Third installment of the "Gakko No Kaidan" series follows the trek of several elementary school students as they wander into an alternate world that exists on the opposite side of a school ... See full summary »
A handful of mysterious Japanese women take part in a deranged web show that makes them strip off their clothes when they lose a round of Mahjong. When there is nothing left to hide, ... See full summary »
During World War II, the tyrannical Judge Murayama uses his military power to imprison and torture innocent people. Suspected of helping an anti-government movement, the lovely Namiji ... See full summary »
Journalist Shuichi Fujii receives a letter from convicted killer Junji Sudo. Writing from death row, Sudo wants to confess to crimes unknown to the police. On visiting Sudo in prison, Fujii... See full summary »
A woman looks back on her family's life in Tokyo before and during WWII. A maid arrives from the countryside to work for an upper middle class family. She fits in well, but everyone's emotions are stirred up with the arrival of a student.
Koichi (Sato) and Atsumi (Ayase) are childhood friends who have become lovers. Despite this closeness when Atsumi attempts suicide Koichi is at a loss to understand the circumstances that ... See full synopsis »
Majime, an eccentric man in publishing company, who has unique ability of words, joins the team that will compile a new dictionary, 'The Great Passage.' In the eclectic team, he becomes ... See full summary »
A spooky, high quality ghost story for the whole family
The "Gakko no Kaidan" (aka Haunted School) (1995-1999) theatrical film series consists of four separate movies with unrelated story lines. Therefore, one can watch them in any order. The first three films had the same general premise, with a small group of grammar school children who get trapped in their school by supernatural forces and are forced to run away from a wide variety of ghouls. I recommend all three of those, especially "Gakko no Kaidan 2" because it has some very cool special effects that are a lot of fun to watch. This entire series is appropriate for the whole family.
"Gakko no Kaidan 4" distinguishes itself from its predecessors because it scraps the "chased by ghosts in a limited area" structure and goes instead for a more classical ghost story. It also cuts out some of the goofy humor. However, the use of grammar school kids as the main characters is preserved. The story starts off with a flashback from decades into the past, where four children play hide and seek but become victims of tragedy. Decades later, some other little kids awaken the ghosts and investigate as their friends begin to disappear.
On the surface this sounds like a generic film, but the style and execution are very unique. First of all, one of the refreshing aspects of this series of films is that almost all of the focus is on the grammar school kids. Even the ghosts are represented by mischievous children. It's really cool to see such young children interact with horror elements and mysteries that are typically directed at adults. Second of all, the visuals are unique. The flashbacks are shot in stunning black-and-white, there are a few impressive special effects, and the finale (which takes place in a huge underwater school building) has some gorgeous set designs. Third of all, the scare tactics are very creative. There are no ghost girls with long black hair, nor are there any jump scares. There's a lot of spooky atmosphere, but nothing that would terrify a young viewer. Fourth of all, the storyline is well-conceived and the performances are very good.
This is considered to be a newer classic by the few who have seen it, and it's easy to see why. Totally worth seeking out, and although it may be difficult to find, it's the only film of the series that is available with English subtitles.
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