Many people may know this title as belonging to a cult favorite Nintendo video game. The video game and the film share the plot and characters with a little known haunted house movie. Not a gonzo as another Japanese haunted house film, Hausu, this film still has its moments and a creepy atmosphere. In addition, the whole movie can be seen on YouTube.
A TV crew ventures towards the abandoned mansion of renown artist Ichiro Mamiya. They hope to find and present fresco paintings that Ichiro was working on until the death of his wife, whom was mourning the death of their infant son. The death of Ichiro’s wife was an act of suicide out of shame for murdering local children to make them playmates for her dead son.
Despite the warnings of a gas station attendent, Yamamura (Tsutomu Yamazaki), the TV crew goes to the mansion. The crew is lead by Kazuo the director (Shingo Yamashiro). Along with him is his daughter, Emi (J-pop star Nokko), Akiko the producer (Nobuko Miyamoto), Taguchi the womanising cameraman (Ichiro Furudate), and Asuka the art restorer (Fukumi Kuroda).
During their time in the mansion, bizarre poltergeist happenings occur. They discover the body of Lady Mamiya’s infant, thus bringing her back into the world of the living as a vengeful spirit. With her supernatural powers, she poses a serious threat to the lives of the TV crew. She enables the shadows to burn people like acid among other abilities. Could the body of her infant son be the key to halting her vengeance?
This is very much a conventional haunted house story, not unlike that of Robert Wise’s The Haunting. If it wasn’t for the Japanese actors, this could easily pass for an American production. Toho Studios clearly wanted a film that was the polar opposite of their cult classic, Hausu.
The cast does a pretty good job playing the material straight. There isn’t a lot of overacting. I saw this on YouTube with Japanese subtitles. There is a rhythm to the language that I prefer to the horrible dubbing that would ruin the genuinely frightening spirit of this film. While there is some humor in the beginning, it is quite brushed aside for the horror elements.
Unfortunately, IMDB doesn’t have a credit for the set designer. Whoever or whatever team was responsible should be commended for a stellar job. It mimics the typical haunted house of American productions to every detail.
The real star of the film is the effects work by the trio of Etsuko Egawa, Kazuhiro Tsuji, and Dick Smith. Egawa’s other effects credits include Ghostbusters and Dune. Tsuji’s work as an artist has made him a major figure in Hollywood effects, notably for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s look in 2012’s sci-fi hit: Looper. Dick Smith was one of the most revered effects artists with credits including The Exorcist, The Godfather, Little Big Man, and the 1999 remake of House on Haunted Hill.
Director Hiyoshi Kurosawa does a great job at bringing the American haunted house horror film to Japan. It surpasses some of the American efforts it emulates, notably the horrendous 1999 remake of The Haunting. Despite being conventional, the effects work wonders and atmosphere really make this a solid horror film. Much like The Driver and Return of the Blind Dead, you can catch it on YouTube.