Here’s something you don’t see too often: a Japanese adaptation of an American horror franchise. Usually it’s the other way around, and most of these wonky creations aren’t worth the time it takes to roll your eyes at them. Writer/director Toshikazu Nagae’s 2010 chiller “Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night” is essentially the same as its American counterparts — unsuspecting individuals endure increasingly violent attacks from a mysterious supernatural entity that has taken up residence in their home — and offers little in terms of originality and imagination. However, given that the “Paranormal Activity” series wasn’t designed as a cerebral experience, I suppose you could say that “Tokyo Night” is a resounding success. If this is what you’re looking for, then chances are you’re going to walk away with a smile on your face and a shiver down your spine.
Specifically, the film follows the exploits of a young Japanese couple as their lives begin to slowly unravel. Haruka (Noriko Aoyama) has just returned from a visit to the United States, a holiday that resulted in two broken legs. Since her father is away on business, she is left in the care for her 19 year-old brother Koichi (Aoi Nakamura), who, as luck would have it, is always carrying around his video camera. Almost as soon as she gets settled in, Haruka begins to notice a few strange things around the house. For starters, her wheelchair keeps moving on its own accord, despite the fact that the brakes are locked. Convinced that there’s some sort of supernatural entity lurking in his sister’s bedroom, Koichi secretly videotapes a pile of sea salt he sprinkled on the floor. The salt, of course, is menaced by this mysterious force. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t take long for this situation to escalate.
“Tokyo Night” is presented precisely like its English-language predecessors: All of the events which transpire over the course of the feature are recorded on Koichi’s camera and played back to prospective viewers as the real deal. Most of the footage consists of the brother and sister having normal, everyday conversations with one another, though things do get a bit more dramatic as the otherworldly assaults increase their intensity. There are a few admittedly freaky moments scattered throughout the film, almost of which are stuffed towards the tail end of the feature. Unfortunately, the scares can once again be spotted a mile away by the filmmaker’s decision to “fast forward” the footage to something frightening. It’s easy to prepare yourself for a jump scare when the time code at the bottom of the screen suddenly returns to a regular speed. As such, the picture’s more effective moments are always those you don’t see coming.
Fans of the “Paranormal Activity” franchise will find much to love about “Tokyo Night”. The pacing is much stronger than its American brethren, and as a result, I found myself a bit more involved in the fate of its characters. However, if you found the previous films to be a tedious bore with very little in the way of terrifying content, then I suppose you’d do well to avoid this one altogether. There is a nifty twist that neatly connects this entry in the series to parts one and two, but unless you’re just emotionally invested in the movies as a whole, “Tokyo Night” doesn’t offer enough unique surprises to lure skeptical movie-goers into investigating what the franchise has to offer. Then again, is consuming more of the same formula necessarily a bad thing if you’re a fan of the recipe?
Toshikazu Nagae (director) / Toshikazu Nagae (screenplay)
CAST: Noriko Aoyama … Haruka
Aoi Nakamura … Koichi