asian horror

Noroi [aka, The Curse] (2005)

01

This week I’m bringing you something a little outside my grotesque comfort zone in an attempt to find a movie that might actually creep me out for a change.  The sad news is that no, The Curse did not have me biting my fingernails, but overall it’s a legitimately eerie little flick with some solid performances.  Though it utilizes some tired tropes, overall this movie manages to deliver an adequately suspenseful experience.

Sweaty’s Stats
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Nudity

Zilch.

Gore

Nada.

Scare Factor

Decently creepy.  This one’s biting off Ringu a bit, but it’s not quite as scary.

————————————————

Summary

Right away we’re treated to the supposed finale of the film, where we’re told that a man named Kobayashi, a paranormal investigator by trade, is missing.  His house was found burned to the ground, his wife dead inside and no trace of the man himself.  Recovered was a videotape, a documentary Kobayashi had been working on called “The Curse.”  And so begins this foray into yet another “found footage” film (though to be fair, the rest of the film plays out less like a “here’s some wacky teens jumbling the camera around and getting murdered” and more like a straightforward documentary.)

The documentary centers around Kobayashi as he follows the stories of several interesting people.  One is Kana, a child with confirmed psychic abilities.  Being that she’s a little girl in a J-horror flick, she is of course a little on the creepy side.

02

Mmmyep.

Then there’s Marika Matsumoto (playing herself, interestingly enough), a pretty young actress with a “sixth sense” who experiences a strange occurrence at an old, decrepit shrine.  After Marika falls to the ground screaming for apparently no reason at all, they back up the tape to find something dubious hiding in the woods around them.

Finally there is Mr. Hori, another confirmed psychic and seemingly batshit insane individual who keeps screaming throughout the movie about “ectoplasmic worms,” as if the rest of the film weren’t unnerving enough.  Dressed head-to-toe in tinfoil, he seems at first to be a man in the throes of a psychotic break; of course if that were the case, he would have no purpose here.  Layered in his rants are nuggets of interest, connecting him to other supernatural happenings around town.

Similarities between the three individuals’ stories begin to emerge, as Kobayashi continues to interview and tape their experiences.  When Kana goes missing suddenly, her mother tells them that she was visited the week before by a “man in tinfoil.”  Kobayashi heads back to Mr. Hori, where the tinfoiled warrior screamingly draws them a map to where he thinks Kana is.  This investigation leads to a strange pigeon-loving man, who also turns up missing days later.

Meanwhile, Marika is still experiencing strange occurrences, so Kobayashi sets up a camera in her house, which records someone speaking “Kagutaba,” a name also uttered by our tinfoiled friend.  Research into Kagutaba reveals that it’s the name of a lesser-known demon, one summoned ritualistically to attack one’s enemies, though the old texts reveal that the demon eventually turned on his masters and began “doing evil on his own.”

03

To which I imagine the following happened: Kobashi said, “I will fight the demons!” And the old man said, “No Kobayashi. You are the demons.”

Kobayashi goes deeper, discovering that the ritual was performed again in recent years at a religious festival of sorts.  Of course the whole thing was filmed, so we get to see the lady playing the part of Kagutaba go into screaming fits in glorious, grainy VHS.

04

The way god intended horror films to be seen.

Naturally, Kobayashi’s next move is to meet with the possessed woman from the ritual.  He goes to the village where it all began (now relocated as the original village is buried underwater) and gets a surprise: the woman he’s looking for, Junko, is someone he’s briefly met before, during his earlier investigations into screaming ghost baby voices and dead pigeons.

05

Which gave him more payoff than ten season’s worth of this dreck.

Junko isn’t too keen on talking to Kobayashi, so he begins digging around, interviewing her neighbors and past co-workers.  Now, did you catch the part about the screaming ghost babies?  Because as it turns out, Junko used to work in an abortion clinic … disposing of the nearly full-term babies.  Yeah.

Back to Marika, whose neighbor has killed herself in a mass suicide, alongside the pigeon-lovin’ man.  Following up on that lead, Kobayashi talks to the neighbor of Pigeon Man, discovering that he used to fight with another neighbor, now moved away, over the noise of her screaming baby … only she didn’t have a baby.  Now the pieces are falling into place, with Junko and her ghost babies at the center.  While all of this is going on, Kana’s dad stabs her mom to death (while the pigeons watch) and Marika falls into a brief trance (while pigeons kamikaze into the windows).

06

Truly, nature’s most evil being.

Kobayashi and Marika then go to Mr Hori. and show him a tape of Junko, to which he proceeds to utterly, and uselessly, flip his shit.  In a bit of a leap of logic, Marika decides she wants to go to the place of the original village and perform the demonic ritual herself, thinking it will save her.  They take along Mr. Hori, for what I can only assume is comic relief.  As for the ritual?  It goes about as well as you’d expect.

07

Hint: these are not screams of joy.

Still, everyone makes it out with their lives.  Marika does a stint in the hospital but she’s okay; Mr. Hori goes to an institution, and Kobayashi follows up with Junko, who’s hung herself in her own house of horrors.  He also finds Kana’s body there and Junko’s (still living) son; subsequently Kobayashi adopts the traumatized boy.  So how does this lead to a burned up house and missing ghost hunter?  Well, I won’t say the ending isn’t a little predictable, but it will satisfy the sadist in you a bit.

08

I hope you guys like blunt force trauma!

Final Thoughts

This is a long movie for the subject matter, clocking in just under two hours, but I can’t say I ever found myself getting bored.  There does seem to be more plot (and characters) than needed, though the movie paces well and does a good job of building suspense.  There is also a satisfyingly creepy atmosphere to the entire film, one that seldom deviates too far into disbelief; the convincing portrayals from the actors and the light touch of how the supernatural is often presented gives off a sense of realism here that ups the scare factor considerably.

Where this movie slips up a little bit is in the payoff.  There is too much build-up without enough to satisfy, in my opinion.  This is where movies like Ringu and The Eye do it a little better.  I’ve never really been a fan of movies that blow their entire wad in end; myself, I prefer to hit a few crests before the grand finale.

09

“Oh man, when you did that thing with the entrails, the bonesaw and the Cuisinart at 00:16 …”

Nevertheless, The Curse is a very good execution of some overdone premises (ie., found footage, ghost stories).  I’m a born skeptic and therefore a tough gal to scare, but I do appreciate those films that give you a sense of dread; the ones that make you think just maybe there is something to it all.  Demons and ghosts come to life to scare mankind into prolapse?  Eh, doubtful.  But you know … maybe I’ll skip that walk through the deep, dark woods tonight.

Score 7.5/10, satisfyingly creepy, maybe a bit too long

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IMDB for this creepshow

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