Sunday, January 27, 2013

Horror Film Review

The Shock Labyrinth (2009):  Ever notice how 99% of horror flicks from Japan are about pissed off ghosts out for revenge?  Usually, though, the reason behind the anger is justified (remember The Grudge?).  In this one...well, it's a head-scratcher. 

Five pre-teen kids sneak into an abandoned haunted hospital attraction.  Yuki falls from the top of a staircase and dies.  Each of her friends Ken, Rin, Motoko and little sister Myiu blames himself/herself a little but in reality, it was just a terrible accident.  Ten or so years later, Yuki turns up at Rin's doorstep, somehow alive.  She's obviously not well so they bundle her into Motoko's car and all five of them head to a hospital.  They somehow wind up at the place where it all originally went down, so to speak.  Once inside, they run into themselves as they were ten years earlier and relive the whole episode.  So it's like a weird time loop thing and we finally see what really happened.  And also see a petulant Yuki start bumping off her friends and family in very stupid ways.  Then there's the Harvey factor.  Throughout the film, Yuki's stuffed bunny floats around the hallways and corridors, passes through walls, and does other bizarre things that really make no damn sense at all.

Every plot summary of this film I've seen says, "five teens."  It's a lie.  No one's older than 12.  Marketing ploy, I'll wager.  Then there's the thing with the mannequins coming to life and the rain drops pausing in mid-air.  Don't get that, either.  Adult Ken is arrested for killing his friends,'s alive but we're not shown who.  But with all the flashbacks and flashforwards, what's really going on becomes so convoluted that I found myself not caring anymore.  This is a case of style over substance and it doesn't work.


Acting:  Adult Ken's eyes are perpetually wide with shock and that's annoying.  The kids do a better job than the adults, frankly.
Story:  Pretty much a cliché at this point. 
Direction:  All over the place.  I know that's by design, but it makes for difficult viewing.
Production Values:  As with much Asian horror, the film stock is dark and a bit grainy.  Atmosphere, I guess.  The hospital is stark and depressing.  Again, atmosphere.  No idea what the budget was.  I'd guess less than $100K. 
Gore/FX:  None of the killing is gross.  Ghost Yuki just jumps off the top of the staircase and lands on her foes head-first.  Over and over again.  Remember I said "stupid ways."  The CGI rain is too obviously CGI and thus distracting. 
Scares:  A couple of "gotcha" jump scares.  They also try that thing that they always do in Japanese ghost flicks...long black hair, wide eyes, creepy facial expression.  Doesn't work here, though.
Ending:  Walking through some woods.  Yeah, I don't get it either.
Verdict:  Should you see The Shock Labyrinth?  There are so many other better Asian horror films out there that I recommend looking elsewhere.  If you haven't already, watch Shutter from Thailand for a dose of horror grooviness. 

Rating:  2 out of 5

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