Dark Tales Of Japan (2004)

DVD Cover (Global Fright Cinema)
Genres: Horror, Horror Anthology
Dark Tales of Japan is a 2004 made-for-TV film anthology of five short horror stories, directed by five notable Japanese film directors, which are told through a mysterious old lady in kimono on a late-night bus travelling on a long isolated mountain road. --Wikipedia
Yoshihiro Nakamura Yoshihiro Nakamura
Masayuki Ochiai Masayuki Ochiai
Takashi Shimizu Takashi Shimizu
Kji Shiraishi Kji Shiraishi
Norio Tsuruta Norio Tsuruta
Kayoko Shiraishi Kayoko Shiraishi
Shz End Shz End
Yoshinori Okada Yoshinori Okada
Kanako Fukaura Kanako Fukaura
Anri Sugihara Anri Sugihara

6.0 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: July 03, 2006
I love Asian horror, and I love the anthology horror format. I've seen a few Asian horror anthology films prior to this release, and I've loved each one. Therefore, my expectations were pretty high for this one, especially after seeing the directors involved. After sitting through this mess of a film, the only question that I can ask is "what went wrong?"

The thing that particularly bothers me about this film is the wide availability of it. If you head over to the DVD section of your local department store of choice, you may see a copy of Ringu and Ju-On: The Grudge, but that'll probably be the extent of their Asian horror selection. Thanks to those "geniuses" at Genius Entertainment, you can now find this film (and a slew of others just like it) for under ten bucks right alongside these high-profile movies. This will undoubtedly lead many naive buyers into making a blind purchase, and said buyers will probably walk away thinking that this is how Asian horror works. If you're not experienced in the world of Asian horror, please don't pick this DVD up and think that it's a proper representation of their style of film. Now, if only I could somehow post that same warning in the thousands of Wal*Marts' across the nation.

The segments on this release run for an average of ten minutes, with the shortest clocking in at just eight minutes and the longest coming in at a hefty twenty minutes. Also, there's supposedly some sort of narrative piecing the stories together (at least, it says so on the back of the DVD case), but this was nowhere to be found on the actual DVD. That alone should have told me that something was seriously wrong with this release within the opening minutes, but I sat through every painful minute of it for you readers.

So then, let's get down to the content that is available on this DVD. We get five segments in total, and each one comes from a director who has at least one great film under their belt - and this fact is what makes this review all the more painful for yours truly to write. Spoilers abound in the following descriptions, as there's really not much that can be said about a ten-minute piece without revealing something.

The Spiderwoman directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura
Spiderwoman is running rampant throughout a small town in Japan, and she isn't of the Marvel Comics superhero variety. After killing a couple of spiders in her house, she was cursed (by the spiders!) to transform into a six-legged spiderwoman every night and seek out human prey. A news reporter is sent to investigate this bizarre case, and he eventually finds out that it is indeed true.

Sound interesting? I didn't think it was going to be anything revolutionary, but I thought that it would at least be on par with one of those shitty Sci-Fi Channel b-movies. This segment plays out as though it was geared towards the twelve-year-olds that stayed up until 8pm to watch "Are You Afraid Of The Dark" on Nickelodeon; there's no horror to be found here, there's no tension, the effects are laughable, and any sort of atmosphere that the director was going for in any given scene was about as effective as a "scary" scene from the Scary Movie series. 1/10.

Crevices directed by Norio Tsuruta
A man living in an apartment complex simply disappears one day, so the owner of this building calls a known friend of the vanished to see if he knows what's going on. This friend has no idea what happened to him, and as such, he decides to poke around the apartment to see if he can find any clues. He finds that all of the crevices in the room - right down to the desk drawers and boxes - have been taped shut. Come to find out, a ghost haunts this apartment and can only come out through these crevices... but nobody realizes this until they've removed all of the tape.

This was the best offering on the disc, but that's not saying a whole lot. The idea is solid and interesting, but what hurts this segment is that it seems to feature the exact same scares that we've seen in every other Asian horror film. Watching a ghostly hand reach out from behind a television was unique about fifteen years ago... but it's been done to death since then, and that's the extent of the scares found here. Since this segment is so short, nothing is explained; why is the ghost haunting this apartment, what does it want, and what happens to his or her victims are all questions that remain unanswered when this one wraps up. 3/10.

The Sacrifice directed by Kji Shiraishi
A man asks a woman out on a date and she refuses his offer. He places a curse on her, but her mother decides to sacrifice herself to a giant head in order to save her daughter's life. I can't make this shit up, and I also can't pad it out anymore than that.

Thus far, we've seen two segments that had potential but ultimately fell flat. Now, we come to a segment which had no potential to begin with, in my humble opinion. The storyline is as goofy as it sounds, but it's all played out in an absolutely serious fashion; somewhere, somebody thought that this script would scare the pants off of the viewers. The thing that scared me the most was knowing that I had two more stories to sit through after this one finished. 0/10.

Blonde Kwaidan directed by Takashi Shimizu
A Japanese businessman who is obsessed with American blondes is sent to America (Hollywood, no less) on some sort of business deal. Thanks to his connections with the boss, he is allowed to stay at the fancy mansion of the company's executive director who is supposedly away on business with his beautiful blonde wife. Unfortunately for our hero, this blonde is actually in the house with him... but not in the way that he'd like.

Is this segment a clip from a full-length movie? That's what it felt like to me, because we're immediately thrown into a "scary" scene which ends as quickly as it begins... and that's the entire segment. I'll admit that the final moments of this had some nice visuals and the story as a whole had promise, but watching this is sort of like watching five minutes from the middle portion of The Shining. I did get a nice chuckle out of the "Hollywood? Isn't that where they show reruns and remakes of our movies?" line, but one chuckle and a nice visual is only worth 2/10.

Presentiment directed by Masayuki Ochiai
A man who has just stolen some very valuable company data gets into an elevator while attempting to leave the building. Inside this elevator are three other people, but these three people aren't quite what they appear to be. When the elevator breaks down and traps our main man inside with these people, we find out what they really are.

In The Sixth Sense, Bruce Willis plays a man who goes through an entire movie without realizing that he is, in fact, deceased. When all is revealed in the end, it comes as a huge shock to anyone who hasn't seen the film (if you haven't seen it, then you surely knew how it ended before reading this review). Now, imagine if our good pal Willis had walked through the entire movie with a sign around his neck which read "I'm Dead!". Would the end revelation have been nearly as shocking? Of course not, and that's basically what happens in this segment. Once again, the storyline shows promise but is ruined by an incompetent director who throws out subtle hints that are anything but. 0/10.

This is a wretched piece of shit that, had I paid for it, I would be extremely pissed off about. I won't name names here, but somebody out there thought that I would enjoy this and sent me a DVD for review purposes. That person can burn in hell for forcing me to sit through this schlock on a Sunday evening. 1/10, and that is being extremely generous.
Ginose #1: Ginose - added 10/19/2006, 11:39 PM
WHY DIDN'T YOU GET THIS REVIEW UP SOONER, MAN!? I could have avoided buying this neatly packaged peice of shit...
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