Monday, June 4, 2012

Movie Appraisal: The Curse (Noroi) (ノロイ) (2005)

Now, here's a movie that I can't really accurately describe. Noroi is a strange Japanese found-footage film brought to us from director Kôji Shiraishi dealing with psychics, supernatural phenomena, and a paranormal expert investigating different strange occurrences that all deal with a demon by the name of Kagutaba. It's all over the place at times, moving from one scene to another with lightning fast speed, never really focusing on any of the smaller characters within the film, and setting the story up without much fanfare. In some ways the movie is very stylistic. I can imagine many people falling to one side or the other about the quality of this film, especially its quality as a horror film. It has some strange decisions in its plot and characters that are almost mystifying. And yet it does a good job all around at being a found-footage film and bringing about its story, however strange, by any means necessary.

The film is found-footage as I mentioned previously, with the paranormal investigator Kobayashi and his cameraman doing most of the filming of the strange incidents. But every once in a while a Japanese television show, either an interview show, game show, or reality show seems to come on top of the footage to show some background about characters and their situations. The pacing is all over the place through this though. It never really sets itself at a comfortable pace nor does it ever reach a high echelon of storytelling. That all being said, the story is well done and interesting. The characters are very believable. The acting is mostly very good. In general it is a good movie, maybe even a good horror movie, but I found some things to gripe about anyway.

The movie never really became a scary experience for me. There were plenty of good moments. Hell, there were some moments that felt right out of The Blair Witch Project to me, and I actually found those quite effective in general. Stuff moving inexplicably, the woods and the shrine at night, hell even some of the added in or CGI figures worked pretty well, maybe even because they looked so out of place. The boy in the film, Junko Ishii's son, is possibly the creepiest character in the film. In the beginning of the movie, as he looked through the curtain, I definitely felt a shiver creep up my spine. That face actually was kind of creepy. Sorry to say that about your face, kid, but it was a little creepy.

The movie is fairly predictable though, but even so many plot points come out of nowhere with little plot-wise reason for those things to happen. Characters die for seemingly no reason with their deaths plastered in words on the screen telling us of their deaths rather than showing or telling or anything else. It was an odd way to go about killing off characters in a horror movie, and it fell rather flat for me. I actually rolled my eyes the first time it happened because I had said, "And that was the last time I ever saw them. They died a day later." And the freaking subtitles said almost the exact same thing a moment later. It was a little ridiculous.

The main characters did a good job throughout though. They were consistent and all acted beyond my expectations. There were moments of silliness and overacting, but they were often realistic and all-in-all really well done. The shrine scenes are probably the best and most hectic in the entire film. Certainly creepy. The faces and some of the things seen in those scenes were absolutely awesome and horrific, and now all I want to do is go to a Japanese shrine. I thought that the possession scenes were particularly good too as well as the psycho... I mean, psychic... Hori, who has to be the absolute best actor in the film. I mean seriously, the guy went over and above in the insane department and it really worked. I've seen and known a good amount of homeless men who were a little off and he fits the bill perfectly. I would have taken him for a guy who was a bit off any day of the week.

I also liked the subplot for the town that was put underwater for a dam. Something about that is fascinating, although maybe that because I don't live very far away from a dam that was put over a bunch of towns and villages and the like. I've always found the lost town aesthetic interesting and cool, and the whole plot of it in this movie certainly worked really well for me.

Yes, this movie has a lot of missteps, and yes, it is overly long at times. Boy is it ever. This movie could have been thirty minutes shorter and I don't think it would have been a bad thing. It really stumbled in place with its slow pace. The faster paced scenes or the setups to some of he weirder scenes worked much better than the slower scenes where nothing much happened. But that's the nature of film, and I liked the movie well enough that even the boring and slow bits weren't all that bad. Anyway, I did like the movie, finding it as a decent fond-footage film in general with a few decent scares packed in. It's intelligent as well, but is very Japanese at points, so much so that as an American I had trouble recognizing what I was looking at. I think I also lost a lot not being able to read Japanese because of all the writing on screen at different times.

Anyway, I recommend the movie. It's good, straightforward, and shocking at times albeit tamely shocking. (I'm making myself an OXYMORON today.) I think most people will find this movie effective and well done. I wasn't ever freaked out or scared by it, but I almost never am at this point. It does have predictable elements and is very slow-paced, but I think the movie is definitely worth watching once, especially if you like odd Japanese horror with a strange and supernatural edge.




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