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Melancholia (Ezura Takaaki 2007)


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Melancholia
[Merankoria]

Genre: DNA-fueled Doppelganger Slasher

review in one breath

Mirai's life suddenly seems headed into the crapper! First, her father throws himself in front of a train, then she has to move in with some increasingly strange relatives, then she starts seeing creepy things to the point of a nervous breakdown, and finally her best friends start showing up bloody red and DEAD. And then the real weirdness starts! This is a made-for-TV horror flick directed by Z-Grade maestro Ezura Takaaki.


intro

In 2003, a six episode horror mini-series entitled Series Kyoufu Ya Wa (Horror Night Stories) aired on Japanese television. Each episode ran approximately 90 minutes and was the work of a different director with prior experience in the (low budget) horror genre. In 2007 the entire collection was released in English subtitled/dubbed format under their separate titles. In the order of their original appearance, the six films in the collection are:

- Ghost Gate [Juon no yakata] - dir. Yamaguchi Makoto
- Devil Hunting [Akuma Gari] - dir. Torao Satoshi
- Last Coffin [Saigo no Hitsugi] - dir. Kamei Tooru
- Legend of the Ogre [Kijo Densetsu] - dir. Niizato Mousaku
- Melancholia - dir. Ezura Takaaki
- In the Site - dir. Kawano Koji

First off, it should go without saying that this is NOT the 1989 "British suspenser" similarly titled "Melancholia" directed by Andi Engel. That's a different Melancholia. There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding this on the intertubes. Amazon has comments by disappointed folks who bought the wrong DVD by mistake, and I've seen at least three sites which list Ezura Takaaki as the co-producer for Engel's film. (He wasn't.) Ezura's Melancholia doesn't contain any Brits (or much suspense, for that matter). There simply wasn't room after throwing in all the adolescent angst, scientific techno-babble, bloody twig dolls and yes, melancholy.

This is a non-supernatural horror tale along the lines of Noroime (2000) where people start turning up DEAD, the heroine gets ESP-like heeby geebies, and a somewhat procedural plot gradually uncovers a mystery steeped in bad science and even worse scientists. It is probably best categorized as a "slasher" since everyone here dies by pocket knife, though the level of graphic violence is amazingly minimal, comprised of shocked expressions and drooled fake blood.

These similarities to Noroime are in fact no coincidence since Ezura wrote the screenplay for that film three years prior to writing and directing Melancholia. That same year he directed the outrageously bad Rensa: Noroi no video (Rensa: Cursed Video) from which I have still not recovered fully. To be fair, Rensa and Melancholia are galaxies apart in terms of polish and adequacy. Melancholia is still well within Z-Grade territory, but it tells a coherent tale with people who can act. Rensa, of course, lacked both, so at least there is some progress in directorial skill being made here.

story

Mirai leads a simple and contented life with her father until, that is, he throws himself in front of a speeding train. Suddenly alone and bereaved, she says good bye to her friends and moves in with a distant uncle and aunt. There she tries to fit into the new household despite the sudden change of surroundings.

But her peaceful transition is interrupted by spooky visions of a ghostly girl and the news that her friends are dropping dead in mysterious, bloody fashion. Though many miles away, it seems Mirai or someone eerily similar was seen with each just prior to their suspicious deaths.

With the help of one friend in touch with his feminine side and a mysterious tree doctor who seems to recognize her Mirai follows the clues. Will she be able to discover the strange truth before she loses her mind? WHO KNOWS!!??

verdict

This is squarely in the Z-Grade, made-for-TV category and doesn't deliver much in the way of suspense, horror or entertainment. The actress playing Mirai, Kawamura Hikaru is cute but not enough to make this endurable. And while this is far better than director Ezura's earlier work, it still doesn't lift him out of the SaruDama Stinker Hall of Fame (SSHOF).

Watch this one at your own risk. Its out in Region 1 English subbed/dubbed format able readily available. That's probably not a good thing.

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
One small step for Science, one giant leap for Mass Murder. Everyone in this film dies after drooling red syrup down their chin. Mirai is indeed cute but simply looking at her seems to result in your untimely death. Fairly involved plot with some potentially good twists, but still well within Z-Grade territory.

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