"Ju-Rei: The Uncanny"
The Japanese have had
a longstanding capability for doing horror movies with minimal set
changes, and I think I'm beginning to understand why. Japanese
horror tends not to focus on story and plot, but rather in the inexplicable
suddenly entering the normal world, and the consequences of that
entrance. For instance, Japan's flagship title here in the
United States, "The Ring," deals with a haunted videocassette
that, one week after viewing, kills its viewers. By now you've
probably seen it as the hollow-eyed ragged monstrosity that is Samara
lunges out of a television set to kill whoever's in front of her.
And this is pretty standard fare for the Japanese, who seem
to have an utter mania for ghost stories. "The Ring,"
"Ju-On: The Grudge," "Shikoku," and plenty of
others make ghosts to Japanese horror what the undead serial killer
is to American horror.
"Ju-Rei: The Uncanny" is one more Japanese ghost story
to add to the pantheon.
So what we have here is the story of that perennial favorite: Japanese
schoolgirls. Put your eyes back in your heads, o hentai among
us. These particular Japanese schoolgirls won't be having
pillow fights, or whipped creme fights, or doing anything involving
"experimenting." These particular Japanese schoolgirls
are going to discover the truth behind a local urban legend. Each
of them sees a hooded, black figure out on the streets, and shortly
thereafter, several of them die under unusual circumstances.
Which leaves us with two important questions: who's our grim
reaper wannabe in the black hoodie and how many survivors are we
going to get out of this?
And since this is a Japanese film, it's gonna get real bizarre,
real quick. Even the DVD menu is uncomfortable and disturbing--crank
up your surround sound for twenty eight seconds of scrapes, moans,
squeals and other things that'll make you just nuts with terror.
Check out the bizarrity at the five minute mark! If you've ever
seen a death sequence like that, well, then you're way ahead of
me, because that's totally new on me.
The incredible Japanese patience shows forth cleanly in "Ju-Rei:
The Uncanny," allowing incredible amounts of suspense to build
up and burst forth into scenes of fantastic scariness. They
spent two whole minutes focused on a girl's face as she hid under
a fleece blanket before letting her get killed. The kind of
patience involved in such a maneuver allowed them to build into
this truly nerve-wracking experience.
And then there are other such interesting bits as chapter titles
that count backward (we start at ten and end at one), and the incredible
bloodthirsty quality of the random ghoul that stalks both our heroines
and their families for seemingly little or no actual reason. There
is virtually no blood or gore in "Ju-Rei: The Uncanny,"
which makes it especially unusual for a decidedly scary picture
like this one.
The one big problem with "Ju-Rei: The Uncanny" is that
the temptation to just wail on the fast forward button and go past
all the buildup scenes is just awful. There are entire minutes
where you just stare at one thing. And this will bore some
people like there's no tomorrow. Some people will find this
unbelievably tense, and that the slight payoff of a ghost lunging
at its next victim is or isn't worth it. It really depends
on your taste. If you have the stomach to sit for minutes
at a time, staring at just one thing, and not absolutely know that
whatever we're staring at is probably going to die whenever we stop
staring at it, you're going to just fall in love with "Ju-Rei:
The ending, amazingly, actually happened back at the beginning.
"Ju-Rei: The Uncanny" has been playing forward, but like
life, can only truly be understood backward. Characters that
die at the twenty minute mark are back, alive and well, at the fifty
minute mark--the movie has been somehow playing in reverse. And
the prologue, which you see at the end, is also terribly creepy.
The special features include a still gallery, production credits,
English subtitles (which is good, as the movie itself has only Japanese
audio), and a trailer for "Ju-Rei: The Uncanny".
All in all, "Ju-Rei: The Uncanny" is a movie that makes
for some serious scares if you're willing to put up with a movie
that actually makes more sense backwards than it does forwards,
and is willing to spend entire minutes on suspenseful buildup.
GRADE: 3 stars ***
Ju-Rei: The Uncanny