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Things get off to a familiar start with the first episode titled Rattle Rattle. The story revolves around Kanako, a young woman who is returning home after a date with her fiancé. On passing an apartment complex, Kanako is hit by something which plunges her into a nightmarish version of her world wherein she is stalked by a lank-haired ghoul all so endearing to J-horror fans.
We're in well worn territory with Rattle Rattle. As well as a long haired ghost we get a spooky kid, a malfunctioning mobile phone, scary sounds to accompany the ghost's appearances (the rattle rattle of the title) and some amateur detective work from the heroine as she tries to find the cause of the haunting.
Writer/director Keita Amemiya's biggest contirbution to the scary hair genre seems to be to have his ghost wear a scarlet dress instead of the usual white and to have her move at high speed - though we do still get the obligatory (and in this case hilarious) slow jerky walk towards the cowering heroine. Amemiya also chooses to augment the ghost's appearance through the use of CGI that turns her into a gurning ghoul who is more funny than frightening.In fact, she looks at times like a scary hair version of one of the Killer Klowns From Outerspace, and at other times suspiciously like a man in drag.
Star Noriko Kakagoshi will never be mistaken for a good actress but she can scream real loud and run real fast, and in the end thats as much as is expected of her.
To be fair to director Amemiya, he does come up with some effective images and Rattle Rattle is fun in a trick or treat kind of way.
Any misgivings I may have had about Kowai Onna after viewing the first episode were soon blown out of the water by the second.
Hagane (steel) centers on Sekiguchi, a quite and geeky car mechanic. Sekiguchi's rather odd boss asks Sekiguchi to do him a favour by taking his cute kid sister out on a date the following day.To sweeten the deal, Sekiguchi's boss tells him that he can use a client's sports car for the date. Sekiguchi goes to his boss's run down house the following day to pick up the sister only to be confronted by one of the best "what the fu@k?" moments of recent years.What follows is one of the most bizarre dates ever , and to reveal any more would be to spoil the surprise.
While the story may be slight, Hagane's surprise comes so far out of left-field that its a genuine delight.Hagane is basically a one-note weird joke, but its one that is both humorous and certainly weird enough to sustain interest over its running time. Full credit to writer Naoki Yamamoto and director Takugi Suzuki for coming up with such an off-beat gem. Kowai Onna is worth seeing for this episode alone.
The third and final episode is called The Inheritance. It's written and directed by Keisuke Toyoshima and Takashi Shimizu receives a "supervised by" credit.
Kowai onna finds Saeko, a recently divorced woman, returning from Tokyo with her young son Michio to live with her mother in her hometown. Once there, Saeko's behaviour becomes increasingly erratic, which may have something to do with a traumatic childhood incident involving Saeko and her older brother Mashaiko.
The Inheritance tries to tackle some big issues such as mental illness and child abuse.Though the short running time (about a half hour) and the need to include some supernatural scare set pieces prevent it from exploring these themes with any great depth. In fact, its these scare scenes (which have Shimizu's fingerprints all over them), while effective in their own right, that spoil the story somewhat. The story would have worked better as a realist horror piece - indeed, the most effective horror scene is a non-supernatural one. Still, its a reasonably effective attempt at an intelligent ghost story.
The acting is very good all- round - especially the young actor who plays Michio, he does a good job of conveying the anguish and confussion of a child witnessing a loved one's decent into madness.
Credit also to the filmmakers for following through on their build up with an ending that is both grim and downbeat.
Overall, Kowai Onna Shizunome Ohyaku looks pretty but was rotten inside. Here she lets ghosts escape. She robbed and murdered until she was captured and beheaded. A good quality English subbed DVD is available from Taiwan.
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