review by Jon
There’s a rumor circulating that says if you watch a
certain video, you’ll die seven days later. As soon as
the tape is over, a phone will ring and announce this fate
to you. Normally, such things would be written off as a childish
prank. But when Reiko’s niece is said to have been killed
this way, she puts her investigative journalism skills to the
test. Her first stop is to examine the tape for clues. Now
she just might have seven days to solve the mystery and stop
this threat once and for all.
The story (screenplay by Hiroshi Takahashi based on Kôji
Suzuki’s novel) is rather ingenious. It’s an interesting
take on the horror genre in that it’s also a murder mystery
with a very prominent supernatural tone. In fact, the puzzle
solving aspect of the picture probably takes precedent over
any bone chilling. That doesn’t mean that the film won’t
induce fear. Stress levels will be elevated, but not all the
time. After the structure becomes more evident and the whole
story settles down, you will too. It relies on a couple common
scare tactics, but those don’t take hold.
The acting doesn’t really stick, either. Instead of
rooting for Reiko (played by Nanako Matsushima), I was rooting
for the tape. She’s just too screechy and annoying. There’s
a lot of screaming and yelling, and not all of it seemed motivated.
Both her and the man who plays her ex-husband (Hiroyuki Sanada)
add that authentic B-movie quality to their delivery. The performances
aren’t stiff, but they are hardly dynamic or powerful.
It’s not quite overacting (however close). It’s
The same can be said for Hideo Nakata’s directing and
Junichirô Hayashi’s cinematography. The visual
side seemed a little uninspired. The videotape looked nice,
but is surprisingly short. The black and white, grainy home
movie look added greatly to the creepy feel. Otherwise, the
scenes are dark and clichéd – take dank, pale
green environments and flood them with deep shadows. There’s
just not enough there to really make it pop.
But for as much as I’m bashing the film, it’s
not all that horrible. It may not be the most inventive horror
film, but by today’s standards, it lends an air of freshness
in a suffocating genre. The story is interesting to watch and
for once the path a horror movie takes isn’t entirely
predictable. It could have been scarier, but ultimately, the
film is fun and sometimes even fascinating. Just make sure
you have caller ID before you watch and don’t answer
the phone if you don’t recognize the number.
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