Genre: Creepy School-Based Horror
review in one breath
This is the fourth and final film in the Hanako series and provides some truly creepy Shinto-based horror involving decrepit shrines, an amazingly demonic doll and plenty of mind-bending (and eye-popping) possession. This is a spooky and effective finale to the well-known Toire no Hanako-san tales.
As I've said elsewhere a amazingly robust horror traditional involves a ghoulish young girl named Hanako who through a tragic demise haunts the local school building. In particular, her presence is strongest in the third stall of the girls' restroom, do to rumors that it was there that she was mercilessly killed.
The Hanako tale permeates a number of youth-based horror tales ranging from theatrical releases to low-budget straight-to-video fare. In the theatrical release we are reviewing here Tsutsumi Yukihito steps in to director the fourth and final of films sharing the title Toire no Hanako-san. Prior to this film, Tsutsumi had directed the very impressive Kindaichi Shonen no Jikembo : Shanghai Ningyo Densetsu (1997) also a youth-centric tale and later went on to direct the equally impressive Oboreru Sakana (2000) and the less impressive 2LDK (2003).
The main character in this film is Satomi played by Maeda Ai who also appeared in the original 1995 Toire no Hanako-san (where IMDb mistakenly lists her as playing the role of a young boy!)
Unlike the other two films in this series I have seen, Tsutsumi's vision of Hanako's horror delves strongly into creepy Shinto superstitions which the high school characters in the film instinctively recognize as a brooding shadow of unpredictable malevolence. This amounts to a fairly creepy and esoteric ghost tale involving ancient spiritual forces which wreak significant harm upon unfortunate and irrevocably shaken victims.
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
Shinsei Toire no Hanako-san - 1998 (current review)
Classmates Satomi (Maeda) and Saori excitedly attend their first weeks in high school. They are soon initiated, however, in the older school's unspoken superstition in a malevolent spirit named Hanako occupying the second floor girls' restroom. As the story goes, Hanako was originally a small girl searching for her mother when she was abducted and murdered in the very spot she now hauntingly occupies. The school''s student lore firmly believes that whenever anyone sees the frightful site of Hanako, someone in the school will surely die.
This upperclassman yore turns more serious when Satomi unwittingly visits the second floor restroom and there has an encounter which frightens her into unconsciousness. While the entire school is abuzz as this foreboding omen, it soon comes to light that Satomi's elder sister was the infamous student who utterly disappeared without a trace after such an incident eleven years ago. And indeed the student's fear is quickly justified as increasingly terrifying things begin to affect both faculty and students.
A number of the girls suspect that an ancient Shinto shrine at the edge of the school grounds plays some part in this ongoing spiritual malevolence. Girding their bravery, they break into the shrine and find a small coffin containing an amazingly life-like wooden doll. But when the girls attempt to appease the doll through prayers and divination (via Kokkuri) a demonic power soon overpowers the entire school.
This relative spooky tale brings together a number of effective elements, thoroughly weaving a convincing story of a young girl's unrestful spirit in a spiritual realm overflowing with ancient evils. The resolution of the narrative is (in my opinion) less than ordeal and relies a bit too heavily on special effects whereas the vast majority of the film effectively built up an true creepiness using predominantly subtle nuance and atmosphere. But all in all, this is well worth the view and is a satisfying conclusion to the Hanako series.
Version reviewed: Unsubtitled VHS
|Final of four films in the Hanako series.||No blood or gore, but some creepy depictions of demonic possession. One off-screen doll-induced eye-plucking.||No winks or blushes.||Satisfyingly creepy Shinto-based ghost story.|