Thursday, March 10, 2011

In short: The Shock Labyrinth 3D (2009)

A group of former childhood friends is reunited when a long lost friend reappears banging on one of their doors. Yuki, as the returnees name is, has been missing since something terrible none of the former friends can or will remember happened to the children at some place they can't remember either, leading to consequences which, yup, nobody remembers. I smell traumatic flashbacks in their future.

After some back and forth, Yuki manages to fall down some stairs. Her former friends bring her to a hospital, but the place is empty. Soon enough it transforms into that place everyone had wanted to forget: a carnival ride known as "The Shock Labyrinth". Mildly frightening things will happen, and the friends will have to face their obligatory frightening past.

One of the sadder moments in the life of every cult movie fan is when he has to realize his personal hero directors are only human too, and therefore able to produce astonishing failures. Case in point is this movie by (still very much beloved) Takashi Shimizu. I was well able to overlook the crapness of his Hollywood films, because a talented director from any part of Asia coming to the US and not making terrible movies just isn't done. But The Shock Labyrinth 3D was made in Japan, for the Japanese market yet it still is a total catastrophe.

Gone is everything I loved about Shimizu's movies - his ability to use simple visual means to produce a mood of disquiet, doom and a Lovecraftian feeling of the universe, his talent to make do with the simplest of character sketches and still have an audience feel bad for what happens to these non-persons, as well as his often truly frightening imagination when it comes to set design, sound design and consciously confusing plotting. All this is replaced by scenes of non-entities plodding through dark corridors, the least needed 3D-effects ever to touch a screen, a 30 minute plot blown up to 85 minutes through judicious use of filler (that is, more running and plodding around in the dark), stupid death scenes (honestly, "dead woman falls on persons from above and breaks their necks" just doesn't work, and definitely does not get better through repetition), and a dead woman crawling out of a flying rabbit backpack while digital water drops fall from the sky.

Shock Labyrinth would be a less painful experience if there was anything to recommend it, but even the film's perfectly fine basic idea of a ghost taking vengeance for past, half-imagined crimes (that actually were a hardly creditable series of accidents) that might go somewhere if executed with subtlety or energy, is ruined through the ham-fistedness and the sheer dragginess of the execution. It's really a bit embarrassing coming from a man like Shimizu.



Todd said...

"and a dead woman crawling out of a flying rabbit backpack while digital water drops fall from the sky."


houseinrlyeh aka Denis said...

Oh yes. And if I believe the IMDB, Shimizu's next project is titled "Rabbit Horror 3D".