Sunday, July 1, 2012

In short: Chichibu Demon (2011)

aka The Mountain Incident

Despite the incredible dangers of this type of project (as witnessed by a gazillion horror films that taught me that documentary filming is the only job more dangerous than babysitting), a daredevil quartet of Japanese moviemakers is producing a documentary about the copious paranormal phenomena and urban legends in the mountain area around the city of Chichibu.

After a few leads (among them the legend of a human-faced dog) that don't go anywhere a mysteriously disappearing man points the intrepid filmmakers towards a suspension bridge over Chichibu Lake. The bridge is a suicide hotspot, and also meant to be a place from where will-o-the-wisps are sighted that infect the observer with bad luck.

In fact, the filmmakers witness a man jumping off the bridge when they arrive for a nightly exploration. Bizarrely, the man seems to stare at a point up in the sky when he's jumping; even though he isn't telling it at once, the crew's assistant director sees strange lights in the direction the man is looking.

Later on, it will be revealed that he saw the same lights in the sky there while on a family picnic as a little child, and it might just be that this repeated contact with the supernatural is not too healthy for him.

After following various traces that produce hints regarding the lights' unhealthy influence on everyone who sees them, the surprising number of accidents in the area, and some stuff about Sumerian writing, the crew makes the genre-mandated doomed expedition into the woods where they will encounter further mysteries, get lost, and may or may not disappear.

Unfortunately, I have to present today's movie without any context. Chichibu Demon is so obscure that I can neither produce the name of its director, nor those of its actors. The IMDB says it's a direct to DVD affair, but since that's the only piece of information the site has on the film at the time of writing, it may just as well be a TV production. We can be reasonably sure about the film's low budget, at least. If somebody out here can tell me more about the film, please do so.

Anyhow, this air of mystery and vagueness fits the style of POV horror Chichibu Demon belongs to well enough, providing a certain frisson of possible authenticity for the credulous and the hopeful.

We are very much in the realm of the POV horror film by numbers (more in the style of Blair Witch Project than in that of Paranormal Activity, though) here, with all the possibility of Weirdness - I don't think I have to explain the obvious parallels between certain classic tales of the Weird and this sort of film - and all the vagueness that implies. At least, Chichibu Demon is well structured, mostly eschewing the meandering pace of many a POV horror film, instead providing its audience with about one new mysterious hook every ten minutes. Thanks to that, the film is pretty entertaining for most of its running time, unless the prospective viewer is too burned out on this type of movie.

Once or twice the combination of the rather spooky mood of Japan in November, the film's vague hints at a ab-natural horrors, and its obvious enthusiasm for the sort of urban legends Japanese culture seems to produce like German culture arrogant racist swipes towards Greece, even came together for me well enough to produce a mild shudder. That's more of an reaction than the first two Paranormal Activity movies got out of me, so I see no reason not to be thankful towards Chichibu Demon's mystery director.



prumm said...

If anyone found this through Google and is trying to figure out any of the cast and crew, I don't have an answer for you. But I did find a few listings on Japanese stores online, as well as a dubiously legal uploaded version of the movie in parts. The last part does contain the credits... but unfortunately the quality is so low that the names are illegible, at least to a non-native Japanese reader like me.

The credits are only 15 lines long, and it lists two producers above the film staff. Screenshots of the credits can be found here:

The full title of the film is 鬼秩父 ~あの多重遭難事故の真相を追う~ which is something like "The Demon of Chichibu ~Chasing the Truth of the Multi-disaster Incident~

Most online stores list the same thing for company, studio, director, etc: Spice Visual. This company has released a handful of horror/paranormal films, but the overwhelming majority of their focus is on Japanese gravure idols. Not something I should have clicked on at work.

The mystery deepens... I'd love to watch it, but preferably with a subtitled version until my Japanese gets better.

houseinrlyeh aka Denis said...

If it had been made a couple of years later, I suspect this would be one of those films that might very well have ended up on Amazon Prime Video, and we'd at least know the name of the director.

But then, what's life without mystery?