Released at the tail end of the J-Horror boom, Noroi is not quite a masterpiece like Ringu (1998), Kairo (2001), and Ju-On (2002). Nonetheless, it is a rare example, and almost certainly the best example, of a found footage movie from the heyday of Japanese horror in the late 90's through mid 00's.
Noroi is a remarkably intricate mockumentary about a journalist's investigation of a series of strange occurrences linked to a folk demon called Kagutaba. In fact, it may be a little too intricate for its own good, and the stream of eccentric characters and disparate video clips threatens to overwhelm us viewers. But critically, Noroi manages to carefully build the creepiness factor and unleash some truly hair-raising scares when the time is right. These scares are mostly of the "supernatural events that are only visible when reviewing video camera footage" variety, and although that is one of the more ridiculous clichés in modern horror, it is extremely effective in the right hands, as it is in Lake Mungo (2008) and here in Noroi.
My only real criticism is that about 50% of the plot is explained in a few perfunctory sentences of narration right at the end, inserted as if the filmmakers had finished the movie and then realized that almost nothing was satisfactorily resolved or explained. I don't necessarily mind baffling movies (Kairo for example is almost completely incomprehensible if you haven't seen the inferior American remake), but as Noroi is based entirely on the investigation of a mystery, I feel like it kind of dropped the ball a little bit right at the end, even with the shoehorned narration.
Found footage seems to be a particularly personal thing when it comes to being terrified; millions (including me) consider The Blair Witch Project (1999) the most frightening movie of all time, while millions of other people think Blair Witch is some kind of joke, and Paranormal Activity (2007) is where the real scares are. Whether Noroi will scare the crap out of you or not is hard to predict, but there is little doubt that this is good stuff. Worth any horror fan's time.
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