Tuesday, July 21, 2009

In short: Hideo Nakata's Curse, Death & Spirit (1992)

Three short films made when the later Ring director Hideo Nakata was still slaving away for Japanese TV, cobbled together to form a short anthology movie.

The first story, A Cursed Doll, concerns the misadventures the aspiring actress Satomi has when she discovers a traditional Japanese doll hidden away in a cupboard of her parents' home. Sudden doll appearances and a near nervous breakdown follow, until the doll's secret is revealed.

In the second story, Waterfall of the Dead Spirit, a recently widowed mother and her son go on a camping trip with her friend and her friend's children. They are confronted with a female ghost who has lost her child and has no qualms in trying to grab random children that pass by to fill the empty space by her side.

In the third (and best) story, An Inn Where A Ghost Lives, two girls and one of the girls' younger sister go on a short vacation in an inn, only to meet a rather sad ghost there whose life somwhat mirrors the way the younger sister feels.

How much the interested viewer will like the three shorts will probably depend on her or his tolerance for simple, not really subtle ghost stories, overwrought acting and the dubiously cheap look of early 90s Japanese TV shows.

If you're a Nakata fan like me, you will still find moments of interest. Even this early in his career and in such a weird place the main themes of Nakata's work as well as his interest in the people the horror happens to start to emerge; from time to time - mostly when the execrable special effects or the actors don't interfere - there are even moments of true creepiness. Stylistically, there is a palpable influence by the films of Nobuo Nakagawa, which is probably a good influence to accept when you are making a ghost story on next to know money like Nakagawa did for most of his career (his studio killing masterpiece Jigoku excepted).

The first and third episode are by the way written by Hiroshi Takahashi, who would go on to write the Ring films for Nakata (and utterly weird stuff like Crazy Lips for other people). It's also nice to know that Takahasi isn't responsible for the terribly saccarine ending of the middle story.



Tower Farm said...

Asian horror is generally not my thing...a lot of these movies just don't hold my interest -- so some shorter installments might be perfect!

Thanks for bringing them to my attention!


houseinrlyeh said...

You're welcome. Although in that case I'd rather recommend Tales of Terror from Tokyo to you, with even shorter stories based on urban legends and all in all more successful.