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:

KWAIDAN. (1965) A STUNNING JAPANESE ANTHOLOGY HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

kwaidan

KWAIDAN. (1965) BASED ON THE STORIES OF PATRICK LAFCADIO HEARN. DIRECTED BY MASAKI KOBAYASHI.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a magnificently-coloured supernatural fantasy anthology film, beautifully photographed entirely on handpainted sets. Based on the ghost stories/Japanese folk tales of Lafcadio Hearn, an Irish-Greek American writer who adored Japan and who settled there permanently in 1889, the four stories feature ghosts who were once human beings, wraiths, phantasms, demons (who were never human to begin with) and the terrified Earth-folks on which they preyed.

THE BLACK HAIR tells the story of a bloke who’s married to the most beautiful, loving, faithful hard-working woman he could ever hope to meet, and yet, because they’re poor and the whole village in which they live is poor, he allows his greed and ambition to get the better of him. He leaves his wife in search of richer pickings.

He gets his wish, anyway. He finds a rich wife and a fancier lifestyle in another town, but his new young wife is spoilt and selfish, and the man finds himself yearning for the loving good nature and undying devotion of his first wife. He decides to go back to her. He makes the long trek back to his village, only to find things not quite as he left them. ‘Undying’ is right…

THE WOMAN OF THE SNOW sees a young man witnessing the strange murder of a friend one freezing cold, snowy night in winter. The murderer lets him go free, probably because he’s young and handsome, on the strict proviso that he never, ever breathes a word of what he’s seen to another living soul. Fair enough. The guy goes forth to live his life.

Ten years later, he has a good living making shoes, he has three happy children and a beautiful, loving wife who never seems to age, no matter how many children they have or how hard they have to work. One night while she’s trying on some rather snazzy sandals he’s made for her, he catches a sudden, shocking glimpse of someone he thought never to see again…

HOICHI THE EARLESS is the longest and probably the saddest and most gorgeously-photographed of all the vignettes. It begins with a terrific battle between two clans of ancient Japan, the Heike and the Genji. The Heike lose the battle, and huge numbers of the clan are drowned or commit suicide in the sea that runs red with their blood.

The sea where the tragic battle was fought and so many Heike perished has been haunted ever since. Ships that sailed that sea afterwards and swimmers who sought recreation in it were pulled to their deaths by the vengeful spirits, who clearly want everyone they come across to be as miserable and restless as they are themselves.

To appease the spirits, a Buddhist temple was established near the beach, and a cemetery also, containing monuments inscribed with the names of the drowned infant emperor and his many dead vassals.

Time passes, and a gentle, blind young man called Hoichi comes to live at the Buddhist temple, under the care of the monks. He is extremely skilled at playing a stringed instrument called the biwa, and he is particularly masterful at reciting stories and poems about the great battle between the Heike and the Genji.

So much so that, one misty night, the ghost of a long-dead Samurai comes to visit Hoichi at the temple and tells him that his masters require the presence of the blind biwa-player at their palace.

They are keen to hear his wonderful recitations of the epic battle story and all the songs and poems that go with it. Hoichi, as always anxious to please, agrees immediately and goes with the Samurai willingly…

IN A CUP OF TEA is a rather strange story about a man who finds that it is not always prudent to try to fight a man whose image you first encounter… you guessed it… in a cup of tea!

This last one feels somewhat unfinished, and is probably the weakest link in an anthology that still remains one of the most breath-takingly beautiful things to come out of Japan. And that’s saying something, considering how many weird and wonderful things have come out of Japan since the dawn of time.

I hope you get to watch this film, which, by the way, clocks in at a whopping three hours and three minutes long, and which contains one brief flash of bare boobs. In fact, now that we’re in lockdown and have, supposedly, all the time in the world in which to amuse ourselves, this might be the ideal time to do it. Enjoy it, and stay safe, y’all!

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

FREEZER. (2000) A JAPANESE EROTIC HORROR-THRILLER REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Freeze_Me

FREEZER, aka FREEZE ME. (2000) DIRECTED BY TAKASHI ISHII. STARRING HARUMI INOUE AND KAZUKI KITAMURA.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Asian horror cinema during this period in the early years of the millenium was just unbeatable. This erotic horror-thriller hails from that exact golden era, and is a sort of Japanese ‘I Spit on your Grave,’ in which a woman gets revenge on her rapists. Here’s the deal, anyway.

An attractive young woman called Chirhiro is raped one day by three men, one of whom she knows from school. The brutal gang-rape takes place in her own home, while her single mum is out at work. The traumatised girl moves to Tokyo and starts a new life, with a new cropped hair-do instead of her long glossy locks, in order to forget the awful things that have happened to her.

Now she has a good job in a bank, a lovely apartment and even a new fiancé called Nogami, who is one of her co-workers at the bank. Everything is going swimmingly for Chirhiro in her new life, until one day, five years later, to her absolute horror, she encounters one of her rapists in her apartment building. It’s no coincidence. He’s come looking for her specially…

The rapist, a cocky young wanna-be Yakuza-type called Hirokawa, has the gall and arrogance to move in with a terrified Chirhiro, availing freely of all the facilities her apartment offers. He takes baths and showers, leaving his clothes and things around the place for her to clean up. He rudely demands food and sex, and falls sweetly asleep in Chirhiro’s bed after raping and battering her again and re-awakening all the horrors of five years earlier.

Hirokawa tells her that the other two men who raped her are en route to the apartment also. One of them, a dangerous thug, has just been released from prison for assault. The three of them are planning, if you can believe the mind-boggling cockiness of it all, to celebrate his release by forcing their way into the life- and body- of the woman they gang-raped together five years ago.

Hirokawa even threatens the petrified Chirhiro with photos and videos of the rape. The scene where he flip-flops stark naked down the hall and sticks the photos in Chirhiro’s neighbours’ letter-boxes is so absurd as to be funny, even though poor Chirhiro’s terror is real enough.

Chirhiro did nothing about the rape five years ago, as in, she didn’t report it to the police or tell friends or family about it, and she does nothing now. The rapists are relying totally on their victim’s sense of shame and embarrassment and even guilt about the rape to keep her mouth firmly welded shut.

They feel confident enough to push her around, even in front of her co-workers, and they’re right to feel so. Chirhiro is too crippled with shame to tell anyone about what’s going on in her apartment. But, when it looks like Hirokawa has cost her her relationship with her fiancé, Nogami, she awakens from her trance and snaps suddenly into revenge mode…

The revenge is a little impractical and the results hard to sustain, but Chirhiro’s mind has cracked under the strain of both the initial gang-rape and, now, of seeing her despised rapists again. And, oh my God, they really are three dreadful examples of male humanity; bullies and cowards rank with the twin stenches of self-loathing and self- pity. Boo-hoo-hoo, everything bad happens to me…!

The ending will break your heart. Your mind will be full of The Things Chirhiro Should Have Done To Help Herself Instead Of The Things She Actually Does, but it’ll be too late by then. The die will already have been very much cast.

PS, I forgot to say that there’s way more sex and nudity in this film than I ever remember seeing in any other Asian horror movie before, so that might encourage some of you naughty boys (and girls!) to stick Freezer on the old to-watch list…!

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