J-Horror Anthology: Underworld (2005)

DVD Cover (Global Fright Cinema)
Hiroaki Hirakata Hiroaki Hirakata
Hiroshi Ikezoe Hiroshi Ikezoe
Tatsurô Kashihara Tatsurô Kashihara
Kazuo Koito Kazuo Koito
Eiji Satouchi Eiji Satouchi
Kaori Manabe Kaori Manabe
Marika Matsumoto Marika Matsumoto
Hiroya Sugisaki Hiroya Sugisaki
Shin Yazawa Shin Yazawa

5.6 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres / Traits: Horror, Horror Anthology, Urban Legends
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Review by Chad
Added: July 04, 2006
Just last night, I was forced to endure the trash known as Dark Tales Of Japan. Tonight's feature film is from the same company that released that "gem" of a title, and what do you know - the concept found on this release is the same. I'll be honest with you fine readers: I was expecting the same type of filth that I watched last night, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the content here was much, much better than that other release.

This time around, we're treated to six episodes that run for about ten minutes each, with each episode being narrated by a guy who watched one too many episodes of The Twilight Zone. I'm going to briefly run down each episode, and of course, these descriptions will probably contain spoilers since it's impossible to sum up a ten-minute episode without revealing a little something.

Chain Mail
Three high-school girls decide that it would be amusing to start a chain-letter that apparently comes from another student who recently committed suicide and send it around to all of their classmates. However, they're in for a bit of a shock when they themselves start getting emails from this dead girl... and these emails definitely aren't fakes.

The opening entry on this disc is far from the best, but it's still decent enough. Even though the material has been done time and time again in other Asian horror releases (a ghost wants revenge, seeks contact with the living through some bizarre means), it worked out nicely here. There are some nicely shot scenes and some even better visuals, and while the scares are minimal, the episode is decent enough as an opener. 5/10.

Left Behind The Mountain
A man uses an internet dating site in a desperate attempt to find a girlfriend, and luck finally strikes when he meets a cute young lady who agrees to go out on a date with him. The two meet in real life, and it quickly becomes apparent that this lady has no interest in this fellow once she's seen what he actually looks like. The two go out to a remote mountain location that overlooks the city, and the fellow decides to try to put the moves on his date. This doesn't go over very well, and the girl demands that she be taken home immediately... however, the man decides that she can walk home and drives off, leaving her stranded in the middle of nowhere. He continues to do the same thing to a number of other dates, but that all comes to an abrupt end when one of them finds her way back and asks this man to "help her find something"...

This was by far the best episode on the disc, and even though it was less than fifteen minutes long, it managed to tell a full story and show some damned creepy scenes. When the young lady that finds her way back reveals what it is that she lost up in those mountain woods, it makes for one of the most chilling scenes that I've seen in recent weeks. The storyline is fairly original, the acting is good, and this is just an all-around great featurette. 8/10.

A young Asian prostitute is out plying her trade when she comes across a butterfly-shaped advertisement for a new tattoo parlor. This advertisement immediately makes her want to get a tattoo, so she goes inside and takes a look at the various drawings that the shop-owner has attached to the walls. When the shop-owner reveals herself and asks what sort of tattoo this young lady would like, it's decided that she'll get a butterfly tattooed right above her breast. The tattoo artist (who has more than a little lesbian tendencies) gets to work, the tattoo recipient leaves, and all is good... until we find out that something is very wrong with this particular tattoo, and it's definitely not a cosmetic issue.

I have to give this episode points for originality, as I don't think that I've seen anything quite like it in all my days of watching horror. However, in this case, that originality factor doesn't work out for the best; when the twist is finally revealed, it comes across as pretty goofy and instead of scaring the audience, it merely causes a few laughs (well, it did in my case). The men in the audience will love watching the two ladies "interact" before the tattooing process begins, but otherwise, this episode is a skipper. 3/10.

Viewfinder's Memory
Three young men go on a vacation together and decide to hit up the local beach for some fun in the sun. One of them brings along a video camera, and we quickly find out that he likes to record damned near everything that the trio does. When they meet up with an attractive young lady on this beach, the three men are instantly drawn to her; however, when the guy with the video camera decides to record these events, he finds out that this woman isn't what she appears to be.

Interesting concept, bad execution. I thought that the ideas behind this one were really neat and could have made for a very memorable episode, but the twists that are eventually revealed bring this one down to the merely-average level. Once again, this episode features some nice visuals, but an interesting idea that does not live up to its potential and neat special effects do not make for an entertaining segment. 3/10.

Guardian Angel
Yet another young lady is the star of this episode, and this one is severely in debt thanks to her boyfriend making some bad business deals and putting her name down as the guarantor. She decides that suicide is her only option, but little does she know that she has a guardian angel watching over her that doesn't want her taking the "easy" way out...

Judging this entry is a bit difficult based on the release that it's found on. As a drama / feel-good movie, it works out nicely enough, and although that's definitely not my preferred style of movie, I found it slightly entertaining. However, this is found on a DVD entitled "J-Horror Anthology", which would lead one to assume that it would be, you know, horror. As a horror segment, this one fails miserably; while some episodes on this disc may have fell flat in regards to the scares on account of poor direction or bad effects, this one fails because there's simply nothing in it that could possibly be conceived as horror. 3/10.

In the final episode of tonight's film, we kick things off with the revelation that a pair of doctors have just failed to save the life of a young child after he was involved in a nasty car accident. One of the doctors immediately goes to work on the other victim of this accident, while the other goes to wait with the body of this child so that he can break the news to his parents when they arrive. The mother eventually shows up, and instead of being hysterical or in tears as one would expect, she's perfectly calm and claims that her son is still alive. Some creepy revelations are made, and the movie ends on a positive note in terms of quality.

Left Behind The Mountain was the best episode on the disc, but this one is definitely the runner-up. Even though the episode only runs for a bit more than ten minutes, it takes its time building up the characters, and this causes us to quickly get sucked into the ongoing events. Also, although the twist is pretty easy to guess after a few clues have been dropped, it's still played out wonderfully and still manages to shock you even after you have it all figured out thanks to some very good direction. 7/10.

In conclusion, we have two great episodes, one average episode, and three that are mediocre. Although this release was infinitely better than the abysmal Dark Tales Of Japan, the warning that I posted in my review for that title also applies here: don't pick this one up thanks to its budget price at your local Wal*Mart and think that this is typical of Asian cinema. While it's a given that every country has its movie duds and it's also true that I enjoyed some of these episodes, these stories are nothing compared to the many, many better offerings from Japan. 5/10 for the overall package.
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