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John’s Horror Corner: Dark Tales of Japan (2004; aka Suiyô puremia: sekai saikyô J horâ SP Nihon no kowai yoru), passable for a Japanese TV movie horror anthology.

April 30, 2019

MY CALL: This anthology should be watched even if only to see the Spiderwoman segment, which is by far the best of the lot. But overall, you’ll feel the TV-ness in the rigid acting, low budget and hokey acting.

MORE HORROR ANTHOLOGIES: Dead of Night (1945), Black Sabbath (1963), Tales from the Crypt (1972), The Vault of Horror (1973), The Uncanny (1977), Creepshow (1982), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye (1985), Deadtime Stories (1986), Creepshow 2 (1987), After Midnight (1989), Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990), Two Evil Eyes (1990), Grimm Prairie Tales (1990), The Willies (1990), Necronomicon: Book of the Dead (1993), Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996), Campfire Tales (1997), 3 Extremes (2004), Creepshow 3 (2006), Trick ‘r Treat (2007), Chillerama (2011), Little Deaths (2011), V/H/S (2012), The Theater Bizarre (2012), The ABCs of Death (2013), V/H/S 2 (2013), The Profane Exhibit (2013), The ABCs of Death 2 (2014), V/H/S Viral (2014), Southbound (2015), Tales of Halloween (2015), A Christmas Horror Story (2015), The ABCs of Death 2.5 (2016), Holidays (2016), Terrified (2017; aka Aterrados, which is a pseudo-anthology), Oats Studios, Vol. 1 (2017), Ghost Stories (2017), XX (2017) and The Field Guide to Evil (2018).

Despite their estimable repute, directors Norio Tsuruta (Ringu 0, Premonition), Kôji Shiraishi (Noroi: The Curse, Ju-Rei: The Uncanny), Takashi Shimizu (Ju-on 1-2, The Grudge 1-2, Flight 7500), Masayuki Ochiai (Shutter, Ju-on: The Final Curse) and Yoshihiro Nakamura (Lizard Baby, The Booth) join forces to create something largely mediocre (and that’s if I’m being generous). Mediocre… but perfectly passable considering this was a made-for-TV movie.

Like any multi-filmmaker anthology (e.g., V/H/S, The Field Guide to Evil, The ABCs of Death), the quality of the five stories vary wildly. I’d consider the first two segments (Spiderwoman and Crevices) the most amusing, with the following three more typical of lower quality Twilight Zone episodes—you know, more the so-so revivals (1985-1989, 2002-2003) not the awesome original series (1959-1964). Journeying through this anthology we’ll find human-spider-hybrids, giant spectral heads, typical Grudge ghosts, black magic, light twists and “hair” demons—with little of it landing well boasting hardly any gore and only mildly disturbing imagery.

From its outset it is painfully obvious that this is a TV movie down to the hokey acting, clunky storytelling and low budget effects—which are charmingly bad when an eight-(human)-limbed woman is seen crawling on the wall. Spiderwoman is fun… you’ll laugh like you’re enjoying a solid B-movie. The face of the hybrid spider-woman is much more passable than the dated CGI. But then we return to the incredibly hokey storytelling… man sees spider-woman, looks down and is wrapped up in web, looks back up and spider-woman is still down the hall. Very cheesy. Reminds me of Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark (1990-2000) in the kindest way.

After the disappearance of his tenant, a landlord contacts the tenant’s old friend in Crevices. Every border of every door, window and drawer in the apartment has been obsessively sealed shut with red electrical tape—much as in Pulse (2006). Long-nailed ghostly limbs reach from unseen nooks and crannies. This little vignette carries on playfully and is more to the point than the contrived (but more entertainingly silly) Spiderwoman segment.

Things take a turn to boredom with The Sacrifice as a woman is cursed by her amorous co-worker. Although I enjoyed the imagery of the gigantic disembodied head, it wasn’t enough to forgive this story. And even less tolerable was Blonde Kwaidan, featuring a Japanese man obsessed with blondes visiting Hollywood to find a most unpleasant blonde surprise. Lame.

The final segment feels most classically like The Twilight Zone. A dishonest businessman and husband finds a deserving fate in Presentiment when trapped in an elevator with three mysterious people.

Again, for a TV movie this was… meh… I guess okay. But I do want more people to enjoy Spiderwoman. So for that alone I’ll give this a soft recommendation for the adventurous short film or anthology fans out there.

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