11 February 2016

RING 2/ RING 0: BIRTHDAY. A DOUBLE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

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RING 2 and RING 0: BIRTHDAY. A SUPERNATURAL DOUBLE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

RING 2. 1999. STORY BY KOJI SUZUKI. DIRECTED BY HIDEO NAKATA. STARRING MIKI NAKATANI AND RIKIYA OTAKA.

RING 0: BIRTHDAY. 2000. BASED ON 'LEMON HEART' BY KOJI SUZUKI. DIRECTED BY NORIO TSURUTA. STARRING YUKIE NAKAMA AND SEIICHI TANABE.

The original RING (RINGU) film from 1998 was probably the film that gave birth to a new era of Japanese horror films. It also gave us Sadako, the poor creature who was thrown down a well and left to die by her mother's psychiatrist husband and who gets revenge on people by crawling out of television screens and killing 'em a week after they've watched a haunted videotape. If that sounds strange to you, well, it's all a rich tapestry, haha.

RING 2 is a direct continuation of RING. It picks up the story almost where the first film left off. A young woman called Mai Takano and a journalist called Okazaki are searching for answers to the mysteries left unsolved in the first movie. For one thing, where is Reiko, the reporter whose husband and father were both killed by Sadako after separately watching the haunted videotape?

The search for Reiko leads Mai straight to Reiko's little son Yoichi, an adorable kid with psychic tendencies who appears to be channelling Sadako. Obviously, this isn't a good thing and the kid's gonna need to be exorcised. Just another normal day in crazy old RING-town, haha.

The film is confusing as hell and I didn't really enjoy it, to tell you the truth. There isn't even much horror in it, which is disappointing and kind of defeats the purpose. Sadako in the well at the end is the only cool bit in the whole film. 

I preferred RING 0: BIRTHDAY, which is a prequel to the original RING. Yes, yes, I know it's the last film in the RING trilogy but it's really the first story of all, set as it is thirty years before the original film. Are you confused yet? You and me both, film fans. You and me both...

We get to meet Sadako as a human girl living in the world of human beings in this film. She gets the lead role in a play after the leading lady is mysteriously bumped off by a long-haired figure dressed all in white. A long-haired figure dressed all in white...? Hmmm, it surely doesn't take a genius to work out who that could have been.

The director of the play, Shigemori, who'd been involved with the dead woman, is all over the beautiful Sadako like a rash, as is the sound guy, Toyama. Personally I think that Sadako is mopey, miserable and about as exciting as a glass of tap water, but apparently she's sexually irresistible to these two men. Ah well. You know men. They go where their genitals dictate, haha.

The rest of the troupe distrust and fear Sadako, however, and they blame her for the death of their friend and co-worker. The show must go on, though. What does the play's opening night hold for Sadako? And will Sadako's parentage, more specifically her unknown father, have any bearing on what happens next?

You remember in the first film that we found out a little bit about Sadako's daddy? 'Frolic in brine, goblins be thine...?' You remember that bit, right? Well, it's about to become crucially important. We are what our parents made us, right? Well, Sadako had a nice normal (albeit psychic) mother and, well, a demon straight from the depths of the ocean for a baby-daddy. That was always going to cause complications down the line and guess what? Here they come, right on time...

I preferred this film to RING 2 because of the Sadako-Shigemori-Toyama love triangle. I'm a sucker for a doomed love story. Overall, however, I would have preferred it if both stories concentrated on people watching the haunted videotape and then being killed a week later by Sadako crawling out of their television sets. That's a great storyline and it's why I love the original RING film. The ONE MISSED CALL films have a similar plot and I absolutely love them to bits.

Instead, both RING follow-ups veer off wildly in other directions and the results are very much a mixed bag. Still, if you're a fan of the original film you'll almost certainly get something out of watching these two sequels. Just make sure it's not a haunted videotape you're left with. That, as we say in the vernacular, would be an epic fail...


AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can contact her at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com





9 February 2016

JU-ON: THE CURSE. 2000. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

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JU-ON: THE CURSE. 2000. CREATED AND DIRECTED BY TAKASHI SHIMIZU. STARRING YUREI YANAGI AND CHIAKI KURIYAMA. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is the very first instalment in the GRUDGE series, the collection of brilliant Japanese supernatural horror films that spawned a whole host of imitators. Let me tell you, of all the GRUDGE movies I've seen, this one is the scariest by far.

As it probably had the lowest budget of all of them, this makes me happy. I love it when really good, top-notch horror can be made on the cheap. Let me tell you what it's all about, my little children of the night. What wonderful music you're all making, by the way...!

A nice, mild-mannered schoolteacher called Kobayashi is the central character in this grim little tale, a story, by the way, which any horror director would have been thrilled to come up with. If you only had one idea in your whole lifetime, just imagine if it were this one! You'd be set up for life. I wonder how long Takashi Shimizu spent yearning to make this one film, his one really big, really good idea? Years, maybe? Who knows? It was totally worth waiting for, though.

Kobayashi, whose wife Manami is knocked up with his child, has a bit of a problem. A young fella from his school called Toshio Saeki hasn't been showing up for class. It's Kobayashi's job to pop round to the child's house and see if there's a reason for his absence from school.

He pops round, all right, and sees the nipper hanging around the seemingly empty house, which is portrayed as creepy and isolated from the start, even though there could well be neighbours around about for all we know. Even surrounded by houses, the Saeki residence would still come across as solitary and as lonely as the grave.

The little boy is covered in bruises, bumps and scrapes and he doesn't seem to be quite well. The house is a bit of a tip as well. No adults are anywhere in sight. Who's been looking after little Toshio? Not unnaturally, Kobayashi is concerned that there might be something terribly rotten in the state of Denmark. He decides to take a closer look around the house, never a good idea in a horror film. The house is silent and dreary. I wouldn't set foot in it for any amount of money, even if it were just a set.

Up in one of the bedrooms, Kobayashi discovers Kayako's journal lying around the place. Unable to resist a sneak peek, he's utterly horrified to find out from the pages of the diary that Kayako has a massive, massive crush on him. More than that, she loves him. This is a woman he's barely noticed when she's been dropping off and picking up her son at the school. He's happily married with a wee baby on the way, for Chrissakes. This is totally all news to him.

The journal isn't all that Kobayashi uncovers in the deserted upstairs of the Saeki gaff. From the moment he reads the journal, his life becomes a living nightmare. Horror piles upon horror to give us the spooking of a lifetime. What is contained within Takeo's sack, and what the hell is he doing to it? Who's that coming down the stairs? Who's little Toshio miaowing down the phone to? 'What's that coming over the hill? Is it a monster? Is it a monster...?' All these and other questions will be answered, as usual, in non-sequential order.

In other news, Chiaki Kuriyama, better known perhaps for her performances in KILL BILL and BATTLE ROYALE, undergoes a terrifying ordeal in an empty classroom. And, in the now-sold Saeki house, a mother who thinks she sees her battered, bloodstained daughter Kanna lumbering painfully up the stairs is in for the shock of a lifetime.

This last scene was the most frightening for me. I mean to say, the mother is too scared by what she sees going up her stairs to ask her own daughter what on earth's happened to her. When the girl turns around and reveals herself, well, let's just say that it's a sight you won't forget in a hurry.

The special effects are for the most part simple but extremely effective and scary, unlike in some modern horror films when the CGI just seems to take over and annoy everyone, if you know what I mean.

 And, by the way, does the Saeki house pass the 'psychic' test? You can bet your ass it... Well, I suppose I shouldn't say for fear of that dirty word, spoilers. Eugh, such a dirty, dirty word, haha. I feel all grubby even thinking it.

 Any-hoo, if I haven't said it already, this film is the best of all the GRUDGE movies, American-made or Japanese. In my own humble opinion, of course. You guys can make up your own minds. But when I turn out to be right, you can wire that apology money to my bank any time you like, heh-heh-heh...

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can contact her at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com










JU-ON: WHITE GHOST AND JU-ON: BLACK GHOST. 2009. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

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JU-ON: WHITE GHOST AND JU-ON: BLACK GHOST. 2009. A SUPERNATURAL DOUBLE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

JU-ON: WHITE GHOST. 2009. WRITTEN, PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY RYUTA MIYAKE. STARRING AKIKO HOSHINO.

JU-ON: BLACK GHOST. 2009. WRITTEN, PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY MARI ASATO. STARRING HANA MATSUMOTO.

These two short-ish Japanese horror films can be watched consecutively on the one disc to make one full-length film. That's how I did it, anyway. To me, they represent good stark horror, probably cheaply made, the kind that leaves a lasting impression on the viewer. Okay, so they're not as good as the actual JU-ON: THE GRUDGE films but, one, they don't set out to be and, two, they're still powerfully spooky films nonetheless.

I watched them both back-to-back one Saturday afternoon and, afterwards, I was glad that it was time for THE VOICE UK and the Saturday night takeaway (the chipper kind, a snackbox meal and a can of fizzy drink, not the Ant 'n' Dec kind, I hasten to add. The very idea...!) and not for beddy-byes.

I generally tend to watch my horror films just before bedtime because it's the only time I get a chance to do it uninterrupted. I do, however, tend to head up the wooden stairs to Bedfordshire in a state of unnerved high alert for goblins, ghouls and ghosties as a result. Still, whaddya gonna do...? You have to do what you can when you can, right?

Both of these supernatural horror flicks were made to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the GRUDGE series of films. For those readers not in the know, the GRUDGE movies, the brainchild of genius film-maker Takashi Shimizu, tell the story of a woman and her son who are brutally murdered by their husband/father, Takeo.

The woman is called Kayako. The reason for her slaughter is a suspected infidelity on her part which, when it's discovered by the hubby Takeo, becomes motive enough for her bloody death. The rage and sadness surrounding the murders of the mother and her son and, incidentally, the family cat as well, are turned into a grudge or curse.

This curse will affect everyone who comes into contact with it from now on. As people seem to be positively queuing up to get into the murder house, there's a lot of scope there for many, many sequels, haha. In fact, there were a couple of follow-ups, unless my memory serves me ill.

JU-ON: WHITE GHOST was first up on my disc. It's the disturbing story of a young man who does a Takeo Saeki, which is to say, he kills his whole family after becoming possessed by his own mirror image, always an interesting notion. Unfortunately, he doesn't just kill his family. He begins to sexually abuse his own little niece Mirai as well.

Mirai has no-one to turn to but her friend Akane. Akane, being only a child herself, is unable to help her friend. Believe me, the guilt for having left her friend to her grisly fate never leaves her. And who- or what- is the hideous old lady ghost who keeps popping up around the place scaring the living shite out of people? As if I'd tell you that, haha. Me no give spoilers...!

JU-ON:BLACK GHOST has a terrific central plotline. Told in non-sequential order (like all the GRUDGE movies!), it's the story of a young girl called Fukie who's discovered to have a cyst in her body, a cyst which is causing all kinds of problems for the child.

When the cyst is found to be not a cyst at all but the remnants of Fukie's- get this!- unborn twin, the fun and games really start, by which I mean of course the horror and misery. There's no fun and games...! When Fukie's desperate mum asks her psychic sister Mariko to perform an exorcism to expel the unborn twin from Fukie's body, the s**t really hits the fan. I think you'll be (un)pleasantly surprised by the results...!

These two-films-in-one would be perfect for fans of the original GRUDGE films who just want the series to go on for a little longer. Though Kayako and Takeo don't really show up in either of them, their little boy Toshio drops by to say a quick hello. This was a most enjoyable way to spend a Saturday afternoon. I just thank God I didn't have to go straight up to bed in the dark afterwards...!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can contact her at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com





6 February 2016

BLOODY BURLESQUE: A HORROR SHORT. 2016. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

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BLOODY BURLESQUE. WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY AWARD-WINNING FILM-MAKER PATRICIA CHICA. PRODUCED BY MICHELLE ROMANO. STARRING TIFFANY SHEPIS AND TONYA KAY. AVAILABLE TO WATCH ON YOUTUBE FROM FEBRUARY 1ST, 2016. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

There isn't a man alive who wouldn't want to see a beautiful woman strip down to her scanties to perform a sensual, sexy burlesque dance for his personal edification, right? Right. I'm a heterosexual female, but even I like the idea of watching the art form that is burlesque. Womens' bodies are beautiful in any scenario. What's not to like?

And if, in the absence of a real-live burlesque dancer performing privately for you in your very own living-room, you could watch a short film in which one of the most gorgeous women imaginable got her jugs out and danced for you for the very sustainable time of less than three minutes, you'd be happy enough, right? Right.

That being the case, you need to watch this short film. In honour of WOMEN IN HORROR RECOGNITION MONTH, Patricia Chica has created BLOODY BURLESQUE. It's part of an anthology of horror shorts for the annual MASSIVE BLOOD DRIVE PSA, curated by the Soska sisters whose names I'm sure you will recognise from such films as AMERICAN MARY and HELLEVATOR. It's a super, super super good cause, the donating of blood to those who need it, and I've always loved the idea of horror shorts. They make my butt look fabulous.

Anyway, the film is short so I won't give too much away, but it features scream queens Tiffany Shepis (SHARKNADO 2, THE VIOLENT KIND, THE HAZING) and Tonya Kay (AMITYVILLE TERROR, WITHIN THE DARKNESS). The stunning Tonya Kay is the lady getting her kit off for your enjoyment. Her striptease is more than just a quick waggle of her infinitely delectable tits and ass to music, however. Her body is covered in writing, see?

Words like death, leukaemia, disease and infection adorn her perfect skin. Before the short film has ended, however, she has rubbed out the words by drenching her body with a red, liquidy substance you gore-hounds might recognise. Yes, we're talking blood here, people. Ms. Tonya Kay looks immensely fetching, even covered from head to toe in fake haemoglobin, and the whole thing is strangely uplifting and positive, despite the macabre nature of the performance.

The rubbing out of death and disease and all those other nasty words during the baptism by blood is of course symbolic. Hopefully the film's very obvious message that giving blood is not only good but vital will send you rushing to your nearest Blood Donation Centre with your sleeves rolled up and your arms exposed, ready to receive your free sugary cookie and a sticker with the words I GAVE BLOOD TODAY on it. Some centres even have balloons. Who wouldn't want a balloon? I want a balloon, for crying out loud.

I know that all you big strong men (and women!) out there won't let the fear of a little prick put you off doing what you know you need to do. If it helps, all the gorgeous women involved in the creation of this terrific short film will be incredibly grateful to you. Sadly, they won't be able to express their gratitude in any personal way, and if you try to force the issue, well, that's called stalking and it's very much frowned upon in civilised society, haha.

I had a stalker once myself, believe it or not, even though I'm not a big famous celebrity like these ladies in the film. His name was Dave (still is, I presume, unless he's changed it) and he spent a lot of time in the bushes outside my house during the freezing cold winter of 2010. I confess to feeling desperately sorry for him when it snowed, knowing that he was outside freezing his bollocks off, and I used to bring him out the odd cup of steaming hot Bovril. He was actually very grateful for my kindness and we had some lovely chats while I waited for him to be done with the mug.

Anyway, just to add that Patricia Chica's past involvement in the Montreal burlesque and fetish subcultures add an authenticity to this horror short, the concept of which she says came to her through meditation. I personally wouldn't have the patience for meditation but, as a writer, I've had plenty of ideas come to me in dreams. Sadly, none of 'em have ever made it on to the big screen yet, or even the small screen. Sigh. I'll let you all go for now. I've got to iron my horror shorts and I know you guys have got to go watch this film and then give blood, haha.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can contact her at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com