Tuesday, April 5, 2011

In short: Haunted School (1995)

aka School for Ghosts

Original title: Gakko no kaidan

There's trouble in the elementary school of a Japanese small town. On the last school day before the beginning of summer holidays, a small girl wanders into the theoretically closed-down old school building, and doesn't come back out. Her brother goes looking for her, but soon enough he and a handful of other kids who wandered inside looking for adventure find themselves lost and locked in the school. Being locked turns out to be their smallest problem, though - a ball game accident has shattered one of the clay figures holding the local evil spirits and ghosts at bay, and now quite a few of them want to spend some quality with the kids.

Even when grown-ups in the form of a nerdy teacher and the motorcycle mechanic sister of one of the kids appear the day isn't easily saved.

Hideyuki Hirayama's Haunted School is quite obviously a film for kids, and therefore would not usually fall into my area of expertise or interest. However, Haunted School is a Japanese film for kids full of rubber monsters and a bit of the crazy, which is pretty much what I'm all about, so I felt forced (forced! I tell you!) to watch it in the interest of rubber monster science.

I wasn't disappointed, at least not much. The film starts out a bit slow, with not much more than a flying watermelon with a carved face and a levitating ball to ease the adult viewer through the introduction of the (not very interesting) kids and their (sorry, not very interesting, either) problems, but once everyone has been kidnapped by ghosts and spirits a fine time for the friend of all kind of monsters begins. There are rather large feet to gawk at, the digital yokai brother of Ghostbusters' Slimer makes an appearance, an anatomical model grows rather lively innards and a bad temper, and a bearded janitor first grows excellent spider appendages and then transforms fully into a rubber spider monster. Said innards and the spider transformations are the kind of stuff only a Japanese movie (or perhaps, looking at Doctor Who, a British one) would dare present as kids' entertainment, in the certain knowledge that kids can and will cope with this sort of thing and will probably even love it, because monsters are cool however old you are, and slightly freakish monsters are always the best.

Haunted School also has one or two valuable lessons to teach (one even about death being something natural), but it's fortunately not the sort of film that feels any need for loud preaching. I didn't like films preaching at me when I was a kid, and I certainly don't like them doing it now, so this avoidance sound like a sound artistic decision to me, especially when the preaching time can be spent much more fruitfully by showing some kids running away screaming from a lump of flesh that once looked like a human being.

If there's anything more enjoyable to watch than the archetypal confrontation between human and rubber, then I don't know what, and - frankly - don't want to hear about it. Instead, why not watch Haunted School again?


No comments: