Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!
Plot Summary: After a surge of strange disappearances, a young couple learns a supernatural force is involved.
Review: Wow, what a hot mess. This started off fairly interesting but had descended into complete nonsense by the time the credits rolled. The plot description for this film is also far from accurate which contributed to my disappointment. I was under the impression the story would involve a group hiking who inadvertently catches the attention of a ghostly girl dressed in red. Then you can fill in the blanks with the kind of shenanigans that would follow. However, this plot aspect is simply on the peripheral and mentioned only in passing. In fact, they don't fully explain how any of this started since the main guy simply receives a mysterious package...from...they forgot to include that? Yeaaah...you'll notice quite a bit of dead end plot lines like this that we're simply meant to accept at face value.
The story explains that there are these forest spirits or creatures that exist to, I guess, torment individuals. Eh, these things are ill-defined and their motives are vague to say the least. A few characters imply that they abduct someone for each tree cut down in the forest. So what did that have to do with the hikers? While these creatures supposedly turn you into some kind of spirit tree if they get you, there is something about you calling out someone's name to take your place. Whaaat? I don't understand this plot point. How or why would this matter? By the movie's own premise and story, these creatures can't accomplish anything, because people keep forcing them to find replacements. For example, the main guy's grandma is stuck taking the place of her elderly friend. Then the main guy takes grandma's place, followed by some security guard, and ending off with the main chick nearly getting taken too. This is nonsensical as everyone is casually released once the replacement is found. If things weren't weird enough, the story spirals out of control with an abortion subplot. What the fuck is going on here? It certainly didn't help that every character discusses supernatural phenomenon like it's no big deal. Oh, yeah, sure, ghosts--yippee! Even the search and rescue crew are chatting shit about ghosts to someone who--as far as they know--is deeply distraught over her family disappearing!
What bugs me most is that wasted potential of the ghost. Surprisingly, the girl in red was pretty damn creepy. Yet they hardly use the design and ruin the image with shit CGI. What was the point in bothering to create a makeup effect if you're going to plaster CGI everywhere? Why were moths supposed to be important as well? It feels like there were like 4 different movies at play. Obviously something important was lost along the way during production. The film isn't a complete waste, as it leans more to the mediocre side of things, but it's totally incoherent as a whole; there are simply too many plot tangents that go nowhere. It's almost as if the writer's teenage son secretly removed every 5th page from the script after failing to deliver on that vacation to Malibu. That'll teach you, dad! Overall, I can't recommend this film whatsoever. While I'm giving it an average rating for its production quality, design of the main ghost, and general forgiveness of some stupid elements, I can't ignore that the story is chaotically unorganized and unevenly paced.
Notable Moment: When we do see the spirit trees. Having the bodies of people embedded into the trees did look cool and displayed what this film could have been capable of delivering in better hands.
Final Rating: 5/10
Saturday, May 28, 2016
Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!
Plot Summary: During the Vietnam War, Korean soldiers search for a missing unit believed to have been killed in action.
Review: This film has a great idea in theory, but it's fails in the execution. The notion of a ghostly war movie is on the rarer side, however, this is neither a compelling war story nor a competent horror film. I mean, they couldn't even avoid the usage of a ghost woman for Rika's sake! There are plenty of positives aspects to consider on the technical side, but the underwhelming climax and lack of explanations hurts the final product. I remember this was one of the few Asian horror films that aired in the USA so, perhaps, due to the amount of times I've watched this, it has dampened my opinion upon repeat viewings.
The basic plot involves a squad of Korean soldiers sent to find another, missing squad. Things are a bit ambiguous as to what went on with this previous squad and why the officers are so hush-hush about it. As far as I can gather, there was nothing noteworthy about the previous squad but okay. The first 30-45 minutes are pretty good as we see the war movie side of the story. It makes you consider the possibility that maybe they should have stuck with that approach rather than throwing in the supernatural elements late in the game. Once the squad reaches this apparent R-point, we realize it's some kind of temple built where a lake was drained or something. On top of that, there is an old, French mansion nearby being used as a supply depot by American troops. You might think there are numerous ways to handle this setup, but none of the likely paths are taken. The mansion isn't necessarily haunted though there is something about a photo of the ghost woman that appears. Yet...that ghost woman looks like a soldier/prostitute they killed? Dude, whatever. The whole lake and temple angle doesn't fully come into play either except to set up a few scares that go nowhere. It's like the film knows how to establish why the area is haunted but never pulls it all together meaningfully. Sure, a few other ghosts are seen, but, for the most part, the random deaths of the soldiers are ill-defined as well as the men becoming paranoid far too quickly; there are definite pacing issues that's for sure. Then there is apparent possession too? What? And also the painfully obvious revelation that the squad they're looking for is dead along with the American troops they meet. Okay, so everyone is a ghost--great--but then why are the ghosts luring more people into the area? Are they malevolent? You need clarity in these kind of situations. By the end, everyone is dead, their bodies are missing, and more people will probably end up dying here. But of course!
I don't want to make this film sound horrible when it's not. It's just more on the mediocre side than anything else. Had they played it straight as a war movie it would have worked infinitely better I believe; that was the stronger part of the story. The horror elements simply do not cut it. The pacing is too slow and boring to engage you in the mystery. The blue, wannabe Predator-vision to represent the ghosts' POV was weak as fuck too. Plus, you know they're out of ideas when there was still the need to include a ghost woman pointlessly. They discuss this French ghost looking for his brother--why not explore that instead? Likewise, the radio operator of the group was supernaturally understanding French...so explore that shit! Overall, this is one of the more unique Asian horror films out there, but that's pretty much the only thing going for it. The militaristic parts are decent, but not exactly extraordinary. I think this is still worth checking out for a novel experience, but I wouldn't expect to be blown away.
Notable Moment: When that one guy reacts nonchalantly to the news he has syphilis. Oh yeah, don't worry, just walk that shit off, buddy-boy.
Final Rating: 5.5/10
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!
Plot Summary: A small town is gradually taken over by a strange, supernatural force.
Review: In retrospect, this probably should have made my underrated Asian horror list--even if only as an honorary mention. However, there are two, huge problems that significantly lower the score. Those two facets being the anticlimactic ending accompanied by a general air of pretentiousness. More so, this film often creates a polarizing effect on the viewer since it's also not a very faithful adaptation to the manga source material. For me, I think this movie is awesome. This story perfectly encapsulates that ultra weird storytelling only possible from Japan. Love or hate this film, you cannot deny that this is an incredibly unique and imaginative tale.
For a bizarre story such as this, let's take a quick look at what the hell is even happening. The main girl, Kirie, lives in a sleepy, little town full of colorful characters. One day she notices her loverboy's father acting strangely, recording a snail for hours. The loverboy, Shuichi, discloses that the father has been acting unusual lately which has a connection to the father investigating the town's history. It's never fully explained, but they address the events wherein the town is being consumed by the curse of "uzumaki" or spiral or vortex...or whatever! What this means for the individual is that they become obsessed with spiral shapes. This can be through the complete embrace of the shape or by the outright rejection of it. Kirie and Shuichi discuss escaping the town, but they're held back by their loved ones becoming infected by the curse. Eventually everyone in the town is seemingly killed off in an attempt to become one with the uzumaki. At the end, Shuichi finally becomes overtaken by the uzumaki and transforms into some kind of spiral creature. The film simply ends with Kirie's survival left questionable although she is narrating the film in the past tense...so it's up for debate.
I'll change it up and tackle the problems first. Obviously, the most glaring offense is the abrupt and incoherent ending. The audience is given no resolution which is confounded by the lack of answers in general. I understand the manga does give some answers, but I don't want to do a constant comparison especially when I've never read the complete story. As such, you must realize this is not a faithful adaptation and take the film as a separate beast altogether. The other problem is kind of an overarching issue about the film itself: the pretentious nature of everything. I may appreciate what the story was going for, but I can certainly see others viewing things differently. Random "wtf" shots, unexplained plot elements, imagery meant to screw with the audience, etc., could easily be interpreted as trying too hard and believing you're telling a more meaningful tale that you actually are. It's tough to explain, but this criticism is a valid argument against the film's merits. Finally, there are plenty of shoddy effects, and the black humor often feels out of place. Maybe they tried to do too much?
As for what make this film great...it has amazing style, and the cinematography is inspiring. Everyone who helped to construct the technical feats deserves immense credit. Transition shots that deliberately toy with the audience's perception, little spiral effects scattered about scenes, amazing landscapes and scenery, a dark hue to the picture, the camera spinning wildly in a spiral pattern, and it goes on an on. It's as if the director wanted to include every crazy camera trick and shot he ever heard of...and it worked somehow! The music is also pretty good especially the opening theme; in fact, the entire opening sequence is great at establishing the story to come. The ways the spiral designs are incorporated into the horror and gore are interesting--with one shot of a shattered windshield with an eye at the center being the standout. There are actually quite a few special effects that impressed me given the era, but, I have to admit that, J-horror was definitely at its best in the late '90s and early 2000s. I could go on all day about how creative I found the production to be, but let's move on to other aspects like the characters. While the leads are on the bland side, the background fodder are fun. Calling them colorful is an understatement--these goofballs are outright cartoons. These characters typically establish the comedic parts, and it somehow complements the horror; I know, it really shouldn't, yet, it blends together for the most part. My favorite secondary character is probably Kirie's friend, with her geeky-cuteness and exaggerated expressions. The last thing I want to acknowledge is the uzumaki and why not explaining it doesn't bother me. Obviously the uzumaki is supposed to be an abstract force that hearkens back to classic sci-fi and fantasy. It is intended to be incomprehensible due to how foreign it is to the human mind; the spiral shape is merely how humans interpret the uzumaki force. This is why it drives people absolutely insane when they come into contact with it. Sure, they could have clarified why now and why here, but there are enough implications in the movie to draw a conclusion.
That overcast sky, amazing landscape, AND a Japanese schoolgirl? Yes, please!
It's movies like this that make me miss the height of the Asian horror boom. The ideas during this era were original and experimental in a lot of ways. "Uzumaki" hits you hard with a bizarre story and glorious visuals. The quirky characters enhance the already mysterious plot, sucking you into the story. Unfortunately, the ending leaves much to be desired, and a lack of explanations may leave casual viewers annoyed. Fans of Asian horror or classic fantasy may appreciate this more, but, nevertheless, this is an acquired taste. What may be considered pretentious to one moviegoer might be awe-inspiring to a film buff. It is of note that this may be both the best and worst movie if you're high outta your mind. Overall, I would highly recommend this film with the caveat that you must appreciate the inherent weirdness associated with Japan. It's just too much of a coin toss regarding whether someone would like this or not.
Notable Moment: When Shuichi throws away that yummy-looking cake, because it has a spiral pattern. What the hell are you doing?! This goes against my every principle of being a fatass time traveler!
Final Rating: 6.5/10
Friday, May 20, 2016
Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!
Plot Summary: An amnesic woman realizes her former friends are being killed by a vengeful ghost over an incident she can no longer remember.
Review: This movie somewhat reminds me of "Forbidden Siren" in that it starts off great with an intriguing premise, but the ending completely drops the ball...HARD. Realistically, this revelation will either make or break the story for most audiences. I can somewhat forgive it since I already watched this film before, but I imagine more people hating it than liking it. Despite this ending--and a generic vibe to the events--things are handled remarkably well. The amnesia plot device surprisingly works wonders as you want to see what was so horrible that it must be forgotten. The ghost is stereotypical, and maybe a bit too Sadako-light, but they do try to utilize unique scares. These scares still come off as unoriginal, but they did try--you must admit that. Overall, the production is strong, and the story is competently assembled to captivate viewers.
Speaking of which, the story focuses on a girl, named Ji-won, who is a recovering amnesiac. She has these scars on her wrist that feel like they're right out of "Cello," but you'll have to overlook that facet. As Ji-won moves on with her life she is thrust into a conflict with a vengeful spirit that is picking off her old, flunky friends from high school. These chicks are essentially bitches and Ji-won was their leader. This creates an interesting dynamic whereby Ji-won has become a sweetheart after having her memories wiped away which contrasts with her former, bitchy self. This plot line isn't explored in quite the level of depth I'd prefer, but it's still a fun idea. Anyway, Ji-won and her crew were especially mean to a nice girl named Su-in. They imply that Ji-won and Su-in used to be close friends as kids, but, somehow, Su-in turned into her punching bag by high school; the whole childhood angle was another plot tangent I felt was completely wasted. With the flunky friends biting the dust, Ji-won remembers that Su-in drowned when they were playing a joke that got out of hand. Apparently Ji-won couldn't swim, and Su-in drowned while trying to save her. Likewise, the flunky friends left them both for dead since...well...they're bitches. During this drowning experience is when Ji-won was given the scars on her wrist.
Up to this point the film is totally solid--things make sense and the mystery has been thoroughly intriguing. Needing a lame twist, we come to learn that Su-in's soul transferred into Ji-won's body and that the only reason why Ji-won is such a sweetheart is because she is actually Su-in. So the ghost is the disembodied spirit of the real Ji-won, angry that she was left to die. But the icing on the cake has yet to come...Ji-won's ghost has also been possessing her own mother in order to reclaim her body from Su-in? Uhh, okay. Way to shit all over your own premise of philosophically pondering whether it's our experiences that shape the person or whether there is something more innate! Su-in, in Ji-won's body, tries to commit suicide and this stops the ghost of Ji-won...I guess. For the beloved fucking zinger, we see Ji-won's ghost now possessing Su-in's mother too. Oh god. What a disappointing conclusion. This is one of those endings that practically negates the point of the film itself. The other thing I want to mention is Ji-won/Su-in's love interest. My goodness, if you thought that bitch-boy in "Long Weekend" was friend zoned, you haven't seen anything yet! The guy here is utterly hopeless and just cannot take the hint. The funny thing with this tool is that he actually loved the original, bitch version of Ji-won. The hell?
Had the ending been where it needed to be, and the ghost given a tad more emphasis, that would have spiced things up considerably. I'm imagining the best case scenario could have presented a twist connected to Ji-won and Su-in's childhood--maybe a dark secret that made the betrayal run deeper. Regardless, if you can get over the ending, this is an entertaining flick. Sure, this is nowhere near being an Asian horror legend, but it's worth seeking out nonetheless. The mystery keeps you engaged, and I truly love the presentation of Ji-won contrasted with her former self. Plot lines are wasted, and there is nothing above and beyond what is par for the genre, but it still presents a compelling story. Check this out is you get the chance, but be wary of how the film resolves.
Notable Moment: When the ghost pops up at the movie theater. This was a cool scare, but, unfortunately, they end it far too fast. This scene could have been dragged out for a couple more minutes to truly make it memorably frightening.
Final Rating: 6/10
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!
Plot Summary: A group of friends stay at a haunted island as zany antics ensue.
Review: Terrible. This is probably the worst Thai movie I've ever watched. What the fuck were they thinking? Besides being paper thin, the story is still presented in this nonchalant manner as if the audience is supposed to happily accept these off the charts levels of shenanigans. When I deal with shitacular movies I try to figure out what went wrong. Here, it's just plain amateur hour accompanied by sheer idiocy. The only redeeming quality, yet again, is competent cinematography. Seriously, cinematographers are bringing it, but the storytellers are failing miserably.
The running time is just over 90 minutes, yet, this feels like an eternity. By the time the "twist" ending came around I was ready to fight someone. All that happens is there is a group of tools who go on a vacation, or whatever, to a haunted island. There is a subplot with the biggest friend zoned guy of all time tagging along, and he can see ghosts or something. Honestly, this has little significance to the plot despite a buildup. At the island, the characters are attacked by ghosts...but there is a demon coming...and I have no idea. A random guy pops up out of nowhere who is allegedly responsible for making the island haunted in the first place. He uses magic candles and string to keep the ghosts at bay, because why not? Eventually everyone dies in the dumbest ways imaginable. Believe me, the film drags out these deaths. Finishing the film becomes a chore since the only things going on between deaths are cheap, stock sound effects, bad CGI, and those zany antics I mentioned. There is an attempt to add a few twists, but they're dumb and pointless. Speaking of which, the revelation at the end is painfully moronic and defeats the purpose of even watching the last 30 minutes. There isn't much else to add or I will end up ranting and raving.
What a mess. I was actually going to rate this trash a tad higher until the ending rolled around. Yeaaah, that was an automatic .5 off the rating. What a sweet way to say fuck you to the audience. And yet this ending was still predictable. Go figure. If it weren't for the cinematography and a few decent-looking ghosts, this would have easily been 3/10 territory. My goodness. Usually Thai horror is consistently good across the board. Not sure what happened here. And that friend zone character...man, this dude is still "best friends" even in death! Pitiful. Definitely avoid this film like you would a haunted island full of 1997, instant messenger soundbites and cardboard characters.
Notable Moment: When the group decides to say "fuck it" to their trapped friend and parties for the rest of the night. What...
Final Rating: 4/10
Monday, May 16, 2016
Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!
Plot Summary: A widower seeks out a new wife but ends up finding a deranged killer instead.
Review: This film is often held up as one of the Asian horror legends, but I have never been able to agree with that. No doubt about it, this is a good film, but is it a great one--worthy of the level of praise it has received? Nah. Realistically, this is 90 minutes of uneventful drama followed by 20 minutes of hallucinations and torture scenes. This isn't to imply that the drama doesn't work, however, it's nothing special or unique. The twisted scenes that are always discussed all come at once during those final 20 minutes, but that simply highlights the dragging nature of the plot. If you interpret the film in a specific way, admittedly, it does feel like a better story all around. The problem with that avenue though is that the director, Takashi Miike, objects to interpretations being more psychological (or in the head of the protagonist). There is a book as the source material, but I'm not sure how much it has in common with the film's version of the story.
The straightforward interpretation: Aoyama's wife dies 7 years earlier. After his son tells him he should consider remarriage, Aoyama's friend arranges for Aoyama to mask his wife-hunting within a casting audition for an ambiguous film. Aoyama becomes infatuated with a girl named Asami who is a bit reserved and timid. Upon pursuing Asami romantically, he slowly begins to realize there might be something sinister going on with her. After the two finally screw, Asami disappears for a time. When she next appears it is after drugging Aoyama. Seemingly always having ulterior motives, being crazy, angered by the ruse with the audition, or some combo thereof, Asami maliciously tortures Aoyama...because...revenge? In the midst of the torture, Aoyama's son comes home and manages to kill Asami after an extremely short struggle. Roll credits. Sorry, Mr. Miike, I, and most fans and critics, can't take things at face value especially given all the other aspects of the story.
The all in Aoyama's head interpretation: Aoyama is experiencing a midlife crisis as he seeks another wife to love. You could explore all aspects of Aoyama's personality, but I think that merely complicates the matter. Once Aoyama becomes smitten with Asami, he is convinced she must be angelic and perfect. As their relationship progresses, and Aoyama lets his imagination run wild, he begins to imagine Asami as a lunatic and, eventually, a crazed killer. Much of the film's events are so exaggerated because Aoyama cannot cope with the realization that Asami is not as perfect as he'd hope. He claims he likes her drive yet is bothered by her childhood abuse, family issues, and aimless life. The film fully supports this theory in light of what Miike may claim. For example, how could Aoyama imagine the man in the sack yet it be real too? Factor in Aoyama's hallucinations, the guilt over banging his desperate secretary, the apparent jealousy of his son having a girlfriend, and the sense that he is betraying his wife's memory. The clues are all there. The editing also supports this theory. We are shown parts of Aoyama and Asami's conversations out of order as if to imply he wasn't really paying attention to the negative side of things; he was hearing only what he wanted. The scene of a creepy Asami by the phone can't possibly be real; factor that with the flashes back and forth with Aoyama's hesitation accompanied by the fear instilled in him by the friend who says there is something not right with Asami. With the background, subplot about a murder of one of Asami's former bosses, Aoyama is putting the pieces together in his mind and jumping to conclusions based on the doubt that he's making the right decision. This is why we conveniently meet the creepy stepfather with the busted feet and Asami wants to cut off Aoyama's feet; how can any of this not be imagined? It's like how any normal person suspects their significant other might be hiding secrets or something before making a commitment to trust that individual. Honestly, I could keep doing this all day, but I think you get the point. Others have written huge breakdowns of this story and how the scenes reflect Aoyama's hopes and fears when deciding to propose to Asami so quickly and for the uncertain reasons he has chosen to marry her. If anything, the wild speculation and interpretations are more interesting than the movie itself.
While I do prefer the subjective interpretation of the film's events over the straightforward presentation, there still isn't a lot going on here. I'm sure many will disagree, but I felt like the film is too slow and too long given everything is a buildup to some torture scenes. Granted, scenes like this no longer register with me the way they would to the general public, but should the rating be significantly raised for shock and awe? Obviously something in these depraved scenes has resonated with audiences and that makes this film memorable. However, if we take away that shock value, what is really left? Well, you would still have the fantastic acting. Like I said, this is definitely a good movie--no argument there--but I don't see the greatness level. Regardless of what I think, this is still considered an Asian horror legend and is pretty much required viewing. Finally, there appears to be a remake in the works...yeaaah...just don't.
Notable Moment: The eating of the puke scene. Though there are many, many disturbing moments throughout the film, this is probably the one that sticks with people the most.
Final Rating: 6/10
Friday, May 13, 2016
Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!
Plot Summary: After a family moves into a new home they discover the neighborhood is slowly being overtaken by ghosts.
Review: Imagine for a second that you're a Tumblrina with undiagnosed autism. One day, you decide to stop writing Wincest fanfics for a hot second to fulfill your life's dream of finally writing an original story. You want to write a gripping, emotional drama telling of a father's struggle to keep his family together in order to cope with your own daddy issues. However, your headmate, Claudia, is like totally stubborn and stuff and absolutely refuses to write anything but horror. With your mom beating down your door, because you "forgot" to take your adderall that morning, you decide to throw Claudia's script in a blender with yours. Sure, neither of your stories will make sense as a consequence--not that they made much sense to begin with--but, hey, at least you can take solace in all the attention you'll get from your androgynous crush when you text them (while they're sitting next to you) about this harrowing trauma!
...and that's, more or less, what the writing process was like for this movie. By the way, is it Laddaland or Ladda Land? Amazon idiotically has it listed as both and wikipedia has it spelled one way while imdb has it the other! Anyway, I don't know what went wrong here. I was loving the direction this film was heading but then it quickly veered off course toward oblivion. We've seen all manner of script-in-a-blender over the years, but this one might take the cake as the story was actively fighting against itself. How in the fuck was this the same writer/director behind "Coming Soon?!"
The dramatic side of this tale is better than the horror. We may get a cliched father, mother, daughter, and son combination, but there is emphasis on their personal issues. I am pissed though that they didn't kill the daughter--she was a straight up Jar Jar character. The father is, I guess, the main character as we see his efforts to keep the family together and happy. Often times these moments are straight out of a soap opera which makes you wonder what the hell does any of this have to do with horror. For example, the father wants to prove himself to the mother in law who hates him, but he's too proud to admit when he's been laid off from his job. Or the classic falling behind on the bills shenanigans. The film does endear you to the situation to a degree, but everything feels like too big of a mess to focus. To say the pacing is uneven would be a huge ass understatement.
The horror side absolutely makes no sense despite an apparent buildup. At first the neighborhood appears nice enough until some maid is found murdered in a fridge. Oh, surely this murder will hold significance, right? Of course not! As more people drop dead, ghosts appear, and there's an unexplained, borderline "Scooby Doo" moment--you really wonder what the hell does all of this mean. Unfortunately, the movie doesn't know either. We are offered no answers or even implications to draw upon. The neighborhood doesn't even start off haunted so you can't default with that explanation. Every ghost we see is of the recently dead which confounds the situation. Okay...maybe this is like "Poltergeist" and there are supernatural forces connected to the land? Nope. Some kind of next level, supernatural virus spreading similarly to "Ring?" Yeah, right. I got it! The father is really the killer and everything has been in his head as he attempts to cope with his failure to provide for his family? NO?! So there are ghosts only for the lulz? And their entire usage is simply to create various plot devices and contrivances? Oh...fuck...
Dude, I have no clue what went wrong here. You might think the story is presenting itself as overly upbeat just to pull the rug out from under you, but that is not even close to the intention. Maybe there was supposed to be a metaphor that the ghosts represented, but pretty much every character, including background fodder, also sees the ghosts which makes that angle a moot point. The ending also goes for teary-eyed rather than a final zinger or anything. With no resolution to the ghost part of the story, you are left to ponder what was the point to anything we saw. Suffice it to say, this film has no clue what it wants to be or the story it wants to convey. To simply brush it off as a drama with ghosts--like it's a family horror film--would be inaccurate. It truly is as if two directors were filming their own separate movies and were suddenly spliced together in post-production. While the editing is perfectly fine, this is the strangest case of plot confusion to date. I want to say--maybe--this film is worth watching despite this problem. It does have a lot of great ideas and moments, but the nonsensical depiction of these events kills it for me. Definitely be weary of what you're getting yourself into though.
Notable Moment: When the one ghost conveniently appears to a cat that had a camera attached to its collar. Of course, of course! Yes, ghosts know when a little kitty will have a camera on them so they can say "boo" to the audience. Nevertheless...the ghost did look cool and it is unexpected (sorta).
Final Rating: 5.5/10
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!
Plot Summary: A Filipino woman is haunted by ghosts while working for a family in Singapore.
Review: In as few words as possible: this film is good but had the potential to be great. Probably the main hindrance is the tone is not where it should be for a horror movie. Had the makers instilled a sense of dread or darkness to the production, the audience would be more on edge. Instead, it feels like you're watching a YA drama often. Setting that aside, the rest of the story is decent with many great ideas for scares. At the same time, if you ever wondered what experiencing Chinese Ghost Month was like, this movie has you covered. I also liked the combination of mixing the Filipino perspective with the Singaporean landscape; as a side effect, most of the dialogue is English.
The story focuses on a girl, named Rosa, as she travels to Singapore to work as a maid for an older couple and their mentally disabled son; the son is, perhaps, in his 20s or 30s. Unfamiliar with the local customs or setting, Rosa is shown the ropes since her arrival coincides with the Ghost Month. Quickly enough, Rosa develops a kind of sixth sense--seeing ghosts everywhere. While it's not explained what triggers this, they thoroughly make use of the many ghosts Rosa sees. As a result, the film offers many twists based on Rosa's inability to tell who is a ghost and who isn't. Sometimes these twists help...other times they hurt the film's final impression. The primary ghost haunting Rosa is another Filipino girl dressed in red, sometimes covered in a veil, which is shown on the poster. The design for this ghost is awesome, but it's sadly underutilized. Maybe they didn't realize the creepy potential until post-production?
With the month drawing to its end, Rosa is at wits end because of the ceaseless torment from the ghosts. But, of course, many of the ghosts are trying to warn Rosa of the terrible fate that awaits her. As it turns out, the couple she's working for killed the other Filipino girl. It's actually really messed up, and this is what I mean by the tone feeling off; to me, this film is PG-levels of content for the most part, but suddenly jumps into R-rated territory. We learn the other girl was raped by the son and then burned alive to prevent her from blabbing. Talk about escalating quickly. Since the son isn't all there, he committed suicide once he realized the gravity of his actions. So, yes, the son has been a ghost all this time, and the couple believes that they can marry Rosa's spirit to the son's if they kill her as Ghost Month ends. That may sound convoluted, but it makes sense in the context of the film. Let's just say it's a fate worse than death. This scheme falls apart with the assistance of the other Filipino girl's ghost. Come to think of it, this film can't decide if the ghosts can see each other or not as we see examples of both. Nevertheless, the couple dies, Rosa goes back to the Philippines, and the remains of the other girl are seemingly put to rest. Eh, it's Hollywood-esque, but I'll take it over a final zinger (though we do see the ghosts of the family Rosa was working for).
The best things going for this film are the relentless scares and the abundance of twists. This isn't to say it's a complete success--as said scares and twists fail as often as they succeed--but the story keeps you interested throughout. Parts might feel cliched, however, I would say the film overall is original. The usage of Chinese Ghost Month is a bit tired if you're an Asian horror veteran, but, if you're not familiar with this tradition, you may find the film that much more intriguing. In fact, Ghost Month is approaching so this serves as proper viewing to get you into the spirit (no pun intended). While the film could have toned it down with the emo drama at times, others may find that aspect resonating with them. I would suggest checking this one out, but it's not fully scary if that's what you want yet it's not quite dramatic if that's also what you want. Go figure.
Notable Moment: When the first maid gets torched. I mean, really, who jumps to the conclusion of murder that quickly and by fire to boot?! I guess they had to make use of that asshole smoking like a damn chimney all movie long. In fact, was there even a scene where that dude wasn't smoking?
Final Rating: 6/10
Monday, May 9, 2016
Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!
Plot Summary: A woman's life plunges into chaos as she is haunted by the ghost of a rival cellist.
Review: For some reason I remembered this movie being a lot better. There was, maybe, enough material for a half hour short if you account for the heaps of filler. In one respect, this is an original concept with the whole cellist plot line, but, at the end of the day, it's still a typical ghost girl revenge plot. The cop-out ending was also not doing the story any favors that's for sure. Surprise, it was all a dream! Or was it...dun dun dun. Somehow the story is aimless and unsure of what it wants to present. This is a shame since, underneath all the shenanigans, this could have been a decent little flick.
I'll touch on the positives first since I do want acknowledge that this isn't a total train wreck. In fact, the film has a certain gloss to the cinematography that makes the production appear top-notch. With the story pertaining to cellos, the music rightfully throws around classical pieces mixed with an interesting score. The actors do take their roles seriously despite the flimsy material they had to work with. The main girl, Mi-ju, played by Hyun-ah Sung, was certainly portrayed with conviction even if she's fundamentally wasted. The primary mystery is intriguing--wondering why is Mi-ju targeted by this ghost who appears to have once been a friend. While this plot line stops making sense at one point, it does engage you. Likewise, the reveal that Mi-ju let her rival die in order to surpass her is a doable twist. Finally, there is some little chickadee not listed in the credits that deserves recognition. I'll get to her character in a bit, but does anyone know who this girl is? She needs a proper place in my ever-growing list of babes!
It's like the back of a milk carton: have you seen me?
On to the film's problems. Getting back to my mystery girl...she is one of two red herrings. Red herrings, really?! Umm, did someone forget we are dealing with a ghost movie? Granted, you will wonder if these characters connect back to the ghost but they don't. This leads me to the filler dilemma. You've got these red herrings, loose plot tangents, and pointless scenes with little to no bearing on the story. What is the meaning of this nonsense? Tighten this shit up. Worse, if you are going to cheapen everything with "it's just a dream," then how the hell do you explain us seeing multiple character perspectives? So Mi-ju is conveniently dreaming the POV of other people who happen to stumble upon clues just so that the audience can see the full picture?! Sorry, not buying it. But then you do a double fake out where the ghost has Mi-ju trapped in a dreamy time loop? WHAT?! I'm calling bullshit. I think this was just an excuse to wrap up the movie without having to do anything while also repeating scenes for even more filler! The last thing I'll mention is that the ghost isn't sympathetic. Yes, I know, she doesn't have to be, but she's killing Mi-ju's kids and family members. That kind of collateral damage may be ballsy, but it makes it hard to support any character by the end.
I wish there were more to this film than what we got, but, hey, what can you do? Had this been a segment in an anthology similar to "4bia," and all the filler sliced away, this might have left a stronger impression. The reveal about Mi-ju deserving her suffering would have felt more meaningful in this respect as well. Though I have been especially harsh on this film, it isn't without redeeming qualities after all. Others may be able to get over the issues I could not, and, I know from firsthand experience, this felt better upon the initial viewing. Hmm...maybe this is worth checking out if you're really bored and lower your expectations considerably. However, if the mere thought of "it was all a dream" is a deal-breaker, you may find yourself sorely disappointed.
Notable Moment: When Mi-ju is bathing with her one daughter. Okay, seriously, what is up with this? This is at least the fourth time that I've seen Korean chicks bathing together in movies. Is this phenomenon real?
Final Rating: 5.5/10
Thursday, May 5, 2016
Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!
Plot Summary: The second wave in this horror anthology now with five tales of terror.
Review: This is an admirable followup to the first entry, but I don't think the stories are quite as powerful as the previous batch. Although "4bia" definitely had the dumbest segment between all 9 total, these tales lean closer to the mediocre side of things. Another aspect that messes with the film is the messy arrangement of the stories whereas "4bia" got this right. Here, we start off with the worst and progressively get better with each subsequent segment. Sure, that helps to leave you satisfied by the ending, but getting to that ending will feel slow. Now, none of this is to say this film is poor, because it's not. This is still a fun anthology and contains the best segment between the 9 to boot. In fact, the final entry probably should have been its own movie altogether. The other thing I want to acknowledge is the tangential connection between the stories this time. I mean, I saw a few things but nothing as clear as with "4bia." You'd have to make a few leaps of faith to assume certain things had a link between segments.
Novice: So, yes, starting us off is the worst story. Some punkass kid throws a rock at a motorist and is sent to become a Buddhist monk as punishment or whatever was supposed to be happening. Being the bitch-boy that he is, the kid does not readily accept the disciplined life of a monk and disrespects some offerings to ghosts. This pisses off, what appears to be, the Ent-looking ghosts. The monks try to help the bitch-boy cope with the angered ghosts, but he won't listen and runs away. The ghosts begin to stone our punkass friend to death as we flashback to that rock-throwing incident only to learn this idiot killed his own father due to this. Then the bitch-boy becomes a ghost himself...somehow. Okaaay. And that's it. I think this story should have probably been placed second and the third story put here.
Ward: You could almost argue this is the worst story of the five, but it did have a lot of potential that was wasted. I'm going out on a limb and assuming the main character here was the guy driving the punkass from "Novice," but I could easily be wrong. After crashing his little dirt bike, this guy is kept in a hospital room with a dying old man. The old man is eventually visited by his worshipers or something. I don't know...it's implied he has mystical powers. The guy thinks he hears the old man running around which he apparently is able to do. Trying to get the medical staff to help him out, the main guy is slowly attacked by the old man who magically possesses him. We come to learn the entire staff was seemingly in on this scheme as they were using the main guy as a vessel to save the old man. Whatever, dude. Haunted hospitals have been done to death, but at least they make sense. Not sure about what was supposed to be happening in this segment.
Backpackers: Slowly but surely we are picking up steam between the stories. Two Japanese tourists are hitchhiking through Thailand, for unknown reasons, when a truck stops for them. The drivers of the truck are two shady individuals who have strange cargo. After arguing with someone on the phone and strange noises coming from the trailer, the two drivers pull over to check things out. Inside the trailer is nothing but dead bodies as these two guys were carrying a bunch of drug mules or doubling in human trafficking. I'm guessing these people were carrying a new drug since this leads them to all turn into zombies. But they're the annoying, "28 Days Later," types that can run and even open doors too. The one Japanese guy dies and later the main driver crashes and gets eaten. With only the Japanese girl and other driver alone, they find a kid that hasn't turned into a zombie. When the other driver tries to kill the kid, the Japanese girls shoots him. Finding a car with only a hand inside, the girl drives to a village right when the kid turns into a zombie. They do a laughable fake out where we're supposed to think the zombie kid died, but, of course, the Japanese girl died. The last thing we see is the zombie kid attacking a monk as we can assume it spreads. I'm guessing maybe that monk was supposed to be from the first segment? This wasn't a too bad story, but it could have been a helluva lot better.
Salvage: A sleazy car dealer has been repairing wrecks and selling them under the guise of used cars. When this chick is confronted by a next level milf about her shitty cars, she wants to understand how anyone could figure out her practices. After hearing honking noises around the car lot, the car dealer realizes her son is missing. As she searches for this dumb brat, she is tormented by the spirits of those that have died in the cars. They could have done a lot more with this material, however, I really liked the effect of the ghost trapped under the tire. Once the car dealer has had enough, she tries to drive away in her car only to realize it's stalling. When investigating the problem she realizes her son is dead and somehow stuck between the engine. Huh? I don't know a lot about cars, but I don't think its feasibly possible for the kid to be under the hood without taking parts out of the car. Anyway, that's how this story ends--with the car dealer surviving and learning her lesson...I guess. Oh, and the connection here is maybe one of the cars was from previous segments? Maybe that mysterious car from "Backpackers?"
In the End: Coming to the last entry, this one manages to save the whole shebang. This story has absolutely everything working in its favor: originality, fun, creative, scary, etc. Bringing back those four guys from "The Man in the Middle" segment, we come to learn why they're so into movies. These guys each work as various crew members for the upcoming "Alone 2." Keep in mind, there is no real "Alone 2," but this is referencing the same "Alone" from 2007. They even brought back the main actress from that film to play herself, Marsha Wattanapanich. Through this setup they make fun of horror movie tropes, the way actors pretend to care about their roles, and the film making process. As Todd Howard would say, "It just works!" Anyway, the actress playing the ghost becomes incredibly sick while she's in full makeup. While the ghost actress is taken to a hospital, the crew brainstorms new endings to the film which are all stupid. Suddenly the ghost actress reappears and is acting funny. One of the guys thinks she died at the hospital which leads the crew to believe her ghost has returned to finish her part in completing the film. After the majority of the cast runs away like bitches, the guys are stuck to film the final scene in order to put the ghost to rest with the help the unaware Marsha. I love how it's revealed the twist for "Alone 2" was that it was a ghost haunting another ghost! Once they think the scene is finished they run away--believing the ghost is angered. Coming across their friend that took the actress to the hospital, they think he's a ghost too! This is like a gradual recreation of "The Main in the Middle" at this point. But it would seem he didn't really die just as they realize the ghost actress didn't actually die too--everything has been a big misunderstanding. None of this matters, because while they're all discussing this, Marsha ends up crashing into them all. Wait, so were they ghosts that became ghosts in "The Man in the Middle?!" Is this ghostception? Regardless of the nonsensical continuity, this story is plain fun and entertaining. It honestly saves the whole anthology. I should also note that we could guess that this truck that appears might have been the one from "Backpackers." Likewise, one of the twin doctors we see was shown in "Ward."
She's no Natre, but pretty damn cool nonetheless.
Overall, this is still worth your time, but it's not quite on par with the first one. Most of the credit is coming from the last segment which is definitely worth your time! More so, if you could find a way to just watch the "In the End" segment, that's your best option. However, the other entries are still put together nicely and have their own merits. I simply found the plot line of the other stories to be too bland and uninteresting. Also, I didn't like how ambiguous the connections between the segments were compared to the previous movie. With that said, if you enjoyed "4bia," you should have no problem following up with this sequel. Grab the popcorn, because this is easily double feature-worthy material. I'm just curious as to why there was never a "Phobia 3?"
Notable Moment: During the "In the End" segment when that one guy gets grabbed by the ghost and starts screaming like a little girl. Eh...it's cliched but still effective.
Final Rating: 6/10
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!
Plot Summary: A horror anthology consisting of four tales of terror.
Review: As far as anthologies go, this wasn't too bad at all. Although none of the segments are particularly exceptional, they are entertaining enough with a bit of originality used to spice things up. It's also worth noting that the arrangement of the stories helps to leave a better final impression for the viewer. There is no wraparound, but there is a small, tangential connection between each story that is far too easy to miss. They probably could have played around a little with this link between segments, but at least they added something which is more than I can say for other anthologies. One other thing I want to acknowledge is in regard to the title of the individual stories--I'm going by what wikipedia claims they're called, because the subs were definitely not correct. For example, the subs claimed the last story was called "Last Fright" yet we clearly see the "244" written in the title. I can't read Thai writing, so I don't know, but I don't think the numbers would be written arbitrarily.
Loneliness: To kick things off is probably the best story of the bunch. If the final ghost effect weren't so lame this would have been genuinely frightening. You have an injured girl becoming bored as she can't do much with her cast on. The girl begins to receive texts from a guy, and, for whatever reason, she is all too happy to accept the attention. You'd think a random person texting you would be creepy, right? After flirting back and forth, the two decide to exchange pictures, however, the guy sends the girl the same picture she sent except saying he's already in it. Obviously the girl is freaked out now, but things get worse when she suspects that a dead guy she hears about on the news might be who's texting her. The creepy texting begins to escalate as the guy says he's coming to her, and all the lights in her apartment complex begin going out. Eventually her apartment lights go out too, and the guy texts that he's in the room with her. Believe me, the story sets all of this up marvelously--putting you on the edge of your seat. Unfortunately, the ghost is a horrible graphic that magically throws the girl out of her window. We come to learn that the accident that injured her was the same one where this guy killed himself; he threw himself in front of her taxi. Since she was the last person he saw before dying, his ghost fell in love with her and wants to be together? I don't know. Nevertheless, this was a great short that hits all the right notes.
Deadly Charm: From best to worst as we come to this next story. In fact, this segment is plain stupid with schizophrenic-chic editing. Not only was I becoming nauseous, but I thought I would burst into a seizure at any damn moment! Not even joking. If you are seriously doing a cut every 2 seconds, you need to stop letting your cat run around on the equipment. There is something about a bullied kid who turns himself into a vengeful spirit or whatever the hell was happening. If you look him in the eyes or look at a picture...you die...I guess. Dude, I was too busy rubbing my eyes half the time to figure this shit out. There was also the bizarre decision to depict Thailand as some kind of post-apocalyptic wasteland where paper rains from the sky. Did the crew drop acid right before filming? The ending simply involves the last bully cutting out her own eyes so she can't be killed. Surrre, why not? There is supposedly a connection between the bully and the girl from "Loneliness," but I don't know about that one. Stories like this...yeaaah...don't make stories like this. This alone is what pretty much dragged down the final rating.
The Man in the Middle: This is the other contender for the best segment, but I think "Loneliness" edges it out a tad. Here, they decided to go a comedic route that works extremely well. For one, I absolutely love the banter between the characters, four guys camping together. They joke about the endings to various movies and even discuss good ol' "Shutter." That's practically pandering to me! Anyway, the guys go rafting and tip over like dumbasses. They think one of the friends ended up drowning but try to stay optimistic especially once he does turn up, seemingly, alive. After they had discussed ghosts the night before, they quickly realize the friend really was dead and flee like bitches from his ghost. After quite a bit of running, they try to reason with their dead friend since they're, well, friends after all. But it is the ghost friend that has something to tell them--they all actually died in the raft accident. To kind of set the tone for how this story played out, one guy even jokes that they're in "The Others" once he realizes they all died. Damn, am I spoiling that movie again?! I better review it so there aren't anymore excuses. Overall, the comedic aspects worked well and will work even better if you're familiar with all the movies they reference. The character banter was so fun and makes the guys feel like believable friends. Besides, you can't go wrong with characters wearing shirts that simply say things like "bullshit" and "I <3 ET" with Elliott and ET flying on the heart symbol! Lastly, this segment's connection is only to the fourth story.
Flight 244: For the closing segment this is probably where most of the budget went. A flight attendant must work as the personal assistant to some princess after a co-worker called out; that co-worker's brother was one of the guys from the last segment that drowned. As it turns out, the flight attendant is having an affair with the princess' husband. Hey, in fairness, the flight attendant, played by Laila Boonyasak, is pretty damn hot, and the princess looks like a hag. Knowing who the flight attendant is, the princess begins fucking with her which causes the flight attendant to get back at her with food that contained one of the princess' allergies. Later on, the flight attendant learns this actually killed the princess, and now she must cater to the princess as her body is being flown back to her home country. Surprise, her ghost haunts the flight attendant in order to get revenge. The ghost looked pretty scary--I'm surprised they didn't show her face more frequently. After appearing like a lunatic to the flight crew, they tie up the flight attendant who is, of course, finally killed by the ghost. When bodyguards, or whatever, for the princess show up they find the flight attendant's body in a state of begging for forgiveness except with her head twisted around. A fitting conclusion--connecting to the third segment and back to the first--helped to bring things full circle; the princess had a connection to the guy who killed himself in the first segment.
Looks like a Thai J-Lo. Most of her dialogue was in English too.
If it weren't for how unbelievably horrid the second segment was, this might be one of the best anthologies; especially if they swapped one of the better stories from "Phobia 2" in its place. The stories do have borderline, cheap effects at times, but they're still original and could pass for competent episodes of a TV show if they went that route. I want to say the "Loneliness" segment alone is worth seeking this film out as well. Again, the tales aren't anything too spectacular, but they're of a high enough quality that it creates a cumulative effect. Something like "Zoo" is definitely a better anthology, but I would recommend checking this one out nonetheless.
Notable Moment: During "The Man in the Middle" segment when the guys are joking about the ending of "Shutter" and "Titanic" being the same. Gotta love when writers take the time to include casual banter.
Final Rating: 6.5/10
Sunday, May 1, 2016
As you can probably tell, I thoroughly enjoy Asian movies especially their horror films. I have wanted to do this for a while now so I've decided to make May my personal tribute to Asian horror films. From here on out it will be a yearly tradition where I focus exclusively on just Asian horror for the entire month. This doesn't mean I won't continue to cover Asian movies throughout the year, just that May will be a time dedicated solely to them.
To kick things off--and to set the tone properly--I wanted to take a look at a few films that deserve more attention from fans and critics alike. While not all of these movies are necessarily good in a traditional sense, for one reason or another, they are certainly better than many would have you believe. Finally, I want to note that, of course, legends like "Shutter" and "Ringu" aren't on this list since they receive plenty of praise. Now, without further ado, let's take a look at the most underrated horror films Asia has to offer!
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):
February 29 - Definitely underrated, but I think the criticisms laid against this film are fair enough. Still...it's incredibly original and deserves some acknowledgement.
Reincarnation - The main problem is this movie failed to realize its vision for the story. If there was slightly more coherency, this would have been amazing. It still went way outside the box of typical Asian horror so it gets credit.
Alone (2007) - As the followup from the duo who made "Shutter," I think the hopes were too high. This is still a commendably scary movie, but it could have been way better.
Ju-on: The Curse - Often overshadowed by "Ju-on: The Grudge," this film is just as good if not better given the paltry, made for TV budget. However, I think this film gets just enough praise to fall short of my list.
10. Zoo (2005)
I kind of debated adding this simply because a few of the segments in this anthology aren't horror. Nevertheless, this is a surprisingly well done film. Not every segment is a winner, but each brings something unique to the table. Beyond that, the aesthetics are especially beautiful. Considering the bizarre nature of the poster, and the high quality of the production, I'm surprised not many have sought this one out. Definitely track this down, but, be aware, the tales are not all horror and the poster mascot is absent.
9. Twilight Syndrome: Deadly Theme Park (aka Dead Go Round)
Does this film have a cheap feeling to the production? Yes. But is that reason enough to disregard the merits? Considering this and "Twilight Syndrome: Dead Cruise" were merely meant to be promotional tie-ins, you have to cut them a little slack. What I truly love about this movie is the way in which the audience's expectations are toyed with in regard to who is the main character. Likewise, the characters start off as lame cliches but quickly open up with fun banter. Besides, you can't go wrong with the amusement park setting. Now, I'm not saying this movie is amazing or anything, but if an absolute piece of shit like "Jaws in Japan" can get an 8/10, then this film deserves a little more love than the 4 or 5/10 range!
8. Forbidden Siren (aka Sairen)
Another video game tie-in except this one actually looked respectable. Honestly, there is one thing setting this film back--albeit, one HUGE ass thing. The ending kind of ruins the entire movie. If you can get past that fault, or even appreciate it, then this movie is quite good. Again, we have terrific originality complemented by a first-rate mystery that thoroughly engrosses the audience. Seriously, if they didn't drop the ball at the end this may have easily been regarded among the J-horror legends or, at the very least, looked upon in a favorable light.
7. Suicide Club (aka Suicide Circle)
It bugs me that the fan consensus appears to be that the (extremely loose) sequel, "Noriko's Dinner Table," is looked upon as the superior film. Due to this, "Suicide Club" does not get the kind of love it deserves. Sure, this is an incredibly weird and bizarre tale that may leave the viewer baffled by what they just watched, but, hey, that's Japanese cinema for you. One cannot deny this has one of the craziest opening sequences in all of film itself, and the audience is certainly engaged by the mystery that follows. For a brief window in the early 2000s, this was highly discussed when it came to pushing things to the extreme. I'd love to see this film receive that same level of admiration once again.
6. Sukob (aka The Wedding Curse)
Far too often is this film disregarded--considered a ripoff for no discernible reason. On the contrary, this is actually quite original despite its usage of existing tropes. While this was a big success in the Philippines, it has never received the international acclaim it deserves. I rank this among the Asian horror legends and give it a lot of respect for taking the existing cliches and making them feel fresh again. I think a lot of fans play it safe with just Korean and Japanese movies so I'd suggest exploring the other Asian film industries from time to time.
5. POV: A Cursed Film
Okay, now we're definitely into territory of films I bring up often. I get that the found-footage genre has burnt people out, but this one plays with your existing expectations. On top of that, the pacing is solid and keeps you engaged unlike most found-footage that spends all movie building up only to deliver a lackluster climax. This movie does have its shortcomings, without a doubt, but it doesn't deserve to be casually overlooked either. And, c'mon, you gotta love the decoy endings and admit the effects were pretty damn good considering the budget. Give this one a shot even if you're tired of found-footage.
4. Hide and Go Kill 2
First, I do want to acknowledge that "Hide and Go Kill 1" is also seriously underrated. Personally, I think these two should be viewed as a double feature, however, if you can only watch one you should go with part 2 as it stands alone anyway. Surprisingly a lot of fans don't know about these two hidden gems. You've got tremendous originality, an interesting plot line, decent scares, and epic levels of atmosphere...what more could you ask for? Why are these two ignored? Other than limited exposure, I can't deny that the pacing is slow at times and the payoff might not be there. Though these two films are rare, they are certainly worth tracking down if you're a big Asian horror fan.
3. Coming Soon (2008)
How did this movie fall through the cracks? It's damn, fine Asian horror and impressively scary to boot. The story might not be as original as a few others on this list, but they successfully play with your expectations. The makeup effects are what seal the deal this time around as the ghost, Shomba, is right up there with the likes of Natre, Kayako, and Sadako. The only thing really holding this film back is the somewhat lackluster conclusion to the events. Realistically, I would say this film simply came too late to the party after all the Asian horror icons had been established.
2. White: The Melody of the Curse
I still can't get over the lack of appreciation for this amazing film. If anything, I feel the fundamental flaw is that Korea loves psychological horror and this film plays it too straightforward. As to why international audiences have not recognized it...that I have no idea about. We get yet another original spin on the genre as the dark side of the entertainment industry is tackled alongside a cool, and scary, looking ghost. Admittedly, the film does take a while to get going, but you are always invested in the events and characters. At this stage of the game, I have to give credit to any film able to invent new and creative scares. The main theme song is also insanely catchy and gets into your head! If this came out 10 years earlier, I wholeheartedly believe it would be ranked among the Asian horror legends.
1. Ju-on: The Grudge 2
This final pick shouldn't come as much of a shock. When it comes to comparing underrated films this is usually the one I choose to reference. While I also love "Ju-on: The Grudge," this film surpassed it in almost every regard. Sure, there are problems with the story that can make it overly confusing for no reason, and the ending is definitely disappointing. Despite these issues, this is peak form for Kayako and a glorious display of Asian horror at its zenith. The scares are relentless, the makeup and visual effects are amazing, and the story completely sucks you in. It pains me to see this film almost never get mentioned among essential, Asian horror viewing. That is not acceptable.