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:

PARASITE. (2020) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

PARASITE. (2020) DIRECTED BY BONG JOON HO. STARRING SONG KANG HO.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Act like you own the place…’

This Korean family drama film won four Oscars, including the one for Best Picture, the Palme d’Or and two Baftas. It’s been described by various media outlets as ‘a masterpiece,’ ‘thrilling, mischievous, dazzling,’ ‘wickedly funny’ and ‘an international phenomenon.’

That’s a helluva lot of good press, isn’t it? I’m not really going to say anything negative about the film, other than that it’s ridiculously far-fetched at times, and we’re expected to suspend disbelief in a big way more than once. If you can live with that, and take the film at face value, then PARASITE is actually a hugely enjoyable watch.

Mr. Kim is the dad of a poor Korean family, two parents and a daughter and son. They live all squashed together in a tiny basement flat, and they scrape a meagre living out of folding cardboard pizza boxes into the shape in which they arrive at our homes. They steal their Wi-fi from the lady upstairs, so don’t feel too sorry for them! They all have street-smarts, and they know a good thing when they see it.

A particularly ‘good thing’ comes along in the shape of the Park Family. Nathan Park is a rich businessman, his wife is a rather empty-headed lady of leisure, and their two children are spoiled with toys and gadgets and an expensive education, but very little in the way of quality time with their parents who, like a lot of rich folks, have their priorities arse-about-face.

One day, somewhat out of the blue, Mr. Kim’s son, Ki Woo, is offered a job tutoring the teenage daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Park. He looks around their cold, half-empty palace of a house with the huge rooms, long corridors and the objets d’art all locked away in cabinets (for looking at, not touching), and he decides that his own family deserve a bit of this rich-people action…

What happens next is very funny, but quite sneaky and under-handed too. Ki Woo contrives things so that his older sister is employed by the Parks as an extremely expensive art therapist for their troubled young son, even though the sister has to google ‘art therapy’ before she arrives for her first lesson so she can appear knowledgeable on the subject…!

The two siblings then fix it so that their dad, Mr. Kim, who apparently smells like a boiled rag for some reason (don’t ask!), is hired by Nathan Park as his chauffeur, and Mr. Kim’s wife as the Park family cook and housekeeper.

Mr. Kim’s family don’t let on to the Parks that they are a family, so at the very least, they’ve taken on their various jobs under false pretences and are lying to their new employers. They do their respective jobs well, but I’m sure that Mr. and Mrs. Park won’t like being kept in the dark as to the true identity of their new staff.

And besides this deception, Mr. Kim and his family have contrived together to get the previous chauffeur and housekeeper sacked, so that they can take their jobs. They’ve really been quite ruthless and conniving about infiltrating the Park family, so, naturally, there will have to be consequences for their actions. These consequences are bloody, hilarious, extreme and genuinely startling, given that we see the film as just a bit of a black comedy at first.

But it’s not just the poor low-lifes who are at fault here. There’s fault on both sides in this case. Nathan Park is a cold, distant man, more interested in his work and the trappings of his material success than in his family. His marriage is not a strong one. The wife is obsessed with getting her children the best of everything, and seems to forget that, sometimes, all a child needs is his or her parents’ individual attention. Both the Park parents seem to have lost sight of this universal truth.

Nathan Park and his wife, while they’re not at all abusive or stingy with their cash, treat their staff as less than human beings. They are so spectacularly caught up in their own hollow lives (the huge birthday party for the son is a good example of this) that they fail utterly to see their staff as anything but automatons, just robots there to do their bidding, robots without feelings, sadnesses, triumphs, troubles and catastrophes of their own to contend with.

Therefore, there will have to be consequences on the Park side too, so that they can have the chance to change their selfish, self-absorbed ways and start to look at all other human beings as just that… other human beings, who have the same rights, hopes, dreams and aspirations as rich people; they just haven’t been blessed with the same material gifts as rich people.

This was one of the last films to be shown in the cinema before the Great Coronavirus Lockdown of 2020. It’s quite a long picture- a whopping two and a half hours long, and there isn’t even a war in it!- but, if you have an evening to spare and a bag of popcorn in the cupboard just begging to be eaten, I’d recommend PARASITE. It’s as good a see-how-the-other-half-lives movie as any you’ll watch this year.

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 Film-Making. 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

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

PUBLIC ENEMY (2002) and ANOTHER PUBLIC ENEMY (2005): 2 KOREAN THRILLERS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

public enemy 2002

PUBLIC ENEMY (2002) and ANOTHER PUBLIC ENEMY (2005). DIRECTED BY KANG WOO-SEOK. STARRING SUL KYUNG-GU.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Some people think they can get away with anything. Some people do.’

These two Korean cops-and-robbers thrillers really livened up my lockdown this past week, especially as they were accompanied by the drinking of a nice bottle of sake from the local Asian market and followed each time by the adding of noodles to boiling water. Well, staying in is the new going-out, lol.

Both films star Sul Kyung-Gu as basically the same character, a law enforcer called Kang, but ANOTHER PUBLIC ENEMY isn’t a direct follow-on; it’s more what’s called ‘a disconnected sequel,’ starring many of the same actors but in different roles.

In PUBLIC ENEMY, Detective Kang is a maverick cop. You know, the one who has his own distinctive unorthodox style, but which always yields results, nonetheless. He plays by his own rules. He’s a rogue, a renegade. He goes his own way. Here, Kang is a scruffy, bad-tempered almost-psychopath with a short fuse. He’s corrupt, he takes bribes, he ‘fixes’ evidence. But he gets results. Here, in his own words, is how he gets his results:

‘No money, I beat him. Don’t listen to me, I beat him. His face upsets me, I beat him. There’s about a whole stadium full of guys who got beaten by me.’

Yep, you got it. He hits people. There’s a lot of hitting in the film, and it’s not all done by Kang, either. Kang’s own superiors are equally accustomed to bawling out the rogue detective and walloping him upside-the-head, while underneath harbouring a deep fondness for the loose cannon of a cop whose heart, at least, is in the right place. A lot of the very genuine comedy in the film derives from the slapstick humour and casual knockabout violence.

Anyone, one dark, rainy night, Detective Kang is on a stakeout when he’s- ahem- caught short and urgently needs to do a Number Two. Having no choice but to find a quiet street corner in which to relieve himself, he afterwards encounters a tall, sinister man in an I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER-style rain slicker. They literally run into each other, and Detective Kang gets deliberately slashed across the face with the man’s knife…

Shortly after this fateful night, Kang’s department has to solve the mystery of the fatal stabbing of a rich young businessman’s parents in their home. Kang thinks back to the night of the alfresco poo in the spilling rain and the man in the rain slicker. From this point onwards, two equally matched, equally dogged adversaries, one of whom is, of course, Kang, are locked in a battle for supremacy which neither of them wants to lose. My money’s on Kang, he’s just so damn dogged…!

The way in which Kang pursues his prey in this one is so funny. Imagine the pudgy, out-of-shape Chief Wiggum from THE SIMPSONS puffing and panting alongside a much fitter, jogging criminal, struggling to keep up, yelling intermittently at him ‘Didja do it?,’ and you’ll know where I’m coming from…

In ANOTHER PUBLIC ENEMY, Kang has seemingly risen through the ranks to become a prosecutor. He wears a suit, he’s clean-shaven, he lives for his work. We know even less about his personal life here than we knew about Detective Kang’s from the first film. Kang from the first film was a single dad of two little girls who were being minded by his mum, their granny, because apparently his wife had been stabbed to death. His mum yells at him like he’s a teenager for the hours he keeps.

Kang in the second film has little or no personal life. I don’t think we even see his apartment at any point. There’s an extremely strong bond between him and the men he works with, however, the men who put their lives on the line every day for the sake of justice.

The scene where one of his colleagues is murdered in cold blood after being mistaken for Kang is heart-wrenching. There’s a lot of very strong, powerful emotion in this film, more so than in the first. The first film makes us laugh out loud; the second, cry as if we’ve just sat through the video for Johnny Cash’s HURT on a continual loop for half a day…

In the second film, Kang is hunting down yet another upper class young millionaire type, a Mr. Han Sang-Woo, only this chap is more in the multi-millionaire or even billionaire class. Coincidentally, he’s a chap with whom Kang went to school, a posh little privileged boy who always came out of every scrape smelling like guest-room soap, because that’s how the rich folks roll.

Han’s rich father and older brother have both died under suspicious circumstances, leaving Han in charge of the family Foundation, a multi-billion dollar concern. He’s been selling off various elements of the Foundation, however, and transferring the money to America in what Kang strongly suspects are illegal transfers. When Kang is asked to investigate the accident which put Han’s brother in the coma from which he never wakes up, he does it with the aggravating thoroughness with which he does everything…

This second film is a kind of a moral lesson, about the super-rich and powerful people who think they can commit crimes willy-nilly and get away with it, and the cops who try desperately to bring them to book.

Kang knows that pursuing the rich and powerful ruling class won’t endear him to the higher-ups in the force, but fortunately he’s got a boss as committed as he is to rooting out corruption and murder wherever he sees it, whether the perpetrator is a lowly scumbag drug-dealer or a trust fund baby, born with a silver spoon in his mouth and the unshakeable feeling that the world and everything in it is his own personal playground, just because he’s rich.

These two Korean films are a terrific watch. I’m not sure if there are any more of them out there, which would be fantastic, but at least watch these two Noughties gems and liven up your lockdown. I promise you they’ll do the job…! (Just googled it; there’s a PUBLIC ENEMY RETURNS from 2008!!!)

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 Film-Making. 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

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com