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Dark Tales of Japan (JAPAN 2004)

a.k.a : Suiyô puremia: sekai saikyô J horâ SP Nihon no kowai yoru

Director : Yoshirio Nakamura (Introduction, The Spiderwoman), Norio Tsuruta (Crevices), Koji Shiraishi (The Sacrifice), Takashi Simizu (Blonde Kwaidan) and Masayuki Ochiai (Presentiment)

Cast : Shozo Endo, Shunsuke Nakamura, Yu Yamada, Tetta Sugimoto Teriyuki, Teriyuki Kagawa, and Kayoko Shiraishi.

Produced by Taka Ichise (Ring, Dark Water), five of Japan’s top horror directors, including Takashi Shimizu (The Grudge) and Norio Tsuruta (Ring 0: Birthday) contribute to this anthology of terrifying short films.


by Edward Tang


Introduction: (“Kowai hanashi, kikitai desu ka?”)
Episode 1: “The Spiderwoman” (“Kumo-onna”)
Episode 2: “Crevices” (“Sukima”)
Episode 3: “The Sacrifice” (“Ônamakubi”)
Episode 4: “Blonde Kwaidan” (“Kinpatsu kaidan”)
Episode 5: “Presentiment” (“Yokan”)

Wow lucky me, I won a contest at a local video store where you drop your name into a box and you could win three free DVDs! Of course I took the win and got copies of Batman Begins, 2-disc Special Edition of Takashi Miike’s Audition and this little doozy which is apply titled Dark Tales of Japan. It’s another package that takes five episodes from what appears to be a television show (Wednesday Premiere) and jams them together for the J-horror fans to go ape shit over. It’s got a good list of Japanese horror directors, probably the most famous belongs to Takashi Shimizu who did the Ju-on (Grudge) flicks. The others have done more annoying and ripoffs such as the boring-green slime spewing Infection and the sequel among sequels with Ring 0: Birthday. If you’ve read anything I have written about the horror genre, you know one thing: I hate it. Now these shorts are made for TV not something like Three Extremes or Eros (Two films made up of different directors that totally puts this thing to shame). So let us get started, dum dum dummmm.

The first episode is The Spiderwoman. The story revolves around a mysterious “Spiderwoman” who is literally a woman who can crawl on four legs and either kills people or makes them her slaves. A reporter journeys to where the Spiderwoman has been seen to do research for his magazine. He gains knowledge that there’s a girl who saw the Spiderwoman and goes to meet her. As he finds this place, he converses with the girl and eventually discovers that she’s the Spiderwoman! He tries to escape the her clutches but is transformed into one of her slaves and becomes a Spiderman(Not that web shootin’ superhero)! That’s what happens in the 15 minute short directed by Yoshirio Nakamura who does an okay job with what he had. The story was quick and to the point and the acting followed the average road. There’s not much going on and the effects for the “Spiderwoman” are just plain bad. But you really can’t complain because it’s short and to the point. Not a bad start but still didn’t succeed at warranting ANY emotion whatsoever. Plus it made me laugh more than anything, which is why I’m not totally negative (Note: Not suppose to be funny). Corny and uneventful, not a good short.

The second episode is Crevices. This short begins with a young man who goes to his friend’s apartment after he went missing. The caretaker and him enter the room which seems to be covered in a red tape. The man searches through the apartment and can’t find anything when the caretaker immediately disappears. After an initial shock he notices a video camera and turns it on, to watch the final minutes of his friend’s life. He begins to hear a faint laugh and learns that the haunting force shoots out of “Crevices” and kills her victims. He tries to tape all of the crevices up but fails to do one and he is killed. Crevices is successful in two things: making us interested in the events to follow and presents a creepy environment. Still giving us a stupid premise it works because it’s so short. The acting from the main guy was over-the-top crappy but worked. There’s a few jump moments and that’s about it. If it was a feature film, it would be a waste but as a short it works.

The third episode is The Sacrifice. We begin with a young girl who works at a company and just moved away from her home. This weird guy asks her out on a date, she says no and he puts a curse on her. She goes back home when shit starts to go down on her, such as arm scars and weird symbols carved into walls. Her mom is also ill and she wants to take care of her. Her mom cannot stop praying either and we later find out that she is “sacrificing” herself for her daughter, by taking the curse and thus killing herself. This short is boring as hell and doesn’t move a bit. Unlike Spiderwoman, it didn’t have anything that could redeem it from being a complete bore. The pacing was just a long (too long for a short) run that didn’t get us anywhere. The performances are typical, and this short has a few more odd (but ultimately poor) visuals and utilizes my least favorite technique in the voice over. There isn’t much going on here, and doesn’t work as a short. considering that something should actually happen. It also involves the crappiest visual I’ve ever seen which can only be described as the bastard fucking child of a meatball and Jabba the Hutt. Please, leave the shit in the toilet.

The fourth episode is Blonde Kwaidan. The story is about a dude who comes to America to watch a house for his boss. He’s just hanging out and gets a call from his boss that the Executive (whose house he’s in) just committed suicide. He goes into his room to pack his shit up but finds a dead blonde under his bed and she comes to life. We close his screaming bitch ass. This one is the worst out of the five and I was expecting it to be the best. Why does it suck? It just is a waste because it’s so damn short and it could have been more. It looked the best out of all of the others but didn’t have anything going for it. Probably the best director out of the five, didn’t do anything that wasn’t done over and over again. We get this short and it seems to have some potential but is so quick and pointless it hurts. I have nothing much else to say but I hated this one mostly because it annoyed me. What’s new?

The final (Thank God) episode is Presentiment. We start with a businessman who feverishly is trying to avoid the video cameras as he steal precious information from a computer mainframe. Getting out of the office, he makes his way to the elevator and meets three people. The elevator then gets stuck and he begins to strike up a conversation with the three people. During this, he gets a call from his girlfriend who threatens to kill herself but the power goes dead. While asking for a cellphone from the other elevator riders, a phone rings which is answered and turns out to be the elevator repairmen. He mentions that there are “four people” in the elevator but the security camera only catches three. He gets out of the elevator and realizes that there is no one else in the elevator. So after all of his pain and anguish he takes a seat and tries to collect himself. He sees the three people again and tries to escape them but is crushed by a beam and is killed. These three are ghosts whom also died in mysterious circumstances but now walk the Earth and take interest in watching people die. This is the best of the shorts without a doubt with excellent direction and music. The acting from the main character is overacting but is still believable. It makes for a good time, hell even the initial surprise of the three people not being there was well done. Interesting look at the afterlife and overall the best time that this DVD offers.

Well I’ll conclude my review by saying that this DVD is basically a throwaway effort with only one of the shorts being worth watching (Presentiment) and another that is good (Crevices). The other three are crappy and not worth watching one bit. Hell, even the good shorts don’t deserve a second look because they don’t have that entertaining factor that would make them interesting again. Not a bad time but nothing special once again. I’d avoid it but if you like your cheaply looking Japanese horror, you might find this good.

Episode I : 2/5
Episode II : 3/5
Episode III : 2/5
Episode IV : 1/5
Episode V : 4/5

Buy this movie at YesAsia – Dark Tales of Japan

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