Genre: School-Based Horror Story
review in one breath
Though far less than terrifying, this third version of the Toire no Hanako series opened up so much weird Japanese superstition that I can only stand in awe with jaw wide open. Exposure to this wholly foreign perspective of ghostliness thoroughly makes up for this film's lack of cinematic polish.
What a strange bird this is.
Undoubtedly you watch ghost tales for their spook value but also with the hope that they somehow bring you into a new way of thinking about things. For example, contemporary films such as Sixth Sense and The Others did a very good job of providing audiences with a new, creepy perpsective on the relation between the world of the living and the world of the dead.
And while this film (Toire no Hanako-san : Kyoufu kousha) totally lacks the "spook value" of those greater films, it nevertheless excels in introducing audiences into a memorably new perspective on how (in the Japanese mindset) mundane reality intersects with the potentially horrific spiritual realm.
The classic tale of Toire no Hanako-san involves a creepy ghoul in the form of a young girl who haunts a school building (with a specific locus in the girl's bathroom). Here, however, the tale imagines the scenario whereby little Hanako is released from her school ground confines.
One would thus think that the horror trail would follow the wandering demon Hanako (and it certainly does initially), but the core of this tale quickly reverts back to the school building itself. In classic animistic fashion, the institutional edifice begins to exhibit malevolent self-consciousness based on the cumulative reverberations it has picked up from the living generations of students.
To be honest, this was remarkable to see -- not because of any polished effects but due to its wholly unique (at least to me) representation of Shinto spirituality applied to socially contemporary buildings. Usually in Japanese superstition this animistic principle of a deeply ingrained spiritual overlay between geographical locations and the spiritual realm is applied to ancient shrines, but here it is (for the first time Ive seen) applied to modern constructions.
By this I mean that this film does not simply suggest the school is haunted.
And this is a wholly CREEPY notion for those believe that such spiritual nuance is in fact possibly present, for example in those ancient shrines. I'm not Japanese but this logic gave me the willies.
This film is directed by Sasaki Misato who in addition to bringing you the (very) slightly earlier Toire no Hanako-san : Kieta Shoujo no Himitsu also directed the truly bizarre 1996 Donor. All four of the main female characters here also appear in Sasaki's earlier Hanako film.
Here are my reviews of some of the other films in this series:
- Toire no Hanako-san - 1995
Toire no Hanako-san : Kieta Shoujo no Himitsu - 1997
Toire no Hanako-san : Kyoufu kousha - 1997 (current review)
Shinsei Toire no Hanako-san - 1998
First-year junior high students Mai and Miyuki (played by Aoki Yuki) naturally huddle together during their transitional year from classmates of elementary school. Once in their more metropolitan junior high school, however, they are soon introduced to a wider and more exciting exposure to the world.
On the positive side, this includes independent ventures into the more culturally notorious elements of Tokyo such as Harajuku with slightly drunken upperclassmen (BOYS!!). Unfortunately it also involves being thoroughly initiated into their new school's rumored history of an omen-filled death three years prior on the school's rooftop and stories of hauntings by the ghost of a young girl.
The upperclassmen enthusiastically discuss these things nightly via a web bulletin board (BBS) where eventually the rumor emerges that the school-bound ghoulie Hanako is released from her confines if and when a particular mirror in the school is broken. And sure enough, when the school if horrifically vandalized, Miyuki sees a young girl in an outdated school uniform wander from the school grounds.
And then very strange and terrible things begin happening on and off campus. Students meet bizarre demises on there way home and the school itself beings to crumble in a flood of uncontrollable mold. When a student posts a malicious message on the internet bulletin board suggesting that a "new Hanako" should replace the former, the frenzied panic takes on its own malevolent momentum.
As I said earlier, the value of this version of Hanako resides in its truly unique attempt to explain the dynamic of the perpetually school-bound Hanako-san. The conclusion it comes up with serves not only those hungry for superstition but also reinforces a very deep (Japanese) traditional theme regarding the role of the institution of school within youthful human society.
Version reviewed: Unsubtitled VHS
|Third in the Hanako series. Involves some unique exploration of superstition.||MAGGOT BABY!!! Also plenty of blood puddles and crumpled bodies. Some slasher scenes.||Nada.||Rather unique and creepy approach to the Hanako ghost tale.|