Posts Tagged ‘japanese horror movie’



JAPAN 2009  Directed & Written by: Noburo Iguchi Produced by: Naobumi Ashi, Akira Fujita, Kazunari Okuma, Yui Shibata  Cinematography: Yasutaka Nagano Music: Yasuhiko Fukuda  Cast: Naoto Takenaka, Asami, Suzuki Matsuo, Kentaro Shimazu, Yukihide Benny, Yuya Matsuura, Kentaro Kishi, Demo Tanaka, Shigeki Terao, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Cay Izumi

It would be easy to just say that ROBOGEISHA is written and directed by Noburo MACHINE GIRL Iguchi and basically end the review right there. MACHINE GIRL was fabricated to a fan audience and despite some marvelous scenes it was a lousy movie.

ROBOGEISHA now is quite a surprise as I expected another mindless, repetitive gorefest. The movie may still be a calculated work made to fit the fan market, however I found it being so much more a) humorous and b) entertaining. ROBOGEISHA is not taking itself too seriously and it turns out to be a very playful movie that is drawing inspiration from various sources.

In fact ROBOGEISHA is straying through many movie genres and styles, and if it wasn’t permanently aiming for our wallets it could have been an intelligent homage to the history of Japanese horror, ninja, science fiction ad sex cinema. Sure it’s still a B-movie, but so are many of the original films that ROBOGEISHA is quoting. It’s fun and funny nevertheless.

Different from MACHINE GIRL Iguchi’s ROBOGEISHA brings much more to the table: a twisty Frankenstein inspired story, paired with enough action and black humor that you’ll not forget you’re watching a party movie.

Along the way Iguchi is taking us through motifs of Pink Eigas and Romanporn flicks, lots of ninja assassinations, impossible love affairs, robotic super hero terrain, classic the-schoolgirl-isn’t-really-a-schoolgirl stuff and finally Japanese opera. That’s more than you need for a successful start into a movie night, but as ROBOGEISHA is still far away from being a great film make sure you’ll have something more sincere at hand.

The bottom line is that ROBOGEISHA is one of the best movies coming out of the recent nouvelle vague of Japanese B-splatter movies. Fans might want it to be more excessive; in my opinion ROBOGEISHA is courageous to trade-off splatter for more creativity and twinkle-in-the-eye and finally succeeds as it clearly achieves a higher artistic standard than most other films of this species.

If you could pick only one movie among all the latest cheap Japanese splatter movies you’d be well advised to decide for ROBOGEISHA.




We are not yet sure if this is going to be just a lengthy commercial for Shiseido, but the story  reads quite interesting: FLOWERS features the six stars from Shiseido’s famous TSUBAKI (椿) ads and tells the story of different women throughout various decades, starting in the 30’s.

Helmed by director Norihiro Koizumi the movie was reportedly planned since 2008 by creative director Takuya Onuki who was also responsible for the television commercials. Well, at least the girls sure look good. Starring, of course, Yu Aoi (蒼井優), Yuko Takeuchi (竹内結子), Lena Tanaka (田中麗奈), Yukie Nakama (仲間由紀恵), Kyoka Suzuki (鈴木京香), and Ryoko Hirosue (広末涼子).




JAPAN 2009  Directed by: Takashi Shimizu Written by: Daisuke Hosaka Produced by: Dai Miyazaki, Satoru Ogura, Masayuki Tanishima Cast: Yuya Yagira, Ai Maeda, Suzuki Matsuo, Ryo Katsuji, Shoichiro Masumoto, Misako Renbutsu, Erina Mizuno

THE SHOCK LABYRINTH 3D isn’t exactly known for its great 3D visuals but rather for being ignored by most audiences so far (its very limited release seems to be a chicken-or-egg question). How come, you might wonder, as SHOCK LABYRINTH is helmed by the man himself, JU-ON’s and THE GRUDGE’s Takashi Shimizu.

A group of teenagers is surprised and shocked when a long-lost friend suddenly returns after more than a decade. But very soon she falls ill and they have to take her to a hospital that turns out to be a trap, a haunted house that is a shock labyrinth. A cat and mouse game begins triggering the teenager’s memories of their childhood friendship and the things that happened in the past.

I must admit that I have never been an admirer of Shimizu’s work as I believe that what he has done others have done long before him, and mostly better. For pure shocks Shimizu has never matched Hideo Nakata’s films, for depth and IQ never even come close to Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Maybe Shimizu and the way he approaches what is commonly known as J-Horror are part of the problem and the reason the once popular export has become largely extinct.

In the late 90’s J-Horror became famous mostly for its relentless shock and awe, combined with a visual language western audiences found fresh and exotic as well as initially some very good ideas as far as storytelling goes. These movies were really scary, a brilliant example of psychological and not physical horror that most of their western counterparts resorted to. But very soon epigones and imitators too over and started to cannibalize the genre by exploiting its motifs and repeating the same formula over and over, with substance and quality of ideas decreasing until there was little more left than a bunch of scenes that were supposed to make your adrenaline rush. They failed to do so after a while.

What made J-Horror interesting, different and effective in the beginning very soon became a routine, a formulaic way of filmmaking, and with no new stories in sight and the same old shocks wearing off there was simply no reason to watch J-Horror anymore, let alone that more and more original J-Horror movies were remade by Hollywood eroding the unique position of horror made in Japan further. J-Horror had sold out, and most kids watching the American remakes wouldn’t have even noticed that these films were not genuine American horror movies. For the mass audience, Hollywood had absorbed J-Horror completely.

Without new ideas J-Horror also lost on the festival circuit as especially horror movie buffs were quickly getting used to the same old tricks. Girls with long black hair anyone? The decline was inevitable and I was not surprised that Kurosawa for instance has left the genre (even he never actually was part of the J-Horror wave).

THE SHOCK LABYRINTH 3D illustrates why J-Horror is flatlining. It’s a tragic example of Murphy’s law. It starts with a truly idiotic idea: who on earth would make a movie inspired by the Labyrinth of Horrors attraction at Fuji-Q High Land amusement park? What “idea” is that in the first place? How do you pitch something like this to a film studio? How do you sell it to distributors and audiences? Why in god’s name did Fortissimo films pick up the rights for this?

So THE SHOCK LABYRINTH 3D starts out with no idea at all. Then a ridiculous script comes into play, untalented teenage actors, a rushed production and a low budget. Add to that a direction that has no signature at all, editing that is less than impressive, and truly horrible music. Plus a location that is anything but a labyrinth.

If the aforementioned girls with long hair, if twisting heads, blackened eyes, people vanishing in the dark, X-ray like visuals or stuffed white rabbits make you scream then THE SHOCK LABYRINTH 3D is for you. But then you’re also probably 10 years old, have an evil older sister and have not been exposed to any other horror than the stories of the Brothers Grimm. Can’t blame you.

THE SHOCK LABYRINTH 3D is a grave disappointment, its shabby, shoddy and so unbearably talkative you wish you could kill the actors with your own hands. I take great comfort in the thought that this movie was made to rip us off and not to inject new life into the genre. So there’s still a possibility someone will bring J-Horror back from the dead.

But don’t expect it’s SHOCK LABYRINTH. Beware. Abandon hope all ye who enter THE SHOCK LABYRINTH 3D.