31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 5: Perfect Blue (1997)

1

 

Anime horror is hard to find. Good psychological anime horror? Almost impossible. Enter Perfect Blue, a film that is deceptively and increasingly more disturbing than most live-action peers, and so exquisitely animated that you forget you’re not watching ‘real’ people.

screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-01-30-35

[It all looks so wonderfully ’80s, right down to the poster.] The story follows Mima, a retired J-pop singer, and her desire to transition into acting. Like many ‘idol’ singers, she has intense fans who don’t take kindly to the news, including a stalker who sends her a hate-fax.

Mima’s first role is as a strip club rape victim in a crime drama. The filming, including its repeated cuts, restarts, gratuitous photography and Mima’s (acting) screams, greatly disturbs her manager, who flees the set in tears, and it borderline traumatises Mima also. Though it’s just fake and nobody is actually raping her, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t incredibly uncomfortable to watch.

Shortly afterwards, several members of the show’s crew are brutally murdered. And I mean brutally. This movie doesn’t hold back on the gore.

Screen Shot 2016-10-06 at 02.01.05.png

Mima begins losing her grip on reality, and that translates, Gogol-style, to us as the viewer in a series of unreliably-narrated snippets. This, plus the sporadic presence of Mima’s ghoulishly-drawn stalker, rapidly build up some heady and unsettling tension. And it just gets even more bizarre and shudder-worthy from there.

screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-01-54-38

It’s a film that stays with you long after the cheerful pop credits stop rolling. Its themes of loneliness, betrayal and alienation amid change are all too familiar to me right now, and lends the stalker-slasher scares an extra layer of tragic horror.

4/5

[After watching, I wasn’t surprised to find out that there was some hushed intra-fandom controversy that Darren Aronofsky lifted large parts of Perfect Blue for Inception,  Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan. He supposedly denied any influence from Perfect Blue, but admitted he saw it, then ended up buying the film rights anyway.]

 

31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 21: Tormented (2011)

0

tormented 2011

I can only be amused by the fact that Day 21’s movie heavily featured a demonic, mechanically-shrieking bipedal rabbit, given that I have an irrational fear of the fluffy, nose-wrinkling little future fox shits.

tormented 2011

Japanese horror Tormented deserves credit for not only steering away from hair-horror, but subverting its oft-trodden tropes and imagery to mind-bending effect. The movie opens with a wordless scene of Gummo-level memorability: tiny schoolboy Daigo (Takeru Shibuya) sees a rabbit bleeding out in the playground. It’s suffering. He grabs a brick and bludgeons it out of its misery. It’s so brutal that blood splatters on his older teen sister, Kiriko (Hikari Mitushima).

tormented 2011

Shortly afterwards, Daigo is plagued by rule-bending, reality-skirting nightmares, all featuring a human-sized stuffed rabbit that is fucking terrifying. As the nightmares worsen, Kiriko is unsure of what to do, and cannot turn to their illustrator father who is too caught up in his latest work to give much of a shit.

tormented 2011

I’d rather not spoil, but what follows is a series of veers and turns through a vortex of storytelling (the spiral staircase imagery that repeats throughout the film is truly apt). If this had been a slow-burner, I might have felt a bit cheated, but the brisk pace, solid acting and beautifully baffling imagery rescue it from becoming an exercise in cinematic timewasting. Unpredictable to the last frame.

31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 6: Kakurenbo: Hide & Seek (2005)

0

kakurenbo: hide & seek

A YouTuber described Kokurenbo: Hide & Seek as a “really scary anime film where children are being killed”. That about sums this one up, or you could choose “surprisingly chilling 25-minute short”. I chose to watch the subbed version after lasting ten seconds of over-affected English dub. I can read.

I’m still slowly making tracks in my anime travels, so I’ll say that the elseworld/bizarre-society-style plot echoes some firm favourites like Shingkei no Kyojin. It’s set in a small city that’s known for playing the world’s weirdest version of Hide & Seek. Only the children can play. In fact, they have to play, and they’re required to wear fox masks for the entire duration. And they’re being hunted and killed by some pretty terrifying-looking ancient demons.

Main character Hikora, with the help of friend Yaimao, and a sets out to play the game in order to find his sister Sorincha, who disappeared playing one of the previous games. As the game needs seven, five other characters with their own reasons, also play, and what follows is a taut cat-and-mouse chase as gigantic, fanged monsters “seek” a group of frightened young kids in expressionless fox masks amid the ruins of a literal ghost town.

The animation is gorgeous, and character movements beautifully fluid. The demon design is suitably blood-curdling, but much of the tension is undercut by the drawn-out chases and silent, expressionless faces of the children. Voice acting is great, but as a non-native speaker, I can’t comment on the quality of the subtitles. Ending was a wee bit anti-climactic, bordering on telegraphed, but this was made back in 2005, which seems like worlds away. From what I caught of the English dub, there are some minor tweaks in dialogue, but the sub is more subdued (and, as a result, much creepier).

I watched on AnimePlus, but there’s a copy of the dub on YouTube (see below). Worth a look if you never again want to look at Hide & Seek the same way. Even though you’re a grown adult.

Anyone for a game of Hopscotch instead?

31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 3: Zombie Ass: The Toilet of the Dead (2011)

1

Usually when I watch a film I like to eat something. Not only am I glad I didn’t, but I’m glad I didn’t eat anything right before, because Zombie Ass: The Toilet of the Dead is the most disgusting lump of cinema I’ve ever strained to endure. I *knew* this was going to be weird and a little bit extreme because it’s a Japanese horror, but was ever going to prepare me for the sight of a butt-POV shot of an outhouse hole with a zombie sloshing about in the literal pool of cess below while gurgling lumps of soggy turds and emerging from the top of said outhouse hole to repeatedly grope the poor, unsuspecting aspiring model who was just trying to push one out. File under, “If you’ve ever wondered how a scene depicting sexual assault can be made even more repulsive”.

zombie ass: the toilet of the dead

It’s pretty much a common theme throughout, which is typically played for laughs in an anime, but not to the over-extent it is here. Five seconds of groping establishes that said victim is in peril. Ten seconds is where it drags on a bit. A whole minute of it is just cinematic skid-marks. It’s IRL hentai. Which means yes, there is weird fucking tentacle stuff. But it’s so OTT it’s more uncomfortably semi-ludicrously surreal than it is disturbing. Especially with those less-than-SyFy Original production values.

zombie ass: the toilet of the dead

 

As for the plot, there isn’t much of one. It’s your typical teen cabin-in-the-woods gorefest, with much of the comical splatter (and the non-videogame-sounding music cues) lifted a wee bit from The Evil Dead. Five friends, each of varying stereotypes (hot mean girl, druggie burnout, smart girl, nerd, and cute girl) drive up to the mountains for a camping weekend. Main character Megumi (Arisa Nakamura) is trying to escape her guilt over her younger sister’s recent suicide, but aspiring model Maki (Asana Mamoru) is more concerned with harvesting salmon for parasites to make her thin. Despite being told by nervous, puking nerd Naoi (Danny) that this isn’t the best idea, she refuses to listen and swallows the wrinkly, phallic-shaped thing whole.

zombie ass: the toilet of the dead

That’s when the shit hits the everything. After the aforementioned poo-covered zombie crawls out of his own glory hole, suddenly hordes of fecal-decorated undead emerge from out of nowhere, slowly surrounding our little gang And then they run. Mako’s sudden tummy cramps leave her lagging behind, but judging by the screencap below, it ain’t a food baby in that belly:

zombie ass: the toilet of the dead

The gang prattle around in slow-mo, Scooby Doo style, with only Megumi able to defend herself, because she’s been studying karate in her spare time. Not that it takes much strength to defeat these zombies. Given that they all emerged from the outhouse poop pool, it’s no surprise that they’re so mushy-boned that when Aya (Maya Sugano) exclaims that she “killed [one] with [her] butt”, that when Megumi takes to each one with an axe/pole/foot, there’s projectile brains and blood everywhere. Even an eye goes soaring through the air. Into someone’s mouth.

zombie ass: the toilet of the dead

Things get a little weirder when the group happen upon Ko (Yûki) and her weird-arse doctor father for an interesting Plot Explanation, whereupon the movie continues to degenerate into a string of pebble-dashing set pieces of varying levels of literal shite. And more tentacle weirdness. 

zombie ass: the toilet of the dead

This is billed as comedy, largely in part due to Naoi’s rubber-faced responses to everything (every one of his scenes could be turned into a reaction gif), and buffooning attempts at heroism. Nakamura is sweet and genuine as Mekumi, but everyone else is written and acted as one-dimensional potential fodder for the parasites. Chase scenes are oddly tense and played relatively straight for such a deliberately stupid film. Even the scene in which zombies, running butt-first, chase two of our protagonists through a clearing (I said “relatively”).

At the time of writing, this movie was streaming on Netflix. I’m not sure if they use their own subtitles, but there are some pretty bad delays from when the character starts speaking to when the subtitles appear. Though, unlike Day 1’s Hell (2011), when you pause this movie, the subtitles hop up a smidge so that they’re not obscured by the Netflix player controls.

zombie ass: the toilet of the dead

I’ve seen this movie so you don’t have to. Please…just don’t see it. There’s NO reason to see it. Why would you want to see this?? At 30 minutes I was wondering why I was watching it, and if I could continue. The poster made it look like a flat-out comedy. And the running time (“84 minutes? That’s nothing!”) made me feel I could watch it in no time. Not true; I had to keep stopping and starting for fear I’d throw up all over my new laptop.

If you can handle that early scene in the outhouse without vomiting, you can probably make it through to the rest of the film and roll your eyes when it switches gears from scat-weirdness to tentacle-weirdness. Every character in the movie either has something going in or something coming out of them. Sometimes both. It’s not a movie you’re going to forget watching, but I can’t imagine why you’d want to watch it in the first place. It may not be anything horrifically offensive, and there’s not so much on the gore (because it’s so wildly cartoonish) as there is literal shit and vomit and creepy grope-“gags” on top of that, that it’s more horror for our eyeballs than anything else. Whoever survives this movie – they’ll wash, but they’ll never be clean. And that goes for the characters, too.

 

 

 

31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 5: Hausu (1977)

0

I’ll just get this out of the way now: this is one of the weirdest horror movies I’ve ever seen. You should definitely see it.

To gauge the tone of a movie, I’ll sometimes cheat and check out the “Critical Reception” subsection of a movie’s Wiki page. I think I’m getting old, because not only do I not want too many “super-scary” movies on this month’s list, but I want them to be evenly punctuated with some horror comedies. Furthermore, I kinda need to know if it’s “comedy-but-still-really-fucked-up” horror, or a type of movie for which the humour trumps the horror. Maybe next year (or later in the month), I’ll be less of a wuss about it.

This afternoon (yes; afternoon!)’s movie was the 1977 Japanese horror flick Hausu (House), which was everything I expected it to be and more.  Because of this, I feel that, to break up the text of this review, I can only include my own homemade gifs of some of (not all – don’t want to give everything away) the most bizarre parts of this befuddling, brilliant mess of a movie, rather than static images pulled from Google.

look at the, uh, laughing watermelon. yeah?

look at the, uh, laughing watermelon. yeah?

It’s a haunted house movie, but bears no remake-ish resemblance to the 1986 Steve Miner-directed House. This movie concerns a group of seven teenage girls who are staying for the weekend at a countryside home owned by one of the girls’ elderly aunt. Each of the girls has a ridiculous nickname: Gorgeous, Kung-Fu, Mac, Fantasy, Melody, Prof and Sweet (I’ll leave it to you to infer the obvious personality traits, but Mac is the “fat” one). Everything is hunky dory (Gorgeous even makes friends with a fluffy white persian cat!) until the house and all its possessed objects start attacking them.

look at that, uh, fake bird just sliding across the screen!

look at that, uh, fake bird just sliding across the screen!

Being a ’70s movie, it’s not surprising that a) the costumes are awesome, b) there’s random bits of animation and c) there’s a fair bit of nudity. It’s just a little bit weird when said nudity is happening right when a person is being attacked (or is the disembodied naked torso accidentally facing the camera boobs-first?).

uh...look at those nice table manners?

uh…look at those nice table manners?

My Hippie, who has chosen to endure this month-long endeavour with me, remarked that the opening music and the copious amounts of foley artist wind sound FX made it sound very much like an old-timey Japanese video game. Apparently, this movie was considered the “spiritual predecessor to The Evil Dead” and I can very much see why.  The look a decapitated head gives Gorgeous as it bites her on the butt is something I can instantly recognize from something in one of the Raimi movies.

why is there a random painting of the sky in the countryside behind the bus? why??

why is there a random painting of the sky in the countryside behind the bus? why??

I had known this was going to be a crazy Japanese movie; I knew it was going to be quirky and a bit surreal and a wee bit Monty Python-ish. Somehow, it was still kind of spooky, even despite the terrible, overly-giggly, mind-numbingly blah fakey attempts at improvised dialogue; almost all of the cast were amateurs – people look at the camera several times, and during a voiceover montage, the actors MST3K themselves.

uh...

uh…

The SFX were pretty decent for the movie’s time, and is probably the best thing about the film overall, but with all the circle-out cutaways psychedelic Windows ’95 screen-saver animated overlays and dancing skeletons and bloodied fingers playing piano and random camera tricks (flipping an angle back and forth; hazy, super-slow frame rate; 3-4 instant replays of a single shot)….it sort of looked like when someone first gets Photoshop and then tries ALL the filters at once. My eyes!!

Best watched in the day, sober, and on a medium-sized TV. Do NOT turn up the brightness.