his own dissection.
[Little Goddess of Death / Shinigami Shoujou]
A group of (cute young female) students inadvertently walks by a mutilated crow on their way to school. When one of the girls seems to linger too long at the sight, the others remind her of the superstition that the lurking spirits of dead animals will latch onto anyone overly moved by the corpse. By the time they hurry her along, however, it is too late and soon strange things begin happening in the third stall in the girl's bathroom.
Though each of these tales is indeed a rather basic, low-budget production, their content is nevertheless satisfactory as supernatural folk-tales. The strongest of the three is the first which has some substantial twists at the end, while the other two are less sophisticated and seem to get hung up on the number of "young idols" they need to pack into the narrative.
The first story presents more of a psychological horror culminating in the young girl's realization of her sorrowful and horrible fate, and in my opinion constitutes the type of school-based horror story students are likely to tell themselves. The second amounts to a slasher tale which crescendos in the dissection of our unfortunate victims. The strength of the third lies only in its reference to the animistic superstition that one can be possessed by spirits of animals. (Which is a cool notion.) The story lacks any other shock value which Yamaguchi seems to try to counterbalance by suggesting that the haunting takes place primarily in the third stall in the girl's restroom, the traditional lair of Toire no Hanako-san, a well-known school-based ghoulie.
Version reviewed: Unsubtitled VHS
|Not much culture here other than some local superstitions.||Schlock-gore depictions of biology dissections gone terribly awry. Plenty of frogs being cut open. One dead crow.||Zero||Nothing notably bizarre here.|