Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Movie Appraisal: Tales of Terror: The Haunted Apartments (Kaidan Shin Mimibukuro: Yûrei manshon) (幽霊マンション) (2005)

Well, this movie is a whole lot better than it has any right to be. I wasn't expecting much watching it. It's just another Japanese ghost movie, I told myself. Nothing special, nothing interesting. But I have to admit that what I saw in this film was much more than a simple ghost movie. There was an actual emotional entanglement to this movie that I don't usually see. I don't usually have my mouth hanging agape while watching a movie, nor do I have emotional outbursts at the screen. This movie caused me to have/do both. Yes, it's kind of a silly movie at times, but never moves away from the premise of the film. The silliness adds to the overall strange feeling of the film, never really taking away from the story, instead adding to the "fun" of watching the movie.

It's decently well made and well shot, but hectic at times, directed by Akio Yoshida, who seems to have a lot more talent than the shots of the movie would imply. It moves between characters and stories quickly, rarely hanging on the main two characters of Aimi (played by Mei Kurokawa) and her father for very long, which makes identifying with a certain character difficult, if not impossible. It's altogether a very strange movie throughout the first two-thirds of the film or so, often seeming a little too Japanese with little horror and only small bits of any real tension. What I mean by that is that the hectic pacing and the standard "horror" pacing and practice actually makes this film feel pretty "normal" by horror movie standards. It feels very cookie cutter at first, comparable to Uzumaki and The Ring in shots and styles. It doesn't really become something different until the first arguably scary part. 

The first real bit of tension comes when Takashi, a friend and neighbor of Aimi, moves out of the cursed apartments to find himself in some kind of mental zone of death and terror. That was unexpected and highly creepy. Takashi basically found himself in Silent Hill. I don't think anybody feels really good about going there. I guess now is a good time to explain the whole cursed apartments idea too. So, this apartment building is cursed by this girl who went missing years before. If you move in and stay overnight you can't leave or you will be killed by the ghost-girl, who thinks you've betrayed her by leaving. You also have to get back by midnight or the same thing happens. Basically she's clingy and needs you there. The ghost-girl, Ai, also attracts other ghosts because she's lonely and needs company. Weird premise, but it kind of works.

Anyway, obviously, this is a ghost story, but one with a twist or two. I can say that it has a similar set-up to The Ring, but with a very different payoff, a much more disturbing payoff. There are other incidents that happen, with the bulk of the movie made up of seeing other people in the apartments deal with their own lives in having to live by the ghost's rules. It's jarring to be following around characters we don't really know, but it oddly works as a way to bring about some sympathy to all of the characters in the apartments.

The characters are never the center of the story, so I never really felt any real compassion for many of them. The story was more about their associated plight than about the individual stories. It simply took me a long time to realize this because of how the movie was set-up. I really thought I would be following a single protagonist, one that would look around for what's going on and then try to solve it. While that does happen, it's much less focused upon than a movie like The Ring.

The best part of the movie is the ending. Man. Wow. I don't even want to spoil it, but it was both unexpected and the only real bit of actual "TERROR" to the movie. Hell, with a title like Tales of Terror you would expect a shlocky horror film with screaming and a B-movie-ness to the whole feel, but instead the movie has a heart and soul to it. Sometimes the directing is a little off. Sometimes the acting is a little odd. Hell, sometimes the whole movie doesn't feel exactly right, but damned if it doesn't have a weird consistency by the end of the film. It sets the ending up well, showing a link between Aimi and Ai, as Aimi searches for the mystery of what happened to Ai.

And the payoff is... well, it's both hard to watch and incredibly satisfying. As I said, this movie is really much better than it has any right to be. I wasn't expecting anything good while watching this, but I really did get an insightful and exciting movie in the end, one that I wholly enjoyed watching. I wasn't expecting to enjoy the film, but yeah, it was really good in general, especially the ending. Boy, oh, boy...

Not sure what else to say. This review is like the movie: all over the place, not really making any real statements or following any real premise, but rather just kind of jumping around and saying words for the hell of it. I did really enjoy this movie though. I enjoyed the Silent Hill zone of death. I enjoyed the ending so much more than I ever should have enjoyed it. I felt that the movie was quality throughout... but it really shouldn't have been. The title of the film should have been something else, something that really should have showed that this movie isn't garbagebin horror. Anyway, yeah, I recommend the hell out of this movie. It's really well done, and I have no real complaints.


  1. The movie is actually okay but not so as a horror film. I think the horror is emphasized differently through the horrors what living people can do rather than what ghosts can do. As they say a serial killer is a lot scarier than ghosts.

    1. While I'm not sure I'd agree with serial killers being scarier than ghosts (to me at least) I would agree that this movie isn't really all that wonderful of a horror movie. It's a good movie if watched all the way through, but never scares or, I believe, has any intention of really trying to be scary. It's interesting and kind of exciting, but never goes beyond that, certainly not being scary in any way, shape, or form.

  2. I totally agree with your review. I just watched it and felt the same. I love it.