Senritsu meikyû 3D (2009)
User ReviewsAdd a Review
An interesting premise only makes it more painful when the movie does not live up to it. Extremely redundant repetitions make 'Shock Labyrinth' extremely predictable yet at the same time rather random. Images that are supposed to be disturbing are overused to the point of becoming silly, such as the floating bunny plush toy. Dummies staggering about add insult to injury since they do not even fit into the narrative and only seem to be there for the sake of filling movie time.
As far as acting goes, the child actors go very well and capture how a combination few childish mistakes can end in tragedy but the adult cast is for the most part hopeless. The one who does hold her water just so happens to disappear from the screen all too soon. There is much walking about in ill lit corridors and even if the deliberately cheesy set is unsettling at first it becomes tiresome all too soon. Good horror manages to increase the tension with each repetition but bad horror cannot help but flounder when employing such a tactic.
And 'Shock Labyrinth' is a bad horror movie. After skipping about madly as if in search of closure the plot settles for the never missing twist. It is disappointing that a director that has already shown how he can inject innovation into J-horror should produce such a dispirited movie.
Directed by Takashi Shimizu who was responsible for the original Ju On films as well as the American adaptation The Grudge, one wonders if he had preferred to stay within his comfort zone in yet having to craft a story with children and water, and a tale of revenge even, where a group of childhood friends gets an unexpected visit by one of their own 10 years after her mysterious disappearance. Things get stranger when it is learnt that she had presumably died, and as such, just who is this Yuki (Misako Renbutsu) who turned up. Even stranger is that the group of Ken (Yuya Yagira), Mikoto (Ryo Katsuji), Rin (Ai Maeda) the blind girl and Yuki's sister (Erina Mizuno) all seem to head back without a single recollection toward the scene of their misdemeanour, a house of horrors within the Fuji Q Highland theme park which is fit out to resemble a hospital.
The narrative is a strange brew of reality and fantasy, with even a time warp of sorts get thrown in, complete with the paradox of time travel, which makes it seem a little bit implausible for the non-linear narrative to hold water, other than to suggest that memories can be faulty, especially a collective one from some 10 years ago. The constant flash forwards and flash backs do make it a jarring experience, and forces you to work hard at piecing the fractured stories together, which didn't help when you allow the paradoxes to set in, or have the visuals interfere with solving the mystery of what exactly happened during that fateful day when the children decide to head off on their own to the labyrinth.
But to give credit where it is due, the story does try to add some depth to its characters as we navigate through their individual guilt trips of their involvement pertaining to Yuki's mystery, and even found some time to thrown in some romance into the mix, which on one hand may seem unnecessary, but provided a contribution to motivation on why things do go bump in the night. It examines that collective repressed memories that we tend to bury deep within our subconscious, and what more when this is shared amongst a group who wants to best forget what they're all directly and indirectly responsible for, becoming in turn the victims of their guilt and recipients of their just desserts which the resident spook of the film piles on.
And it is the execution of Yuki's revenge that exploited the best of its atmosphere within the confines of a house of horrors (strangely the title here) that comes complete with porcelain mannequins with grotesque features. The film possesses an incredible depth of field as well to bring out the best of its 3D, while not overdoing its attempts in throwing everything toward the screen, opting to instead take it really slow, like a hand reaching out slowly to grasp something. The character Rin also provided some opportunity to mimic the radar prowess of Daredevil's, which I thought was strange since she could actually see, and probably provided actress Ai Maeda some reprieve from trying to act blind all the time.
Most of the surprises and inevitable twists happen in the final half hour of the film, and while probably not reaching the standards set by the best in J-horror, The Shock Labyrinth certainly does have its moments, other than what you see from the trailer that contained relatively raw looking special effects, and with its numerous bunny scenes made it look rather fluff in treatment.
Shimizu has a way with pulling you into his films and getting you emotionally involved. He takes you through all sorts of different emotions, from fear to sadness to empathy all in a 90 minute time period. His work goes so much deeper than what American viewers have seen with his "The Grudge" movies.
Fans of intelligent horror films will love the "Shock Labyrinth 3D." The movie is an atmospheric and claustrophobic journey through the darkest parts of a person's mind. The fact that it was shot in the actual "Shock Labyrinth" haunted house attraction in Japan helps with the distinctive character of the film.
And although it has a good idea as it's stronghold, it still is too long, for it's own good. It feels as if the running time, is twice as long, as it actually is. While not much is happening and you still loose the plot/focus of the story, it's hard to find many good things in this. I still liked the cinematography overall (not the 3-D effect mind you) and some story beats it took. But as many people here, I was expecting much more of this.
Spooky premise? Shock Labyrinth as a movie bears some similarities to Silent Hill, House on Haunted Hill and Ju-On, though, unlike the aforementioned Japanese horror film, the feature, rather than being a combination of events set out of chronological order, provides the audience with an opposing atmosphere, where the past and the present frequently clash to reveal what really happened all those years ago.
Unlike contemporary horror, Yuki (Misako Renbutso) does not appear as a terrifying figure, kicking down the door, only to proclaim 'here's Johnny!'. Rather, she's portrayed as an adorably cute, innocent victim, who, for the entirety of the film is capable of receiving our sympathy. One look into her character's eyes, and we immediately melt, though the same cannot be said for the other leads that occupy this film.
Ken (Yuya Yagira), a young man who has only recently returned for reasons that are not thoroughly provided, and Motoko (Ryo Katsuji), who exhibits dominance over his group of friends, portray stereotypical male characters, who inevitably attempt to exert control over a seemingly uncontrollable situation when things start going wrong.
Myiu (Erina Mizuno), Yuki's younger sister, is as guilt ridden over her sister's disappearance as she is quick to blame her for all the wrongs in her life, while blind character Rin (Ai Maeda), is able to, despite her condition, take note of her surrounds through the environment's vibrations, allowing her to predict what awaits her and others in unexplored areas.
Instead of asking if Yuki is okay, the unanimous reaction upon her arrival is to treat her like a pariah, her four childhood friends initially viewing her as an unwanted hindrance. After an accident leaves Yuki unconscious, she is taken by her friends to the hospital, where they mysteriously discover they are the only people in the seemingly empty establishment. Here, the friends are forced to encounter the fateful day Yuki disappeared, an event most of them would rather forget, and as paranoia and mistrust set in, the characters are forced to confront their hidden desires and honest personalities. A particularly powerful scene involves Rin questioning the legitimacy of people's sympathy, which is just one example.
Friendship, peer pressure, family, resentment, jealousy and unrequited love are just some of the themes explored. Despite this, ironically, many of the characters remain two dimensional in a film marketed as a 3D feature. Besides the depth that is provided in a number of scenes, actual 3D affects are incredibly fleeting, and generally occur when the film happens to be moving in slow motion, which again, happens very infrequently. Often this involves a plush bunny, moving either on its own, or through the air, which, similar to a rabbit been pulled out of a hat, fails to excite after its first appearance.
The movie works best as a mystery, and is, in this sense, similar to a wheel of cheese, but instead of a mouse running off with the slices, the critter is returning them, the viewer being required to watch the entirety of the feature to satisfactorily understand what happened all those years ago. By the end, director Takashi Shimizu provides the audience with enough information to compliment both a rational, or an illogical ending, this decision solely been at the behest of the viewer.
Though there are several unique moments in this feature, the film doesn't prove to be in the slightest scary, and the symbolism of a forest, which appears more than once in the movie, is lost on me I'm afraid. Although this image could literally convey the notion of being lost in the woods, considering the film takes place in an amusement park, a different metaphor might have been appreciated.
Shock Labyrinth neither shocks its audience or provides them with a labyrinth, with corridors and images alike been repetitively explored. Despite its negative features, the mysterious plot will keep your interest peaked, and even if this begins to flounder, the promise of three gorgeous female characters and two handsome men will certainly keep your heart racing. In the end, you will more than likely be wondering: if my friends and I go somewhere we shouldn't, how safe will I truly be?
That being said, then don't get me wrong. Even though this movie is not up to par with other Japanese horror movies in the same genre, then "Shock Labyrinth 3D" delivers anyway, and it plays well on having an interesting story that keep evolving and adding new aspects and angles to the same story all throughout the course of the entire movie. And that is what made "Shock Labyrinth 3D" work out so well.
Not forgetting to mention that they actually managed to pull off the 3D effects quite nicely. Of course it is nowhere near the spectacular effects of the 3D version of "Avatar", but still "Shock Labyrinth 3D" managed to deliver to nice effects and work the psyche just the right amount to actually creep under your skin.
I will not venture into reviewing the story, as this movie has the type of story that needs to be seen to be enjoyed in all its fullness. And if you enjoy Japanese movies, horror movies that is, they you should definitely check out "Shock Labyrinth 3D" as it brings something new and interesting to the horror scene. This is more of a psychological thriller with just a hint of horror, than it is actually a horror movie, because it plays so heavily on the psyche.
The story takes place in a run down building which is actually quite disturbing and confusing in itself, in its construction layout and with all the weird stuff that is placed inside it. Plus, the way they made use of the effects and visuals really helped to bring the mood of the setting to live in a great way. There were so many nice details in almost every scene.
As for the people cast for the movie, then I can't really claim to remember having seen any of them in other movies, at least not right on the top of my head. And people did good jobs with their roles, especially Misako Renbutsu (playing Yuki) and Erina Mizuno (playing Myiu), their performance was quite memorable and really played out with their hearts poured into their characters.
The musical score for the movie worked out well enough too, to help add to the mood of the movie. It was just subtle enough to be there in the background, and put in the front when something bizarre was taking place.
If you have the chance to watch the 3D version of "Shock Labyrinth 3D", go for it, don't settle for the regular 2D version, because this was meant to be enjoyed in 3D. I warmly recommend "Shock Labyrinth 3D" to anyone who is looking for a new breath of air to the Japanese horror scene.
Some examples: 1. The long opening and closing scenes of a forest did not fit with anything in the movie which was centered about an amusement park and hospital. The focal structure in the film, a spiral staircase, seemed like an oddly out of place prop for either location. 2. The visuals of falling feathers and rising/falling bubbles contributed nothing. 3. The floating rabbit backpack, both as a physical form and as a go through walls form, was just meaningless effects. 4. The comatose girl who is presented as supposedly an avenging spirit, she's hooked up to various hospital monitors which if move would set off an alarm, is shown with dirty feet as if she was out in the world avenging. Yet, on one occasion shows up at a person's apartment. 5. The intermingling of the two time periods were at times actual physical events and at times visual or hallucinatory. Not consistent. 6. The police interviews which were intermittently injected to provide some cohesion and clarity, did neither.
Rin, Ken, Yuki, Miyu, and Motoki were at an amusement park when they were young, in particular in a mostly dark labyrinth. Something bad happened there. In the present, Rin is blind, Yuki is presumed dead. However, Yuki shows up at Rin's door. Rin calls Ken and Motoki. It does seem to be Yuki; she claims she's been in a hospital for all these years. They find Yuki's younger sister Miyu at the old family home. While the group was talking, Yuki bolts up to her old room; there they see the stuffed rabbit that was with them in the labyrinth. The rabbit shows a few supernatural signs, and Yuki bolts out again, this time to fall down the stairs. The group takes Yuki to the hospital.
Sigh. Twenty minutes in.
The rest of the film is about getting to a doctor; well, at least at first. The teenagers confront all sorts of obstacles after they arrive at the hospital. Where are the nurses? Where are the doctors? Where are the emergency staff, and so on? Then Yuki runs away and they cannot find her. What trauma dramas do they need to resolve before they leave this shared nightmare?
That is what the last 68 of 88 minutes is about. Layer upon layer upon layer of hallucinatory experiences are dumped on the four teens.
Cinematography: 0/10 In the second scene, the Blair Witch bovine scatology starts. Why the director chooses to go back and forth between trash and splendor (10% of the film is absolutely beautiful) in the visuals is not clear. The credits and subtitles all look fine and professional. It is unfortunate that they have to be conjoined to the wretched camera work.
Sound: 10/10 As good as the visuals are bad; creepy and atmospheric.
Acting: 8/10 Reasonably good.
Screenplay: 6/10 This is a 10 minute short. Why drag it out to 88 minutes? The endless repeated flashbacks do not add anything except irritation.
Special Effects: 8/10 This is a mixed bag, but more often than not, the SFX look fine.
Unfortunately 4 is a fair score, the story had real potential, I am not an expert on Japanese culture but it felt true to the kind of supernatural movies we get to see. Movies are either more or less than the sum of its parts therefore it didn't necessarily matter that the movie looked like it was made for TV, the acting was poor (the guy I watched it with thought the lead actor was the worst he had ever seen)! The effects were cheap and sure there were plot holes. I see movies for the emotional impact so can forgive pretty much everything, I don't always understand David Lynch movies but they are beautiful dreamy experiences.
So having said that I bring it all down to how I felt about the experience and it was boring, there was no tension or atmosphere. I've seen movies where I didn't care about the characters but this was different, I've enjoyed bad movies but I wasn't sure how I could get through the 85 minute run time. It really is that bad. The story could have been interesting but other than that there were was nothing to redeem this movie.
I have only hated 2 movies in my life, this isn't one of them but its probably the movie I have found the most impossible to engage with.
The plot...well, apparently a group of friends visit a spooky fairground attraction as children and there is some kind of accident in which one of the girls vanishes. Then, 10 or so years later the same friends find themselves tricked into going to an abandoned hospital, which then turns into the same funhouse from their past, and they re-live the frightening experience all over again, possibly as part of the twisted revenge of the missing/dead girl.
That might have worked as a plot, in fact on paper it looks pretty good, but watching this movie is absolutely no fun at all. There is but a single key event in the movie, which is that somebody falls over the handrail and down the well of a spiral staircase. Believe it or not, the whole film is constructed to dwell on this one event in as many ways as it is possible. First we see the original accident, then we see it again from another view, then we see other characters go through the same event either as witnesses or as victims themselves, sometimes in their childhood and sometimes in their adult states. The film thinks it's clever in mixing the evens of the past with the present, but it doesn't hold any suspense whatsoever, it just looks like a bunch of kids running in circles and then a bunch of adults running in circles again. The so-called shocks of the labyrinth are provided by (wait for it) a white toy bunny and a yellow balloon with a smiling bumble bee on it. Shots of the bunny in particular are wheeled out interminably, not that a single shot of it provokes any feelings of fear whatsoever. At no point in the film does anything approaching scary happen. Not in one single minute of it, and therefore I count "Shock Labyrinth" as a total failure to entertain.
By the way, you might pick up the DVD that comes with both 3D and 2D versions, but if you think the 3D will rescue it, think again. It's totally unwatchable, I only lasted about 1.5 minutes before yanking off the 3D specs and sticking the 2D version on.
What a shame.