This edition of “Encapsulated Cinema” finds yours truly trekking through the wonky world of Asian horror. Again. Below you’ll find a smattering of reviews for a handful of flicks, each one representing a different subgenre. Are you ready for fun? I know you are.
Here they are, in no particular order.
Although the killer’s outfit is kind of cool, “Battle Royale 2” director Kenta Fukasaku’s 2010 high school slasher flick “Black Rat” really isn’t anything special. It’s another average, run-of-the-mill “watch teenagers murder their friends” flick based around the shocking suicide of a young girl who just wanted to be accepted by her friends. In true horror movie fashion, these so-called BFFs are summoned to their school in the middle of the night, which is always a bad sign when your acquaintance just kicked the proverbial bucket. Despite a handful of interesting kills and one or two moments of fleeting suspense, “Black Rat” is just way too bland to compete in a market that’s overcrowded with generic horror flicks that essentially tell the exact same story over and over again. If J-horror wants to win back some credibility with jaded fans, it’s going to have to try a little harder than this. Unless formulaic slashers are appealing to you on one level or another, I’d find something else to stare at for 90 minutes. I’ve heard that counting min-vans in the suburbs is a suitable substitute.
I had high hopes for Ekachai Uekrongtham’s “The Coffin”. It came with a strong recommendation from a friend of mine, who insisted that, despite its inability to properly blend its dueling plotlines, the film was the real deal. And while I can see why he enjoyed it, I feel that it’s easily one of the most laborious viewing experiences I’ve had since Brian De Palma’s freakishly boring sci-fi yarn “Mission to Mars”. Truth be told, I’m not entirely sure what happened. Two people perform a sacred ritual, an event that consists of lying in a closed coffin for a substantial length of time. The goal, of course, is wish fullfilment; when you finally emerge from the coffin, whatever you wanted shall be yours. The price, as you well know, is nefarious supernatural shenanigans. I’d lost complete interest in the story and its characters by the halfway point. My wife could sense my physical discomfort, as I kept slouching further and further down the couch as the flick worn on. “The Coffin” is a dud, plain and simple. Steer clear.
Gothic and Lolita Psycho
Just when I thought all of my picks for this edition of “Encapsulated Cinema” were a complete and utter bust, in struts “Geisha vs. Ninjas” director Gô Ohara’s impossibly enjoyable 2010 action flick “Gothic and Lolita Psycho”. The film, which appears to have be continuing in the tradition of the hyperviolent, low-budget action flicks currently pouring out of the country, manages to be over-the-top and strangely heartfelt at the same time, striking a surprisingly balance of carnage and melodrama. The fight scenes are kinetic and bloody, the characters are colorful and engaging, and the oddball humor (Kamikaze!) blend together nicely, thanks in part to the talents of Rina Akiyama. Her portrayal of Yuki, the emotionally-scarred teenager who seeks to avenge her mother’s murder, is complex enough that we care about her struggles, understand her moments of cold-hearted savagery. I’ve watched it twice already, and I’d love nothing more to see an endless stream of sequels on my television. Please?