Director – Koji Shiraishi
Cast – Jin Muraki, Rio Kanno, Tomono Kuga, Maria Takagi, Ryunosuke Iriyama, Shuta Kambayashi
Release Year – 2005
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I have always shared an interest in these pseudo-documentary horror films for one reason and one reason only, they allow you to envelop yourself into the film as if you were really there. Note the I used the word “allow”, and with a high emphasis. You can choose whether or not to throw yourself into the film, but I can tell you what, if do decide to throw away whatever pride and allow the film to use you the way it aims to do then you will enjoy the film more than you would if you did not. With no outlandish scares nor gory death scenes, this is one of the few Japanese horror films that uses pure ingenuity to scare the viewer, and it works in this film.
Noroi follows documentary filmmaker Masafumi Kobayashi as he pieces together what seem to be unrelated paranormal events, but in fact tie together to a very sinister phenomenon. An ancient demon known as the “Kagutaba” is wreaking havoc on the subjects of Kobayashi’s film, and he has now thrown himself in the wake of the demon’s evil plans.
What really surprised me about this film was the fact that as I mentioned earlier…this flick does not follow the usual Japanese horror clichés. For this to be a supernatural film and NOT revolve around creepy crawling pale girls with long black hair was astonishing, and refreshing as well. Instead we get a slow-moving film that takes its time in development and does not rush to appease the viewer and instead makes you wait for the “good stuff”. Personally, I was iffy on this given the development was pretty slow and included some scenes that I felt the film could have done away with, especially with its near 2-hour runtime, but overall the horror I “waited” for was very fulfilling.
Story-wise this film can be a bit confusing at times, but only because so many small sub-plots are going on with several different characters with no real relation to each other. This sends Mr. Kobayashi to different areas back and forth and back and forth, which some may like and others may dislike. The character use in this film was fun, especially because so few of the characters are sane, and most are completely livid over their experiences with the “Kagutaba” demon. It is because of this that the film was able to pace moderately during its long and slow development because it helped to keep my attention when I became restless.
The driving force behind 90% of this film’s success is the directing job by Koji Shiraishi(Grotesque). From the get-go he displays this film in an incredible fashion that really makes this film feel like it is an ACTUAL documentary piece. He does a fantastic job with atmosphere and scene developing, which helps set a creepy feel throughout the film, complimented by a pretty good musical score that was simple yet effective. I loved that he used clever editing and positive direction to give us legitimate scares instead of the usual cheap scares we get in these flicks, and he stayed away from overly violent and gory deaths and instead gave us realistic deaths.
I did balk at the fact that this film was moving quite slow and taking an overly long time to develop, but once the third act kicked in I could see why this film has received so much positive attention. We get the bulk of the scares this film has to offer during this final movement, and they were very satisfying and downright creepy at times. As if the scares weren’t awesome enough, we get a very cool and truly horrific climax that I knew would not end happily, but had no idea it would come off so brash and awesome. Yes, I loved it.
Overall, this is a good J-horror film that defies the usual J-horror clichés but comes at the cost of slow development. Thankfully, great direction helps with that and the positive scares and truly horrifying climax make this flick a great watch.