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A Tribute To Asian Horror

My Opinion

Why Asian Horror? Why not a tribute to European Horror, or specifically English Horror, which has been very popular in the US for years? Well, my tributes to Hammer Studios, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Alfred Hitchcock, Boris Karloff, and James Whale I think cover England, and toss in tributes to Barbara Steele, Mario Bava, and Dario Argento and the Italians are well represented. Sure there are some good Spanish and French horror, but I haven’t seen enough for a full on tribute. Asian Horror and Sci-Fi has fascinated me since I was a 5 or 6 and loved watching the Godzilla movies when they would have ‘Monster Movie Week’ on the afternoon movies. I have since seen almost every Japanese (and some Korean) monster movie made; but what about their horror movies? It seems to me that a lot of ‘western’ horror has become a tad watered down; sequels, remakes, reimaginings, and basically reworkings of everything that has been done before (although in fairness, this isn’t new in any genre or geographic area). That’s not to say it is all like that, but a lot of the mainstream output is. Asian Horror is often very original, very atmospheric, and sometimes pretty brutal, but still often gets most of its fear from the building of tension and often almost surreal happenings. It ain’t for everybody but with a little research, and the ability to find some of the films, it is often a great treat for the horror film buff to catch some of the best Asia has to offer in the genre.

My Reviews

Onibaba (1964)- Lots of great reviews about this Japanese feudal period piece. The story centers on a woman and her daughter-in-law who kill lost samurai in order to steal and sell their gear. The whole country has been ravaged by war and all the crops have been destroyed and it has sunken to kill or be killed, then their neighbor, who was drafted along with the old woman’s son (and young woman’s husband) returns, alone. He strikes up an affair with the young woman and things slide even further downhill from there. This flick treads all around right and wrong, good and bad, love and hate, black and white, yin and yang, etcetc. And in my opinion does so poorly. Yeah it ‘looks’ good but moves too slow and really, I just didn’t care what happened to the selfish asshole characters in it. I’m giving this a D-, I really wanted to like it but just didn’t.

Kwaidan (1965)- An amazing Japanese art house omnibus horror film. Let me start by saying if you don’t like Asian horror, or artsy styling with your horror, or very subtle ‘ghost’ type stories, then this is definitely not for you. This is all of those things, very Asian, artsy, and slow paced suspense over any ‘shocks’. My only real complaint would be it gets a little too slow paced at times, but for the most part that just lends to the dream-like feel of the whole thing. Story one is called "Black Hair" and revolves around a young selfish Samurai who leaves his wife and their poverty behind and marries the daughter of a wealthy man. He finds his new wife to be selfish and discovers his own selfishness in the process. He returns to his first and only true love, only to find things in his old home town a little out of sorts. I give this a strong A. Story two, "The Woman in the Snow", is about a woodcutter’s apprentice who gets caught in a blizzard with his teacher. They take refuge in the boatman’s cabin (the boatman is on the other side of the river). The apprentice awakens to see a woman breathing on his teacher, who then freezes. She moves to do the same to the apprentice but takes pity on him, telling him to never tell anyone what he has seen. The apprentice goes on to be a successful woodcutter and marries a beautiful girl, who he soon tells about the night in the cabin, which he shouldn’t be doing. This is a very dream-like piece and was my favorite, incredibly well directed and staged, A+ (also the 1990 movie "Tales From the Dark Side" had a story based on this one.) Story three is called "Hoichi the Earless" and tells the tale of a blind musician who is summoned each night to perform his rendition of a song about a great battle that took place between warring clans. What he doesn’t know, and soon finds out, is that the people who are summoning him were in the battle... And now he has to find a way to get out of the performance. This is also an amazing story, incredibly well filmed with great visuals, but I have to admit, at times it just felt like it went on and on and on and I was loosing interest quickly. I should’ve started the movie a little earlier I guess. I will give this a strong B+, over all it probably deserves better, but unless you have a great attention span you’ll see what I mean. The final story is an odd nightmare about a guard who see a reflection in his tea cup, later, while on duty, he sees the person from the reflection and attacks him, only to see him disappear. Later he is visited by three men and warned that he must pay for what he has done, a very odd story that I will give an A to. Overall I give this an A+, keeping in mind my reservations mentioned above.

War of the Gargantuas (1966)- Probably the greatest non-Godzilla Japanese monster movie of all time! Simply a masterpiece of giant monster fighting and destruction, if you like that sort of thing, yeah, it is hokey as Hell with some hilarious dialogue and crazy jumped to conclusions, but giant monsters were common place in Japan I guess. Here we have a pretty foul tempered giant green gargantuan who is wreaking havoc, eating folks etc. and just might be the little gargantuan all grown up that escaped from what must have been a VERY bizarre lab. Low and behold a brown gargantuan shows up to try and put a stop to the mayhem, more mayhem follows. If you hate these flicks, you’ll really hate this one, otherwise it is a must see for fans of the genre. A+

X From Outer Space (1967)- Classic Japanese turd about an egg brought back from space that grows into a giant monster after feeding on power from power plants (of course). Everything about this movie is hilarious. If you like cheese you will love this one. From the name of the scientists' space ship, "The Astro Boat", to the character's constant need for a cocktail, to the monster costume you are in for a treat. If nothing else try and catch it for the lounge lizard jazz soundtrack. Priceless. This is so bad it's great. A.

Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell (1968)- First Goke (pronounced Go Key) aren't really body snatchers. Second they aren't really from Hell. Maybe something is lost in translation. Either way this is a not so subtle anti war character study masked as a Japanese Horror/Sci-Fi movie. In the character study we have the corrupt politician, representing the failure of leadership and man's self-centeredness, the capitalist business man, representing greed and over ambition, succeed at any cost attitude, the business man's wife who he has whored out for the success of his business, representing the oppressed (particularly those oppressed by the greed of others), we have the psychiatrist, representing cold hard reason, the assassin, representing violence and death, the widow, representing the result of the violence and death, and the pilot and stewardess, representing leadership and man's ability for self sacrifice. They are on a plane that crashes after flying into a blood red sky and under a UFO. The survivors, listed above, argue at each decision to be made, and become paralyzed with indecision while each of them becomes the victim of the creature from the title. There are some effective scenes but we are constantly subjected to the movie's moral (the widow at one point exclaiming "War is terrible, it makes everyone miserable", maybe something is lost in that translation as well... oh wait, she speaks English). This is one of Quentin Terrentino's favorite Japanese Sci-Fi flicks and it does work much of the time despite some obvious flaws. If you like Japanese Horror/Sci-Fi you'll like this. B-.

Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)- I like a surreal student film as much as the next guy that likes surreal student films, but damn. This is crap loads of bad stop-motion animation (and I mean really bad), coupled with way over-the-top kinetic editing, combined with loads of ‘fear of industrialized society’, phallic obsession, and the Japanese fixation with revenge! A man and his girlfriend run over a guy who has a fetish for cramming metal objects under his skin, and then they undergo a pretty painful metamorphosis of their own. I think pretty much everything I love, and really hate, about Japanese film is crammed into this 64 minute flick. I didn’t dig it, but it did have some really good sequences here and there so I will give it a cautious D+ and say if you think you’d like watching a version of Eraserhead directed and edited by someone who may have been on meth then this is for you.

Ringu (1998)- The original Japanese version of "The Ring". Although it has been a long time since I’ve seen the American version so a direct comparison is hard for me, these two movies seem very similar, although "Ringu" is definitely ‘Japanese’. The story is basically the same, people who see a certain video wind up dead in 1 week. A reporter and her professor ex-husband look for a reason and think they have found it, but have they? Well acted and directed, I gave the American version an A so I will give this one the same.

Devil’s Offspring (1999)- This is a weird Honk Kong film about strange occurrences at a boarding school. It is the summer and only the kids who have no parents, or whose parents don’t want them, are still at the school, waiting for the regular fall session to start. The weirdness begins when the cook’s granddaughter is killed and stuffed in a refrigerator (even though we are told later no body was found). The cook looses her mind and serves the kid’s her granddaughter’s dog in the soup and then the kids start to commit suicide. All of these events seem to coincide with the arrival of the new student who has been adopted by the school’s priest. This was obviously made on a shoe-string budget and some of the sub-titles are hilariously bad. Although for the most part this one misses the mark, it does manage to conjure up some atmosphere and kept me mostly interested. At 82 minutes it is just about right as any longer and I would’ve fallen asleep! The twist at the end really doesn’t make any sense, but then again, none of the movie really makes too much sense anyway. I’ll give it a D since I didn’t hate it and it lived up to my expectations, which were basically zero anyway.

Versus (2000)- This movie has it all, zombies, violence, gore, comedy, scares, so what’s not to love? All of it! I know I know, lot’s of hardcore zombie fans, of which I consider myself one, love this flick, but I just hated it. Maybe it was just too much of a good thing but the terrible over the top acting (kind of a bad combination of Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns and The Matrix), horrible dialogue (I watched a dubbed version which was obviously a mistake), and cheese dripping slapstick just wore me out. Basically a bunch of gangsters have been dumping dead bodies in a forest which just happens to be one of the 666 portals to ‘the other side’, the dead rise up and attack the gangsters, but the gang’s leader actually has the whole thing planned to face off against his really old nemesis, or something like that. If you like the over the top Japanese zombie flicks then by all means, indulge, but I’m giving it a D.

Uzumaki (2000)- Interesting Japanese art-house type of material. An entire town seems to be cursed by spirals, mainly the spirals found in snail shells. Slowly everyone becomes obsessed by them, until they die or become them. The story focuses on a high school couple and how they are dealing with their families slowly going insane due to the obsession. Will they be able to escape it? Yeah it’s weird, and like a lot of Japanese movies, the director is less concerned with linear storytelling and moneymaking and more concerned with atmosphere and visuals. That’s why movies like this rarely get made in the West, or if they do get made they don’t get seen too often. I really liked it, it is odd and very quirky, but never seems to loose itself in those traits the way some Japanese movies can. I haven’t awarded an A+ in a while so I am going to here.

Séance (2001)- A Japanese movie reminiscent of "The 6th Sense", "The Grudge" and several others, yet despite the influences it remains very original (although it is also sort of a remake of an older British movie "Séance on a Wet Afternoon"). Here we have a sound engineer and his psychic wife. They lead painfully boring normal lives. The husband doesn’t seem to really mind, but the wife is tired of not being able to hold a job because she sees dead people, and tired of not being taken seriously by university professors or the police for her abilities (that doesn’t really sound too boringly normal to me). Anyway, a little girl is kidnapped from a local park, the wife is asked to help by the police (at the behest of a university student studying psychics) to help in the search and through a quirk of fate (and nothing psychic) the little girl ends up at her house. Rather than just do the right thing she decides she should make the police think she solved the case psychically, her husband goes along with the plan and things don’t turn out so well at all. I read where this was a film that looked at the family in modern life and the things we do to fill the time while we wait for death, and also how we choose our own fates. That seems about right. Some didn’t like the ending but I liked it quite a bit and couldn’t help but smile as I began to realize what was going to happen. Keep in mind this is a very subtle horror movie, No gore, no ‘gotcha’ jump-scares, just everyday people working their jobs, eating their meals, and finding themselves in not so ordinary circumstances. Having said that, for me personally, these are the types of movies that seem to scare me more now as I get older, despite the obvious supernatural element, this movie still feels real and believable and had that ‘sticks-with-me’ atmosphere. I’m giving it an A+, if you like the subtle, slowly paced Asian approach this is for you.

Pulse (2001)- First let me say this thing moves at a snail’s pace and the acting isn’t really all that great. Those would be the negatives, but the good I think, outweighs the bad, and what’s the good? The atmosphere; this thing creates an oppressive dark atmosphere that permeates everything on screen; it really is an amazing feat in that sense, and some of the visuals work incredibly well also. The plot involves the idea that the dead are lonely and bored as Hell, they find a way to get back into our world using technology, and in the process eliminate people who visit the Website the dead are using. It is all very surreal and obviously not meant to be taken literally (looking at how technology is actually isolating us rather than bringing us together) so if you are looking for cohesive narrative and spoon-fed plot then stay away! Other than the tedious pacing I was really into this one, it sort of reminded me of the old German Expressionist type of films, especially Dr. Mabuse. A-.

Eye, The (2002)- Slowly paced Asian horror flick about a blind musician who receives a cornea transplant and can see again, problem is now she sees dead people... Yeah, it is almost as predictable as it sounds and too slow moving at times, yet in many ways it works. The acting is great, the main character is obviously terrified, yet not in a whiney annoying way , and it also works in the fact that she has been blind since the age of two and is unsure if she should be seeing what she is seeing or not. All interestingly thought out, often executed well, just not that great of a story over all.B.

Dark Water (2002)- The original Japanese version ‘feels’ a little better I think than the American remake. It is still pretty derivative obvious comparisons to "The Ring" (same director) aside it still feels a lot like "The Changeling" as well. Still, if you are looking for a slow paced, slow building ghost story with no gore and no ‘gotcha’ scares then this is for you, if you want some action, or a faster paced scare-fest then you will hate this. The story revolves around a young woman who is going through a divorce and a custody battle for her 6 year old daughter. Her husband is pulling out all the stops to get custody, and we find out the woman has needed psychiatric help in the past. When she moves into a run down apartment things begin to really break down for her. She has the pressure of the divorce, the custody battle, trying to find a job, taking care of a 6 year old, dealing with the run down apartment and uncaring apartment manager, all piling up on her already fragile psyche when she starts noticing things that may or may not be there. Is she loosing her mind or is this place haunted by a missing girl? Like I mentioned this is a ghost story, with all the full on slow pace and out of focus background shots that accompany a story like this. There is no ‘devouring’ room or collapsing houses a la "Poltergeist" or jump out of your seat scares like "The Grudge" or mutilated bodies etc. This one gets put in with "The Haunting" and as mentioned "The Changeling". If you like those types of movies you will like this one. A

Phone (2002)- A reporter who has written a series of articles exposing some powerful men involved in a sex scandal is receiving threatening phone calls. She decides to change her number and disappear for a while. However, the new number she gets makes it very hard to disappear as she is now getting ‘bone-chilling’ calls from what just might be a ghost. As she investigates the phone number’s previous owners the ghostly presence gets closer and closer, apparently even possessing her best friend’s daughter, but, as is often the case, there’s more going on than meets the eye. All told, strictly from a plot point of view, this flick is about as original as its title, but the acting and directing saved it for me. The little possessed girl is crazy believable and over-all the strength of all the performances and the atmosphere created saved it from mediocrity. Keep in mind it is a slower paced Asian ghost flick; I ended up liking this one despite the flaws so I will give it a very strong B+

Ju-On (2002)- Remade in America as "The Grudge" I think this better translates as "The Curse", which is what this movie is about. A family dies a very violent death at the raging hands of the husband/father (he kills his wife, son, cat, and himself in the family house). Now anyone who sets foot in the house is cursed since the violent rage the family died in is left behind like a filthy residue. The movie starts with a social worker who is sent to the house to help a family with their elderly mother. The social worker finds the house a mess and the old lady in a catatonic state. She begins cleaning up and is pulled into the curse of the house. From there we are taken on a non-linear chapter like film that goes from person to person and their experience with the curse. I have to admit, that in my humble opinion this is a masterpiece. It has been years since I saw the American version and from what I remember they are very similar (I gave that an A) but something about this one just really hooked me. The use of shadow, the makeup, the sound effects, the out of focus backgrounds with the little boy, the close-ups of the murdered mother, etc. all come together for a great ‘ghost story’ flick. If you like nightmare inspiring ghost stories and you don’t mind the non-linear approach and the ‘Japanese’ ending possible SPOILER AERT (nothing is tied together too neatly, and if anything, you kind of get the feeling that maybe the curse is spreading) then this is a must see. A+

Acacia (2003)- Another slow paced Asian horror flick, this time from Korea. I’ll say up front, if you like these slower paced Asian psychological kind of thrillers you will probably like this one. It is very well done, the acting and cinematography are simply great, and the over-all ‘feel’ of the movie works on that slow burn horror level. If you don’t like this type of horror flick then you will really hate this one. I liked this one quite a bit. It is the story of a couple who can’t have a child of their own so they adopt. Needless to say the kid is a tad weird and is obsessed with trees (especially the acacia tree out back) and his new grandmother is a little mad that the couple adopted instead of continuing to try to have their own baby, so that creates tension as well. But as luck would have it, not long after they adopt the wife becomes pregnant and things don’t go so well afterwards, and, as often is the case in Asian horror, we are shown the dark side of family life, modern pressures that tear families apart, and the weight of guilt. I’ll give it a strong A-. I knock it a little as the end tended to drag some after I figured it out and the flashbacks became somewhat tedious.

Ju-On 2 (2003)- I tossed out the ‘Masterpiece’ word for the first ‘Ju-On’, so can lightning strike twice? Here we have a similar take on the same story. A non-linear tale spun via flashbacks and tie-ins to other seemingly unrelated events centered on the house with the deadly curse. An actress best known for her horror movie roles works with a documentary team on the legend of the cursed house, and of course that’s not a very good idea! Utilizing the same techniques, visuals, and sound effects as the first this flick holds up really well, creepy, frightening, enthralling, and in the end, well, more of the same. Yeah, I really liked the first one and I liked this one, especially the bizarre ending, but in the end felt it added nothing to the story (other than maybe that ending). I want to give this a high grade but sequels are what they are (Xerox copies) so I’ll plop a B+ on it. That’s a good grade because I did like the flick but it just felt unnecessary to me.

Tale of Two Sisters, A (2003)- Masterpiece is a word thrown around a lot these days. Like ‘crises’ and ‘epidemic’ it has kind of lost its power. I throw it around a lot too so I am hesitant to use it here but this comes pretty damned close to being a masterpiece. The story is about two sisters who return home from what must have been a mental institution after their mother’s death. They find a new stepmother who seems pretty ‘evil’ and a father who just doesn’t know what to do; although he tries he is caught in the middle. Things decline rapidly as the older daughter begins to rebel, and as apparitions of what may be their mother’s ghost begin to appear. There are a quite a few movies this has a lot in common with yet it retains an intense originality and the acting and directing are some of the best I’ve seen in a long time. Yes it is slow paced and the haunting scenes, while effective, are few and far between, and the double twist ending is a tad hard to comprehend at first. If you are looking for fast pace horror filled Asian flicks look elsewhere, but if you are looking for an intense character study with ghostly apparitions thrown in this is a must see. A+

Infection (2004)- A Japanese horror flick. I've been hearing a lot of good things about what's been happening in Japanese horror for the last several years so I am trying to find some of them to share reviews. This was my first 'real' Japanese horror flick (not counting Godzilla movies and American remakes). Anyway, the plot is sort of like "The Grudge". Some doctors and nurses let a patient die and then apparently become cursed, or 'infected' with guilt. It's pretty effective and builds up some nice suspense with some pretty good payoffs. The atmosphere is great too in the dark and dirty hospital as it becomes contaminated with their guilt (I guess it's how they see their environment). Anyway, I dug it for the most part but the very end didn't make a lot of sense to me, maybe I missed something. B-.

Three Extremes (2004)- This is an Asian omnibus with three shorts, each one from a different director and country. Story one is ‘Dumplings’ from Hong Kong. It is the story of an aging actress who will do (or eat) anything to stay young. This one, although not overtly gory, is ‘covertly’ gory and will make you squirm with discomfort (exploitation like I guess). And the end, although a tad predictable, should really ‘put the hook in you’... sorry... I’ll give it a very strong A. Up next was ‘Cut’ from South Korea, a brutal story about a man who has gone totally insane and holds a director and his wife hostage because the director is rich and a good man, and if rich people can also be good, then what do the poor have left? Weird, dark, and brilliantly acted this is a must see for fans of movies like "Saw". I’ll give it an A+. Last was "Box" from Japan. I’m not sure what the Hell this was about. A couple of young sisters are in a small kabuki like ballet. One accidentally kills the other and has nightmares about the rest of her life, will those nightmares come true? I have no idea! This was just surreal, but I have to say, it worked for me. This definitely ain’t for everyone, but if you like ‘em artsy and weird then you’ll like this one. I am going to give it an A+ because it has stuck with me. So I’ll average this out to an A+.

Premonition (2004)- I’m on the fence with this one, it just didn’t really have much new to offer. Even the ‘scary’ intro was more or less right out of ‘The Changeling’. A guy reads the future in newspapers, tries, here and there, to change things after he reads of his daughter’s death and doesn’t stop it. He spends the rest of his time in Hell. I’m not sure how else to explain this, other than it really just fell flat for me. The suspense I feel from a lot of the J-Horror just wasn’t present in this one and the effects were bad enough to be distracting, I didn’t hate it, but didn’t much care for it either. D+

Ghost, The (2004)- Korean flick that borrows heavily from "The Ring" and quite a bit from "The Grudge". Scary little girls, long black hair, weird eyes, a vengeful ghost, and lots of water all present and accounted for. A young college student has amnesia; she doesn’t remember anything prior to going to college. When two local girls die and one goes insane she finds out they were friends of hers when she was in high school and when she starts seeing very strange things she knows she has to investigate her past. Everything pretty much follows formula from then on and we get the answer we were expecting to get, until the twist ending, which pulled the old ‘I feel like I should watch this again now’ that has become pretty popular since "The Sixth Sense". This one is pretty derivative and, except for the twist, pretty predictable, but it is put together well and the acting and look work. If you can get past some of the unoriginality and like the mood set by these types of Asian horror flicks you’ll dig this, if you dislike the pace of these then better to stay away. B+.

Marebito (2004)- Very strange flick about a cameraman who films a man commit suicide and then becomes obsessed with finding out what caused the man so much fear that he would take his own life. He ventures into underground Tokyo (or his subconscious) to look for something that would be so terrifying and lands in a Lovecraftian realm and winds up bringing home a girl who he finds chained up. She is not human and craves blood. The man receives warnings and slowly tries to drive himself insane, or maybe he is already insane. This could’ve been a great flick but I just kept getting the ‘look how smart I am’ vibe from the directing. Just too artsy, and I like artsy sometimes, but this thing just felt like a mess to me. I wanted to like it, I really did, and I stuck through until the end as I was hoping for some twist, but nothing really happened. I hate to give this a low grade, maybe it is your thing, but I have to give this a D.

Shutter (2004)- Long black hair, water, and vengeful ghosts, Asian horror at its best and most copied. Nothing really new here, a couple accidentally kills a pedestrian after a night of partying; they drive on only to be haunted by the pedestrian’s ghost. Some investigating and plot twists follow and suddenly I realized, despite its unoriginal premise, I dug this flick quite a bit. The effects worked, even though I felt I had seen them before, the acting worked, despite the language barrier, the characters were good, and I dug the ending. I’m going to give this an A+ dammit, usually I knock off points for unoriginality but what can I say, I’m inconsistent sometimes.

R-Point (2004)- Korean flick about the Vietnam War, but it’s not as confusing as it sounds, wait, yeah it is. Apparently a unit (or more) has been sent out to a place known as ‘R-Point’, several days later they radio back that they are all about to die and need reinforcements. So a unit of misfits is put together and sent to look for survivors and they slowly realize that they are treading on ground where many have died before, and their spirits are still there, I think. This was a little hard to follow for me as I tried to keep the various characters straight. It was kind of a mix and match between ‘The Dirty Dozen’, ‘Apocalypse Now’, ‘Platoon’, and ‘The Haunting’ except it’s not as good as any of those. Still, it is a strong idea and if you can get passed the overacting and the constant use of the epithet ‘asshole’ then it’s not too bad of a flick. I’ll give it a B, kept my interest, really good atmosphere, and good idea, just a tad hard to follow and ‘overacted’.

Tokyo Zombie (2005)- What do you get when you combine "Dumb and Dumber" and "Napoleon Dynamite" with "Shawn of the Dead" and "Land of the Dead" and toss in a heapin’ helpin’ of Japanese humor? You get this very bizarre zomedy from Japan. I guess I’d describe this as the ultimate in opposites. It is both funny, and not funny. Fast paced, and tedious. Original, and derivative. And at times it seems it is all those things at once. The story centers around two buddies, one an older jujitsu expert, the other a younger half-wit who is trying to learn jujitsu from his older buddy. They work in a fire extinguisher factory, but mostly practice moves all day. They accidentally kill their boss and decide to bury him at ‘Black Fuji’, a huge mountain of trash, waste, and dead bodies in Tokyo. As luck would have it, the waste there is causing all the dead bodies to reanimate (although later we are told it is caused by a virus which spreads via bites). The zombie plague soon takes over Tokyo and we jump ahead 5 years to a "Land of the Dead" type of world where rich folks live isolated from everyone else and find entertainment in making the poor fight the zombies. Of course our younger hero, who has devoted himself to jujitsu after loosing his friend and teacher, is on his way to becoming the champion, using jujitsu to kill the zombies. Along with his whining wife and mute daughter he eeks out a living among the dead. I don’t know what grade to give this. I knew going in what to expect so I wasn’t surprised at the bad (and at times completely tasteless) humor, over animated acting, etc. The first half of the film was just bad for me, but I felt after the jump to 5 years in the future it hit its stride so I will give it a C+. Just remember this is a full on slapstick zomedy done in totally bad taste and doesn’t try too hard to ever rise above that.

Reincarnation (2006)- Japanese horror in the vein of "The Ring" and "The Grudge". Creepy visuals and well acted story about a man who has a theory about death and fury lingering or being reincarnated so he kills his family, the staff of the hotel they are staying at, and then himself. Needless to say his theory is proven true. In a bizarre twist a director is filming a movie about the event, which seems to trigger the 'fury'. This has all the standard Japanese horror movie parts like grey faced ghosts, creepy dolls, and bloody deaths. Right now there seems to be some good horror coming out of Japan and I would put this in that category, but they need to be careful not to fall into cliché. B+.

Retribution (2006)- Interesting Japanese flick about a detective who is investigating the murder of an unknown woman and keeps getting the feeling he was the killer. Twist piles on top of twist including a supernatural element and it got a little hard to follow for me. Despite not being sure what was going on I still really liked the movie. It created a very heavy atmosphere playing out in a rundown section of Tokyo built on a landfill and prone to earthquakes and was able to maintain that ‘creepy’ vibe throughout. So while plot-wise I’m not exactly sure what was going on all the time, I have to say I liked the movie. B+.

Host, The (2006)- Korean horror/monster movie with lots of underlying symbolism. The destruction of and the strength of the family (the family in the film are distant in the beginning, torn further apart by the events of the film, and eventual realize they need each other to succeed), modern pressures and varying ideas of ‘success’ (the brother with the college degree is unemployed, the ‘dumb’ brother is employed at the food stand but seems happy, the sister is a bronze medalist who can not seem to reach gold), and mistrust of the government (who is really more dangerous the monster or the military and government?) are probably the main themes. And of course, all of that is played out in a movie about a monster created by Americans dumping chemicals into the river (that much of the story is true) reeking havoc. It revolves around a family that runs a food stand on the river. A man, his adult son, and his granddaughter run the stand. A huge monster emerges from the river one day and winds up taking the granddaughter away. We find out the granddaughter is still alive and being kept in a large sewer by the monster, now the man and his family must escape from the inept government facility where they are being kept and save the girl. This is a very well made movie with great acting and special effects that are very well done. It has a strange mix of very serious moments thrown in with odd, almost slapstick comedy elements (at one point the family is so distressed about loosing the little girl they become overwhelmed with emotion, slowly building from a crying to over the top wailing and rolling on the floor, only to be photographed by journalists in their moment of no self control, another comment on society). I’m going to give this one an A+, like the best of cats like Romero, this one is able to present a good, well done story, and give a snapshot of modern life at the same time, without being over bearing about it.

February, 29th (2006)- Korean flick about a serial killer/ghost who apparently only murders people on or around February 29th and only people who work in highway toll booths. Pretty specific! A young girl is new to her toll booth job and is having trouble adjusting to her night shift when she thinks she sees the killer. Her friend who works with her at the toll booth and whose birthday happens to be February 29th doesn’t seem overly concerned. Is the girl’s sanity slipping away or is there really a February 29th killer? Or both? Yeah, describing it makes about as much sense as watching it! Don’t get me wrong, there are some creepy moments and the acting and sets are good, but damn, you could drive a Mac truck through those plot holes! C-.

Apartment 1303 (2007)- There’s a curse on apartment 1303 that makes young Japanese girls commit suicide. The curse has them seeing a scary looking pale Japanese girl with long black hair, making very disturbing noises. Sound familiar? Not too original and the effects are pretty bad to boot so even when you have a chance at weirdness it falls a little flat. Really bad sound effects (the voice of the ghost is real bad and reminds me of the demon in ‘Evil Dead’), terrible camera work, especially on the suicide scenes (which involve the girls jumping from the 13th floor of the apartment building), and predictable ending all roll up into nothing special. I won’t flunk it as there were a couple suspenseful moments but they were few are far between. D.

Voices (2007)- I generally like Asian horror flicks, even the ones that don’t make a lot of sense to me. They just have a way with creating atmosphere, and a general creepy feeling so I was pretty stoked to see this one as from what I’d seen and heard it pulled off that Asian horror ‘feeling’ really well, but alas, I have to disagree... It is the story of a girl whose aunt jumps or is pushed from a balcony at her wedding, she survives but is then killed in the hospital by her sister (the girl’s other aunt, obviously). Turns out the two had dated the guy the aunt had married. Apparently there is a curse on the family and a kid at the girl’s school is helping people try and kill the girl now, because he killed his father, who had something to do with the girl’s family, somehow. I have no idea; all that I know is everywhere this poor girl goes folks are trying to kill her, even her friends and family. There are a few scenes that work, including a pretty cool dream sequence, and I get the idea that jealousy is like a virus, but over-all I just couldn’t get into it. Too bad too as it ‘could’ve been’ good. D+.

Recycle (2008)- This starts out like a very typical Asian horror film. A writer who is known for her love stories decides to write a horror novel, and it seems she may be getting too involved in her work as weird sounds, images, and shadows begin to show up, effective but I was starting to think "saw it". Then all of a sudden the gal finds herself in another dimension and we’re off into a very strange fantasy/horror film in sort of almost a "Lord of the Rings" vibe; very weird as the gal tries to find her way back with the help of a little girl, dodging zombies, ghosts, and generally bad situations (all based around the idea that they are rejected ideas, left in the 'recycle bin'). It felt like one of those video game movies except better and in the end kind of had a ham fisted message that may have been over the top, depending on how you feel about such things. This is a tough one to grade, I think I’ll drop a B+ on it, I dug it for the most part, but did find it a tad over the top.

Tales From The Dead (2008)- A Japanese omnibus that has sort of an old school feel, harkening back to the ‘morality plays’ of the original ‘Tales from the Crypt’ movie and others, including even The Twilight Zone. The wrap around involves a lady who may have killed her husband and who now has a flat tire in the middle of no where. She hitches a ride with a girl who happens to be a medium, yeah, you can see where that story is going. Story 1 involves a haunted house where a young man who is paralyzed seems tortured by the house’s ghosts, I wonder why that is. I’ll give this one an A. Story 2 involves an accountant who worked with a gang found dead, he might have hidden some evidence that the gang leader wants, chalk outlines never seemed so important; I’ll give this one a B. and finally would you sell time to the dead if you were depressed with your own life? I’ll give this one an A also. I liked this flick, nothing real special or great but a good anthology of cautionary tales presented in a classic fashion, not bad, averages to an A-.

Tetsuo: The Bullet Man (2009)- I liked ‘some’ of ‘Tetsuo: Iron Man’, enough to give this a chance and it was worth it I think. A man sees his son killed and, well it’s Japanese so he must get revenge. And he’s a genetic freak to boot! His anger causes him to morph into, um, bullets? Sort of. Anyway very well done (not nearly as over-the-top as Iron Man) and I’ll give it an A.

Doomsday Book (2012)- Korean omnibus with a strange mixture of camp, horror, and depth. Story one, 'A Brave New World' centers on a man who eats tainted meat and soon becomes a zombie, the disease spreads and affects different people in different ways. All in all a unique take on the zombie sub-genre but a little too campy and over-the-top for me. It seemed they were going to for that almost Japanese 'craziness' and while they got close, they just fell a tad short for me C+. Story two 'The Heavenly Creature' focuses on a robot purchased by a Buddhist monastery to do some menial tasks. Over time the robot begins to show signs of enlightenment, when the company that makes the robots is contacted they want to immediately shut the robot off, as they are aware of the threat any robot who becomes too 'human' might be. This segment gets very heavy and may not be for everyone as it focuses much more on ideas of enlightenment, life, etc. These concepts have been visited a ton of times but are done very well here and in a unique Asian way. I liked this one A+. Story three follows a young girl who, after losing her father's eight-ball, orders one off of the Internet. Little does she know it is a huge eight-ball flying in from space that may devastate the earth like a huge meteor. Um, what? This is a very bizarre segment following the family as they prepare for the Apocalypse caused by the Internet order of a pool ball!?!? Despite the oddness this wasn't a bad segment, well done and I can appreciate oddness, I'll give it a B. This averages to about a B+, which frankly seems a tad too high on second thought but let's run with it.


Asia Not Argento