OCCULT. (2009) A JAPANESE HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


OCCULT. (2009) DIRECTED BY KOJI SHIRAISHI. SCREENPLAY, CINEMATOGRAPHY AND EDITING BY KOJI SHIRAISHI. INSPIRED BY THE WORKS OF H.P. LOVECRAFT.
STARRING MIKE AZUMA, HORIKEN, KOEN KONDO AND KIYOSHI KUROSAWA.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is an excellent ‘found footage’ Japanese horror film that actually delivers on its promises. I loved it, anyway. It starts with a stabbing on a beautiful scenic bridge in Japan overlooking the ocean. The stabber, one Ken Matsuki, kills two women and injures a man called Eno, then he drops off a cliff into the sea, and no-one ever lays eyes on him again.

Three years later, a documentary crew decide to investigate the stabbings. They discover that the souls of the two murdered women are not at peace and that the women keep appearing to their loved ones, apparently trying to tell them something. Warn them about something, maybe?

The man who was injured, however, is still very much alive and delighted to be in the film. Eno thrills the crew with tales of the supernatural incidents- he calls them ‘miracles’- that have been occurring around or near him since the stabbing. He also confides in them that he has premonitions now and has been hearing voices in his head since the stabbing. The excited film crew agree to pay him for any of the ‘miracles’ that they can capture on camera.

They let Eno sleep in their office because he’s down on his luck and a bit short of a few bob. They pay him well for film footage of the weird stuff that happens when he’s around, and this provides Eno with some much-needed brass with which to buy, well, Korean barbecue and booze for himself and his newfound film-making buddies, although he turns into a bit of a jerk when he’s pissed, lol. Fancy telling a woman the reasons why she can’t get a boyfriend! You’re taking your life into your own hands there, Eno matey…

Anyway, remember the stabbing, right? Eno shows the film crew the pattern of elaborate symbols that the stabber engraved into his person during the attack. What do the symbols mean, the film crew guys wonder? Also, it turns out that Matsuki said something significant to Eno when he carved him up that Eno specifically remembers.

It’s your turn now, he said. To be stabbed? Maybe, but Eno interprets the cryptic words differently. He sees them more as a passing of a baton to him from Matsuki, but a baton in what sense? What exactly is Matsuki passing on to Eno, and what is Eno meant to do with it?

Eno, a very strange young man indeed, thinks he’s been touched by God, much to the unease of the documentary crew. No offence intended to anyone here, but frequently people who say they’ve been given a mission by God end up hurting other people and then we call them terrorists…

In vino veritas, they say. The film’s director and his producer get Eno good and drunk so he’ll tell them precisely what he thinks his God-given mission is. They’re also keen to know why Eno, an obvious loser who normally kips in one of those all-night Internet and manga cafes because he’s so skint, secretly has, literally, bazillions of yen in his possession. Where did he get it and, more importantly, what the hell is he planning to do with it…?

The best bit in the whole film is the bit they film on the haunted mountain, Kuturo Rock, once dedicated to a Japanese god who took the form of a leech. Eeuw, leeches! The crew is given this information by none other than the real-life movie genius, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, who makes a special guest appearance in the film as himself. As he’s credited with directing such superb films as CURE, PULSE, EYES OF THE SPIDER and SERPENT’S PATH, I’m guessing that Koji Shiraishi had a little director-to-director crush on him, lol.

Anyway, up the scary mountain we go, and it really is PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK-level scary. The creepily discordant score will freak you out even if the spooky rocks themselves don’t. Koji Shiraishi and his assistant find some rocks up there with the by-now familiar symbols carved into them… the same artwork carved onto the body of Eno by the ‘missing, presumed dead’ Matsuki. That’s not meant to sound misleadingly mysterious, by the way. Matsuki’s dead all right, lol.

The other equally weird thing is that, a few years previously, at the precise time Matsuki was busy stabbing people on the bridge overlooking the ocean, Shiraishi was up on Kuturo Rock, aka Nine-Headed Spine Rock, and nine leeches were biting his leg in an orderly fashion… There are just too many strange coincidences in this case. Shiraishi and his crew are badly shaken.

If I were them, I’d have gone straight to the cops with my information, scrappy as it was. Shiraishi & Co. decide to skip the going-to-the-cops bit and instead say they’ll stick with Eno to the end, so that they can film whatever special event it is he’s planning in his sick mind that he claims God wants him to carry out. Okay, but whatever happens to Eno will taint them too, if not kill them. On their own heads be it, and so on and so forth. Great film, great build-up, great ending. End of story…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

TARTAN ASIA EXTREME PRESENTS: KOMA. (2004) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

koma

TARTAN ASIA EXTREME PRESENTS: KOMA. (2004) A HONG KONG HORROR-THRILLER DIRECTED BY LO CHI-LEUNG. LANGUAGE: CANTONESE. STARRING ANGELICA LEE, KARENA LAM, LEE SINJE AND ANDY HUI.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Crawls under the skin and stays there.’

VARIETY.

This is kind of an odd one. I really liked and enjoyed it but that’s not to say that there aren’t loopholes in it or places where the plot, frankly, verged on the ever-so-slightly nonsensical. It’s the story of Ching, a beautiful, privileged rich girl whom we first see getting pissed at a friend’s wedding. Fair enough, lol. We’ve all been there…

Ching, however, gets spectacularly pissed and goes for a wander by herself through the hotel where the wedding’s being held. She discovers two things. A strange woman in a coat and high heels walking in the hotel’s deserted upper corridors, and a naked, nearly dead woman who’s just woken up in a bath of ice. With one kidney missing…

Then the fun really starts. The strange woman in the coat and high heels turns out to be Ling, whom it is revealed has been sleeping with Ching’s boyfriend, a good-looking doctor fellow called Wai. Ling is as pretty as Ching though sort of sturdier where Ching is very obviously delicate and too thin, for reasons we’ll discover later.

Ling is as poor as Ching is rich and her mother is a comatose invalid in the hospital, the only person in the film who could be said to be in an actual ‘koma.’ At first accused of complicity in the kidney murders, Ling is quickly declared by the police to be cleared of any involvement. But she did sleep with Wai and even borrow money from him for her mother’s care, so it looks like poor Ching has been taken for a right mug.

Ching also can’t rid herself of the niggling feeling that Ling is evil and intends her real physical harm, aside from merely bonking Ching’s boyfriend and getting money out of him that should be spent on gifts for Ching, by rights, and on his future with Ching. Ching has an horrific dream in which she sees Ling coming for her at night with a scalpel. A scalpel for harvesting a nice, fat juicy kidney…

The kidneys bit reminds me of the time in THE SIMPSONS that Grandpa Simpson needed a new kidney because Homer wouldn’t let him stop for a whizz on the long journey home from the Wild West village, the one with all the prostitutes, lol. ‘Hello, sweet cheeks!’

Homer is eventually talked into giving Grandpa one of his own kidneys but then he gets scared and runs away, finding himself on the Ship of Lost Souls with a motley crew of extremely strange people. But not before togging himself out in some sharp nautical threads purchased from an emporium for sea-faring men: ‘I’m fleeing in shame and I’d like to look my best…!’

Anyway, in the most ridiculous and unbelievable scene in the whole film, Ching is saved from the evil kidney-harvester by none other than Ling, a tiny slip of a girl not much bigger than Ching herself. You’ll have to suspend disbelief for this bit…!

Ching is eternally grateful to Ling, but Ling’s savage jealousy of Ching’s wealth and beauty- and let’s not forget that Ching also has Wai, he’s a dubious prize but both women seem to love him- won’t allow her to be properly friends with Ching. It seems like Ling the Friend is even deadlier and more malicious than Ling the Enemy, so either way, Ching is screwed. Isn’t she…?

As I said, this is a really entertaining Asian horror film, if you don’t mind a few mad plot twists. Probably the scariest thing about it is the very real kidney-and-other organs harvesting business it brings to the forefront of our minds.

Imagine, for a paltry few grand, someone could try to steal your kidney or, even worse, mine. Okay, fine. What can’t be cured must be endured. Just let me run a few gallons of wine through there first…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

komakoma