Tag Archives: J-horror

A Rodent’s Revenge

black rat 2010


2.5 Stars  2010/76m

Director: Kenta Fukasaku / Writer: Futoshi Fujita / Cast: Misaki Yonemura, Hiroya Matsumoto, Rina Saito, Haruka Shimizu, Mika Shimizu, Rihoko Shimomiya, Shôta Miyazako, Makoto Sakamoto.

Body Count: 7

Strange little Japanese export starts with a half naked teenage guy staggering and crawling away from a masked loon down a corridor, across broken glass, and eventually finding himself trapped by a locked door. In comes the weapon. Extreme close up for a scream. Credits roll.

‘J-Horror’ reigned supreme throughout the 00s, with films about various cursed objects and places, making a generation afraid of tech, mirrors, and unlabelled video cassettes. Largely inferior American remakes cloned the sub-genre to shit and the freshness of The Ring and The Grudge was melted down into drek like One Missed Call and that cop-out re-do of The Eye (yes, the original was Chinese). Battle Royale, famed for it’s virtually unremakeable plot, fell out of the usual tramlines as it didn’t feature a supernatural element – and neither does Black Rat.

black rat 2010

Through intermittent flashbacks, we learn about the suicide of smiley student Asuka, seven weeks ago (not ten years for once!) Despite well-translated subtitles though, I never really sussed out what the big mystery was: She recruited her six friends to learn a dance for some upcoming festival and made a black rat mask for it, which put off the others (again, not sure why, it looked decent enough). Some hints about boyfriend stealing, unrequited crushes, and general peer disapproval are sprinkled throughout.

The other six ‘Black Rats’ are invited by text “from Asuka” to classroom 3B at midnight – four of them show and encounter a masked girl who uses a flipchart pad to tell them vengeance is about to be served, and when the teen boy from the beginning staggers in and dies, they flee. The school is locked down, so the Black Rat menaces the kids one by one, challenging one to save a goal for his survival, and another to score over 100 points at karaoke…

black rat 2010

Good girl Misato is late and, unlike the others, immediately discerns that the girl in the mask is anyone but the ghost of her best friend, which leads Black Rat to the first of a few twisty revelations. The film has been playing us from the start and, yeah, it’s kinda clever, but it messes with the format to the point where it blurs who is responsible for what in an almost Bay of Blood-style way.

A ghost-free horror film from the Orient is a rarity, but South Korea is still unchallenged when it comes to manufacturing the best slasher pics from the region, but this is worth seeing for a quick peek into the conventions as seen from another cultural perspective.

Dream a subtitled dream


3 Stars  2000/98m

A.k.a. Horror Game Movie; Scissors; Gawi

Director/Writer: Byeong-ki Ahn / Cast: Gyu-ri Kim, Ji-won Ha, Jeong-yun Choi, Jun-Sang Yu, Ji-tae Yu, Hye-yeong Ju, Jun-Jeong.

Body Count: 6

About the 500th Ring-inspired horror film to come from the East, but fused with slasher movie rules and a story very similar to the same country’s/same year’s Record, concerning a clique of young friends with a dreadful secret that literally comes back to haunt them.

The first forty minutes’ groundwork builds the story, concerning the suicide of Kyung-ah, an introvert member of the gang, who was revealed to be the legendary jinxed child of a small town where a couple of the friends used to live, and where rotten luck befell everyone around the girl.

When her best friend – understandably upset at the betrayal – asks her to keep out of her life, Kyung-ah throws herself from the top of a building and dies… or does she? Two years down the line, guilty-party Sun-ae, who revealed the truth in the first place, returns from a stint in a US institution, believing that Kyung-ah is haunting her and looking for revenge on the group. Meanwhile, sweet natured heroine Hye-jin recurrently encounters the child-ghost of her old friend, and the ancillary members of the group begin dying in strange ways.

While the plot is certainly competent and more imaginative than Record, it sometimes becomes confusing as to what era we’re in and, once the eventual truth surrounding Kyung-ah’s death is revealed, regurgitates several questions and highlights the liberties taken by writer/director Ahn.

The spooky twist ending also requires a vast suspension of belief and mirrors the ends of contemporary J-Horror successes such as The Grudge and Phone. Now if we could only marry the visual atmosphere created here with the ‘classic’ American genre rules, that would be the stuff dreams are made of.

The 100 Greatest* Slasher Movies Part III: #80-71

*According to me. Me, me, me. So there’re bound to be a good few ‘classics’ missing.

#100 – #91 is here
#90  – #81 is here

80: Happy Birthday to Me (1981)

At the hoity-toity Crawford prep school, the popular clique known as ‘The Crawford Top Ten’ are finding their membership numbers thinned out by a loon with an inventive streak to their methods. PTSD-suffering heroine Virginia isn’t sure if it’s her or not. High-end production and an awesome finale underscore its presence here, though it outstays its welcome by a good 20 minutes.

Crowning moment: An epic bitchfest of a showdown between killer and survivor that makes episodes of Scooby Doo look plausible and Mean Girls look tame.

79: Freddy vs Jason (2003)

The fifteen-years-in-waiting clash between the slasher granddaddies, Freddy vs Jason was enormously successful with its WWE-style smackdown and cute homages to both series’ pasts. With more kitsch than a Eurovision marathon, it’s stupid fun.

Crowning moment: Jason goes to a cornfield rave.

78: 7eventy 5ive (2007)

A group of children play a phone prank on the wrong guy, who comes over and slaughters their parents. Years later, they haven’t learned their lesson when they go for another round at a college party, which is crashed by a parka-wearing maniac rocking a big axe and a bad attitude.

Crowning moment: The initial assault, which lays to waste a number of bit-parters in quick succession.

77: Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)

Hated by the masses, is there anything more ridiculous than A New Beginning? Several years after the events of The Final Chapter, Tommy Jarvis is packed off to a home for troubled teens in the middle of the woods when guess-who begins killing everyone. Like, EVERYONE.

Crowning moment: There’s a lot of gold-plated cheese to pick from; the leather boys on the road, the tryst in the forest, or the never ending chase scene that dominates the third act.

76: Scream 3 (2000)

The ‘trilogy’ was closed (temporarily) in 2000 with Sidney Prescott in hiding and a killer offing the cast and crew of Stab 3. Much of the violence was toned down after Columbine and the laughs felt forced, but Scream 3 is still leagues ahead of many of its imitators.

Crowning moment: Sid discovers the film set of her bedroom where history starts to repeat itself.

75: My Super Psycho Sweet 16 (2009)

The MTV show stocked with objectionable brats is parodied by MTV itself as a nasty high schooler’s exclusive party – at the roller dome where a series of murders occurred a decade earlier – is crashed by the legendary Lord of the Rink maniac…

Crowning moment: A fleeing victim on roller skates tries to raise the alarm only to lose her head when the killer intercepts with an axe, leaving her decapitated body to roll into a birthday cake made of sushi…

74: Hellbent (2004)

Nearly titled 28 Gays Later…, this Hollywood-set slasher film pits a quartet of gay friends against a homicidal Muscle Mary, who stalks and beheads them during a huge Halloween festival. Nicely sidestepping any anti-gay sentiment and out-slashing many of its heterosexual counterparts.

Crowning moment: Center of the dance floor, strobe lights, and a killer with a sickle.

73: Death Bell (2008)

The smartest students at a prep school in Seoul are having their wits tested by a killer who, channeling both Jigsaw and The Crystal Maze, kidnaps the teens at the top of the class ranking and forces their schoolmates to solve equations n’ stuff to save them… There’s a ghost as well.

Crowning moment: Can you guess who the killer is? Can you?

72: Maniac Cop (1988)

New York City is being terrorized by a killer. Yawn, and? It’s a cop. The public are panicking, cops are being shot in the street, and Tom Atkins thinks it’s Bruce Campbell. Neigh, it’s undead framed-and-disgraced former supercop Matt Cordell, who is very angry with his old precinct.

Crowning moment: Cordell rampages through the police station, cutting down all who stand in his way with ease.

71: Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988)

Freddy vs Jason was supposed to happen in 1988. Clearly it didn’t, so to fill the void, Paramount pit him against Carrie. Sort of. Tina, rather, a girl with telekinetic abilities who accidentally resurrects him from the murky depths of Crystal Lake. Chuck in a house full of teenagers next door and you’ve got a party!

Crowning moment: I love the preface in this one, voiced by Crazy Ralph himself… “There’s a legend ’round here… A killer buried but not dead.” It summarises everything I love about the series.

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You’ve been framed. And skewered. And slashed.


3 Stars  1988/18/100m

Director: Toshiharu Ikeda / Writer:  Takashi Ishii / Cast: Miyuki Ono, Aya Katsuragi, Hitomi Kobayashi, Eriko Nakagawa, Masahiko Abe, Yuji Honma.

Body Count: 7

Contrary to the implications of that title, this oddball Japanese film has more in common with Saw than Sam Raimi’s splatstick classic, and was something of a collectible outside of its home territory after release.

Nami is the presenter of one of those late night TV shows that screen weird and wacky videos sent in by the public. One day she receives a tape containing the torture of a young woman, who eventually gets a blade through the eye (its gruesomeness shown in extreme closeup).

Due to the falling ratings, Nami asks if she can take a film crew to the location of the video as she thinks it will make good television. She is denied permission and so goes anyway, taking four colleagues and a still camera.

The film pads comfortably through derivative stalk n’ slash territory, with a pair splitting off from the group for sex before the victims start to wander into traps, which include a multitude of blades skewering one woman, and a rigged crossbow ambush. There’s a also a brilliant flash-strobe attack in the dark, which, along with some ambitious set pieces drew comparisons to Argento’s visual flourishes. With all the slaying done with in the first half, events take a detour down the weird path with one of the most bizarre twists occurring once the (obvious) killer is unmasked.

The film’s leanings towards violence against shrieking young women makes for some uncomfortable moments, while the fewer male victims are either killed all too quickly or entirely off-screen, a motif common in the staple ‘J-horror’ exports of the 90’s and 00’s, which commonly center around young women in distress.

Fundamentally, the photography and inventive demises make the film, which is otherwise your common-or-garden stalker with a particularly surreal what-the-fuck!? final forty minutes in a flick that essentially runs about twenty minutes too long.

The sequel is an entirely different affair, a dreamy, wannabe avant garde horror film that I’m not even sure I made it all the way through.

Party hard


3 Stars  2009/18/96m

“A party to die for.”

Director: Kevin Ko / Writers: Carolyn Lin & Sung In / Cast: Bryant Chang, Julianne, Vivi Ho, Jerry Huang, Kristian Brodie, Joseph Ma, Kao Yin-Hsuan, Liz.

Body Count: 12

Taiwan’s “first slasher movie” is more of an answer to Hostel than it is a straight-up bodycount pic, with down-on-his-luck chauffeur Wade randomly passed an invite to a society function by his rich client, Mr Yang, who can’t be arsed to go and instructs the youngster to claim he is the mogul’s cousin.

Once at the party, Wade, and four other ‘newcomers’ are introduced and there’s some spiel about writing down your wildest dream on the back of the invite, that the host makes a reality. Wade wants a sports car and consequently receives one, but is soon clued in, along with his fellow debutantes, that they’ve been selected because they’re allegedly ‘impostors’ – poor people either stealing from wealthy clients or transgressing some other high-society sin.

To be honest, I couldn’t make much sense of this part: the three less ‘valued’ characters have all done somethung fundamentally wrong but I couldn’t work out what either Wade or nice girl Hitomi were supposed to have done that would earn them a death warrant.

Each newbie is attacked, slashed, and then put ‘on show’ for the baying crowd of rich folk to see tortured and murdered. A corrupt political wannabe has his balls fried with an electrified jumper cable and a light-fingered nurse has some amateur surgery carried out on her face.

Wade and Hitomi do their best to escape but find themselves thwarted over and over again until they’re forced back into the lion’s den and have to fight fire with fire. Or, rather, sharp implements with other sharp implements.

There’s a decent amount of tension and liberal bloodletting – the electrodes-to-the-bollocks scene is especially cringe-inducing and grim. That aside, there’s not much new material worth lapping up in Invitation Only and it plays out in a very similar way to Eli Roth’s American counterparts, a couple of scenes almost directly lifted from them. Still, it passed 96 minutes without boring me so it’s worth a look, if not only to see how Asia does the job.

On a side note, I love how the cast credits are rounded off with “and Liz”! As if we all know who this Liz person is. I know a couple of Liz’s. This Liz, though, evidently as important in Taiwan as Madonna or Cher, plays the red-dress victim at the beginning. All hail Liz!!

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