Tuesday, March 15, 2016

In short: Virgin Nightmares (2004)

Thanks to past shenanigans concerning adultery, human sacrifice, the unclear ambitions of an occult secret society and eye mutilation, a rentable home in Meiji era Tokyo is cursed. The father of any family moving in is bound to murder his wife and optionally his kid(s), driven mad by a very angry spirit.

Despite dire warnings about the curse from his prospective landlords, stupid young family father Yokichi decides the price of the house is too low to miss out on the deal, and a real Tokyo boy doesn’t believe in curses in any case. So off he, his wife and his little daughter move to their dooms, for the curse is rather real.

Despite the promises of enhanced sleaziness the English title of Masanori Inoue’s film makes, this isn’t really a pinku horror movie, but rather an ultra-cheap (shot on video for the DVD market, as it looks) horror movie featuring slightly more nudity. It’s short, it’s clichéd, but I found the film not completely negligible. Inoue certainly is trying his best to at least add a bit of visual flavour to his obvious tale, using every cheap trick that comes to mind to suggest the strange and the woolly.

There’s some Evil Dead inspired camera work, a camera that likes to shoot things upside down or from other somewhat improbable angles, lots of red light (of course), and surprisingly effective use of actors wearing black body stockings with a bit of added digital fog around them as the film’s apparitions. Thanks to these efforts, the film doesn’t exactly become creepy (or as crazy as the better Japanese direct-to-DVD stuff can get) but there’s at the very least always something interesting to look at.

Sometimes, the horror scenes are scored with needle dropped western classical music, which certainly is not the obvious choice, and the film does get some mileage out of combining this with curiously effective moments like the one where Yokichi’s lover is pulled through a crack in the wall during sex while his daughter watches through a crack in the door. These moments when the cheap, somewhat tawdry and badly acted (at least by the younger actors, the older ones are very obviously old pros) film you’re watching nearly turns into something much more resonant for a minute or five are, of course, why anyone, at least me, would even watch a film called Virgin Nightmares, so I chalk this one up as a win.

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