Genre: (Very) Low-budget (non)Supernatural (non)Horror
review in one breath
Only four video tapes remain from an ambitious group of four youth who had set out to investigate various mysterious suicides. Following the group's unexplained disappearance, a detailed exploration of the content of the four tapes is pursued in the hopes that some light might be shed on the matter. Will the grainy tapes reveal the mystery behind the group's untimely demise? WHO KNOWS?!?!
|other Broadway productions|
|Rensa: Noroi no Bideo||2000|
|Akuma ga Sumu Ie||2001|
|Nihon Onnen Chizu||2001|
|Kiku to Nowareru Tapu||2002|
|Noroi no Bideo: The Movie||2003|
|Noroi no Bideo 2: The Movie||2003|
|Ju-Lei: Shinrei Mystery File||2000|
|Ju-Lei 2: Satsujin Genba no Noroi||2001|
|Ju-Lei 3: Noroi no Exorcist||2002|
|Jurei: The Movie||2003|
|Jurei 2: Kuro Jurei||2004|
But please don't let me bias your viewing pleasure!
Rensa is co-directed by Ezura Takaaki and Ueda Ataru. Neither Ezura nor Ueda have any other films which show up on Western radar, though Ueda was second director on Takayuki Suzui's Man-hole (2001) -- which, by the way is not a gay porno flick. (Trivia time: For other creative uses of the term "Man Hole", see Suzuki Seijun's Tokyo Drifter!) Ezura wrote the screenplays for two Japanese "horror" videos, Ikiryou (Living Spirit - 1999) and Jugan (Cursed Eyes - 2000).
ANYWAY, the fact that neither the primary director nor the film itself shows up anywhere on IMDB.com should have been warning enough. But Noooo.. I need to be adventurous and check things out for myself. And what do I get? I get cursed by this damn video! Cursed, I say! Cursed!
I am hesitant to call the following "spoilers", since in the grand scheme of things, they are more akin to "salvation" for anyone contemplating an attempt to endure the torture which follows. In any event, I am about to spell out the ENTIRE plot of this film. Look away now, O innocent soul, before you too are Cursed! Yes! Cursed!
According to sources surviving a viewing of this film, it is said to be based on both Ringu and The Blair Witch Project. As someone who, at least up to the time of writing this, survived viewing this 90 minute excursion into the tortures of Hell itself, I must say that I saw no hint of Ringu anywhere within. And to those of you who might be tempted into watching this (CURSED) video based on the Ringu-like woman on the cover graphic, please allow me to deflate that balloon of expectation of yours by telling you... spoiler warning! ... she don't live here. Never did, never will. There is not even an implied woman ghoul in this film, green or otherwise.
Okay, you of iron constitution and true endurance of the torturous gauntlet which is Rensa, I am now ready to embark upon a full "explication" of the "plot". Please hold onto your bonnet.
The background music for this film is amazing! In their pursuit of excellence, which permeates this film, Ezura and Ueda spared no expense and purchased a 20 second audio sample of an eery crescendo. The crescendo starts with a knocking sound, and then a dissonant synthesizer chord slowly grows louder... louder... louder... until suspense is all around us. Then the sample ends abruptly and we are jerked back into (a now very noticeable) silence. Since the entire video is (unfortunately) a bit longer than 20 seconds, our co-directors put their heads together and decided to LOOP THE AUDIO CLIP THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE FILM!! That's right horror fans! You will hear a gazillion crescendos all of which abruptly end in silence and then start up again. This definitely adds to the fright as we get suspenseful cresendoes during such tense moments as our main characters' eating french fries at McDonalds. But that, my friends, is only the beginning of the CURSE which is Rensa
Narrated by an unnamed producer dressed in black turtleneck and leather jacket (Ezura?), we are informed that the following story consists of 4 video tapes originally filmed by four young people who have turned up missing. We are told that mystery surrounds how these tapes survived and what their meaning might be. Upon a moment of reflection, viewers might also recognize other mysteries such as (1) how the tapes shown are clearly VHS when the video recorder the young people used doesn't record on VHS, and (2) who wrote "#4" on the last tape (in the same handwriting as the other three) when tape 4 obviously records the demise of the group... Okay, let's not think too much. We're supposedly here for some horror entertainment, so on with it!
Tape One: Rei no Sonzai (The Existence of (a) Spirit)
Our team of four youths consists of Kenji (male), the eldest (20 yrs old) and "director" of the group (they call him "senpai"), Minoru (male), Mutsu (female) and Shiho (female). Under the guidance of Kenji, this team has set out to investigate various locations associated with suicides.
Walking through a dark cemetary, they spend way too much of my time trying to find the site of a completely unexplained suicide. They walk and walk, down dark roads. And then they walk some more. Once they arrive at the "site" which consists of a few flowers laid beside a tree, Shiho and Mutsu begin screaming hysterically when one of the flowers moves in the breeze. Despite Kenji's best effort to get a clear shot of this obviously spirit-induced flower movement using his not-quite-auto-focus video camera, there is no detection of the supernatural. Then Shiho and Mutsu really start screaming as Tape One abruptly ends. We (lucky) viewers suddenly see the leather clad producer staring intently into the video screen, trying to figure out what our adventurous youths could have possibly seen. Rewinding the video slowly, he comes across what he thinks is a facial image on the film (and YOU are the judge!). He thus concludes a spirit has been detected (thus the title "Rei no Sonzai"). As I think back on this scene (painfully), I get the creepy suspicion that our narrator saw his own face reflected on the video screen...
Tape Two: Gi Shiki (Ceremony)
Tape Two captures prolonged intimate moments at a local McDonalds where our four youth eat french fries at incredible rates of speed. Here, we "get to know" these young people as they laugh and joke throughout lengthy french fry-filled banter. However, when the tape suddenly reverts BACK to the graveyard scene to the moment we left off on Tape One, viewers are left bewildered and at a loss to explain the temporal sequence here. Did they rush from the terrifying graveyard to a McD's where they are briefly all smiles only to delve back into terror? What could possibly be an alternative explanation? You guess.
To the delight of the viewer, Tape Two consists of more walking down dark roads, more crying by Shiho, then more walking, then more crying. Etc, etc, (more walking), etc. One of the highlights of Tape Two is their fearless willingness to walk through a tunnel. When they emerge unscathed on the other side, viewers will undoubtedly be high-fiving eachother in the ecstacy of relief at the survival of these now beloved characters.
Following the tunnel drama, the Tape suddenly shows our four participating in some sort of ceremony (gishiki). As they sit around a pentagram symbol on the floor, the sprinkle a red powder over tarot cards while repeatedly chanting "Ave Maria". Maria must have been on another line, however, since the gishiki ends without further ado.
Tape Three: Mei no Eizou to Homupaji (The Enigmatic Image and Homepage)
We are back at the video lab with our leather-clad narrator, who is still intensely staring into the screen chewing his pen. This time, however, he is staring at a web page which Kenji apparently visited for inspiration. The webpage is run by a suicide cult and contains various videos of members doing themselves in. There's the girl who (apparently) jumps of a building while smiling into the camera. Another girl calmly slits her wrists in the sink. Another hangs herself, etc. Undoubtedly the smartest one in that group was the guy who volunteered to be the webmaster, since he is certainly still among the living. Or is he? Think about that a while why don't you.
ANYWAY, Tape Three shows Kenji offering the group a video tape made by this group. On that amazingly grainy tape, several girls are chanting and walking around a bonfire. Then they all apparently commit suicide through a mysterious method involving laying down and groaning. Our youth stare blankly at the tape without response. But when the tape suddenly ends, and static sound fills the screen, the TV volume is so high that it suprises Shiho and Mutsu who then scream hysterically. This moment of spine-tingling fear and terror is actually used in a promo piece for the film! Yes, the ghost of high volume is terrifying our young people! Turn away, O innocent ones! Turn away!
Kenji then suggests they go looking for the place of these suicides. Although the video clearly shows the groaning suiciders out in the woods, with a bonfire, they head for the nearest abandoned building. The walls are covered with graffiti such as "REBEL". After walking aimlessly for what seems like an hour, they stumble across a door which has the words "Don't Enter" scribbled in what looks like blood. They enter. As Shiho and Mutsu are sobbing uncontrollably, they discover a pile of ashes on the floor and a burned jacket hanging from the door. We are lead to believe that someone burned herself to death here, though the pile of ashes on the floor would probably not be big enough to account for a conflagrated chihuahua. Blood stains are smeared on the walls of the room, and someone has drawn two large eyes in blood. Our group decides to leave the building and Tape Three chillingly ends...
Our producer gets a sudden call from the video lab (apparently he went home while Tape Three was playing...). Rushing back to the lab, one of his technicians shows him a blood-curdling find. One of the videos on the Homepage of Self-Inflicted Death appears to be of Mutsu hanging herself. We watch in disbelief as an incredibly grainy video shows what appears to be a human or large ape hanging itself. Could this be Mutsu? What would possibly drive her (or the ape) to do this?
Tape Four: Shuumatsu (The Ending)
If that indeed was Mutsu on the website video (and not simply some poor depressed monkey), why did she commit suicide? Surely Tape Four will provide insight into this mystery, RIGHT?
Kenji, Minoru and Shiho are back in the woods, this time apparently looking for the locale of the bonfire suicides. Mutsu, for some unexplained reason, is not with them. As our three wander, wander and wander some more, they encounter various fright-filled omens such as saplings with stints holding them up, a hole in a fence, a mound of grass, and a rope tied to a tree. If that isn't testimony enough to the spiritual darkness permeating Japan, they find a stick man carved into a tree's bark. Yes, the stick man looks exactly like the figure from The Blair Witch Project, causing viewers to no doubt wonder how the Blair Witch made it through airport security to board a 15 hour flight to Japan. The sheer sight of the stickman causes Shiho to (again) cry uncontrollably.
THEN ALL OF A SUDDEN (!) we hear Kenji GASP (!) from behind the camera. Apparently he has seen something even more terrifying than the lumps of grass encountered earlier. Before we know it, Kenji and Minoru run full-throttle down the darkened path, leaving the now screaming Shiho all alone in the dark. The video tape then mysteriously switches over to the Shiho's hand-held camera (?) and we are provided a prolonged shot of her tennis shoes as she sobs in the background.
This, my friend, is how Tape Four ENDS! (!!!)
Our narrator (no doubt as dumbfounded as we are) can only pose the questions: "What could have happened to them? What did they see?" As I sat there yelling "MORE GRASS, STUPID! THEY SAW MORE GRASS!" at the narrator, I knew that I had become just another victim of the CURSE which is Rensa.
Version reviewed: Unsubtitled VHS
|Culture? You want culture? Don't even talk to me about culture! I'm CURSED, dammit!||Like those poor saps on the website, you too will contemplate suicide about half-way through this one.||The sexual highpoint of this video is watching Mutsu dip a french fry in ketchup. (Crescendo please!)||This is truly one CURSED video!|