Escapes (1986) : Horror Anthology Film Review

An anthology of five tales of terror, each originally produced for video. The titles are “A Little Fishy” (a.k.a. ”Something’s Fishy”), “Coffee Break”, “Who’s There”, “Jonah’s Dream” and “Think Twice”. There is also a framing story called “Hall of Faces” featuring Vincent Price.

Framing story – part 1: ‘Hall of Faces’

A young man, named Matt Wilson, gets a VHS in the mail delivered to him . He didn’t order it but decides to watch once home for the evening. It has Vincent Price in a hallway of mannequins embedded in the wall who introduces the selection of stories. Imagine if the candelabras from Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast were placed in a 1980s music video based on German Expressionist cinema with neon lighting. After a slow pan through the curved corridor is Vincent Price waiting for his cue to begin his monologue. That’s the first part of the framing device called ‘Hall of Faces’. We go on to watch the various stories and return to the young man’s motel like home at the end to conclude the film.

Story 1 – ‘A Little Fishy’

A fisherman goes fishing on a riverbank but ironically gets fished himself via a red apple he finds and decides to bite into on the river bank. The line pulls on the hook in his mouth and he is dragged into the water. That’s it. It’s the first story and thus a ‘mood setter’ I suppose… or a one note bad joke made into a short film.

Story 2 – ‘Coffee Break’

An obnoxious young delivery driver asks and old man for directions and promises him he will drive slow, enjoy the scenery and stop for a coffee at a diner. However he drives past it deliberately and yet finds himself in a loop until he finally stops at the diner to ask for directions.

The server is the same old man who gave him directions previously and who goes on to offer him a cup of coffee. The old man tells him he didn’t keep his promise so now he has all the time in the world to enjoy his coffee along with the other occupants of the diner.

The young driver tries to escape in his vehicle but ends up back at the diner again where the patrons laugh at him as the man comes outside to offer him coffee again. The young man ends up stuck there forever drinking coffee.

Story 3 – ‘Who’s There?’

Experimental ‘apes’ escape a lab, watch some kids play football and stalk an overweight jogger through a forest. One of them runs around wearing the guy’s tracksuit jacket which he abandons at one point. A chase ensues through the forest as the jogger is pursued by the largest of the creatures. As soon as it catches up to him it says in clear English ‘tag, you’re it’ and they all run away from the man laughing like excited children. To them it wasn’t a terrifying pursuit but part of playing a fun game of tag.

Story 4 – ‘Jonah’s Dream’

An old female gold prospector finds a piece of gold and goes into town to sell it. In town people greet her as Mrs Tucker and comment on her continuing efforts to find gold up in the mountain long after her husband passed away (just because it was his dream it is later revealed). The shop owner tells her people were worried about her but he can’t give her much for what she has brought on that day as she hasn’t paid her last bill yet. He reiterates he can’t give her anything and advises her to sell the mountain and move into town. She says it was her husband Jonah’s dream and refuses to take his advise. The shop owner says they’re there if she needs them.

She is well liked by the community and even gives one of the kids outside an Indian arrow head she found when she was prospecting before heading back to the mountain. The men outside ask the shop owner how much in value she brought in and are told $92. (Bear in mind that’s $92 in the 1980s so he probably could have given her something and kept the excess value for himself as interest). They agree she has gold fever like Jonah did.

She goes and puts flowers on Jonah’s grave. Later, in front of the fire, she reflects on what people have been saying and looks at an old cameo/portrait of Jonah remembering him panning for gold and how happy he was to find gold. The kettle whistles.

There is an explosion outside and the roof of her barn has been caved in. With her shotgun ready she inspects inside. There’s a glowing spaceship emitting noises. Eventually she removes the debris from it at which point it does a ‘Simon says’ toy sequencing of light and opens. There is lots of smoke then another bang which presumably knocks her out.

Mrs Tucker wakes up in the morning lying on the ground. The barn is flattened and there is no sign on the space ship now. On the ground are a number of dull rocks which are apparently gold. She calls out to Jonah that they had been sitting on the gold all that time because they had built their barn and house on top of it.

Story 5 – ‘Think Twice’

A man runs through some city streets. The sort which only existed in 1980s cinema. He mugs someone and looks through the bag he took for anything of value. A tramp with a shopping cart rolls by. He unfurls a cloth to reveal a gem stone he is carrying. He holds it close to his face and it begins to glow red.

The criminal mugs the tramp who begs him not to take his gem as it will be of no use to him. The mugger runs away past another homeless guy but then gets run over by a man in a suit who is drink driving through another alleyway. The driver gets out and inspects the blood on his car’s hood then picks up the gem which begins to glow in his hand. He drops it and gets back in his car.

The gem now glows blue as the tramp picks it up and smiles before breathing on it to make it glow red again. It brings the mugger back to life and, as the tramp watches, a police car appears with armed officers telling the mugger to drop the knife and purse he is holding. The mugger is arrested and looks on as he is taken away by the police. The tramp returns to walking the streets with his shopping cart happy with his glowing gem.

Framing story – part 2: ‘Hall of Faces’

The young man who has been watching the VHS listens to Vincent Price’s host giving a wrap up about the six stories. Except there have only been five. In a twist the last one involves the young man and addresses him by his name thus breaking the fourth wall. He tries to stop the tape and attempts to remove it to the denouncement of the host. As he runs through his house the characters of the stories on the VHS appear and crowd around him as the host laughs maniacally. Then the young man wakes up. On the back of the VHS case he sees it says starring Vincent Price and introducing Matt Wilson i.e. himself… then, in one final twist, Vincent Price dressed as a mail man laughs maniacally at him once more implying it was he who brought the VHS here in the first place.

The end…

The ‘A Little Fishy’ segment of the film.

Overall Anthology Review

When you compare this anthology’s host with figures like Tales from the Crypts’ Crypt Keeper, Brazil’s Zé do Caixão (a.k.a. Coffin Joe), John Carpenter’s Undead Mortician in the 1993 anthology film Body Bags and many other such anthology hosting figures… well the host of this anthology can be sincerely summed up as ‘ooh look we hired Vincent Price which is worth the price of admission alone’. No it isn’t. He is in about 2 minutes of it at most and only to rattle off an opening monologue, a few seconds of dialogue and laugh at the conclusion. He is the only thing that would draw people’s attention to this anthology. Oh but, in fairness, maybe you were looking up anthology horror films like me – that’s the other reason. Heads up anything other horror anthology will seem better after you see this including “H is for Hydro-Electric Diffusion” the seventh vignette of 2012’s anthology film The ABCs of Death where a Nazi fox furry tortures a British bulldog furry. No really. At least that’s memorable… and mildly traumatic for the wrong reasons.

There is no set tone for the Escapes anthology. Some stories are meant to be funny, others are karmic retribution but there always seems a tone where you are meant to be taking them more seriously that the writing itself suggests. This is ‘fun’ horror and better aimed at children really but, at the time it was made, would have probably been classified as too scary for them by censors. I seriously doubt children nowadays would react to this with anything other than boredom.

‘A Little Fishy’ really seems like a student film or what some friends with a film camera would make as a fun project over the space of a day or two once summer. It’s like a Yakov Smirnoff joke: ‘In Russia you don’t fish fish – the fish fish you!’ There’s not much to say. It’s a one note short story to set the tone but it gives you the impression what you will be seeing are karmic stories where people get their comeuppance. Arguably they do albeit some end on a positive note.

‘Coffee Break’ really stands out as the best section in concept and execution. It is tonally quite close to ‘Creepshow’ or ‘Body Bags’. I might also say an episode of ‘Tales from the Darkside’ even might be the best comparison but with a heavy metal soundtrack. Lots of long shots of the van driving along roads are used to pad the run time though. Lots of heavy metal which reminded me of Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive. The coffee guy and the delivery driver both play off each other well but it’s a little too drawn out sadly. In fact most of these stories feel bloated by about 20% each in order to reach the run time when they would have a stronger impact being more concise.

‘Who’s There?’ definitely could have been the basis for a script on something like ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?’ or ‘Goosebumps’. It’s an amusing little piece and in a more light hearted, child marketed, anthology it would have fared far better and possibly become a fondly remembered piece. As it is it just feels like another mismatched piece in a collection of stories that are tonally uncoordinated. If the low budget creature costumes, with their weird little ear stalks, were not enough then the fact one wears the discarded jogging jacket correctly should have tipped you off this is a lighter story. Honestly the application of the make-up on the main creature is well done for the era. It’s a nice simple concept with an amusing little pay off. Like most of these it needed tightening up choosing whether to play up either the humour or the threat through a greater sense of tension. Initially it seems to want to play to the latter but the resolution completely deflates that aspect.

‘Jonah’s Dream’ is the most drawn out and weak overall. It doesn’t really go anywhere for at least ten minutes then pushes a spaceship/meteor scene in at the end before the main character wakes up after encountering the spaceship. Maybe the encounter itself was a dream but there is no way you could interpret it that way from what I recall. In better hands it would have been a good one person monologue piece but instead seemed to be where money was wasted instead of tightening up aspects of the other stories. It is easy to see it being revised as a short drama where she discovers the gold under the house without the alien ship aspect of the story which feels stuck on to force it as part of this anthology. There is a lot of build up in this story with a relatively dull conclusion. The community gets fully fleshed out and it seems sort of redundant unless it was to get friends of the production and their children cameos for whatever reason. Really the important parts could all have been done by the one actress as Mrs Tucker with a flashback sequence featuring her husband (and even then it could be her recounting her words to herself so even that would be unnecessary). The whole exchange in the shop merely served as meaningless exposition. As part of the anthology series Amazing Stories it would be deemed a weaker episode probably.

‘Think Twice’ is well made but the core aspect of what exactly the ability is of the crystal makes it hard to follow. It grants wishes? It is an extension of the homeless man? It’s never clear except it leads to the defeat of the mugger and the homeless man is very attached to it. As long as you can get past that this is relatively good but unsatisfying due to the ‘rules’ or context of it not being explained or at least contextualised for the audience to reach a satisfying understanding. What the crystal is exactly isn’t explained so there is a distinct frustration regarding this story. What are the limits of the item? Really something else should have been used despite, presumably, a glowing, colour changing, crystal serving as a unique aesthetic for the film’s promotional material. What is the homeless man’s connection to the gem? If they revealed he was an alien (or something as convoluted) it would have made more sense to explain the crystal rather than leave it a mystery why the homeless man claims it will be of no use to the mugger and the things it apparently does. This seems like a concept meant for Creep Show.

The framing device ‘Hall of Faces’ is weak. Honestly it feels tacked on with little thought. Most framing stories are relatively weaker than the main stories inevitably but at least they contribute a fitting setting for, and reinforce the themes of, the other stories being told. V/H/S, despite also having it’s framing device criticised, at least has a little more impact than ‘old man laughing at you’. Tales from the Crypt (1972) reveals all the story protagonists who gathered had died in their individual recounted stories and were destined for hell together, Trick ’r Treat (2007) has Sam wander though each of the stories, Southbound (2015) has the separate stories occur along the same stretch of road and there are many other examples of how to construct a cohesive anthology.

His inclusion in the framing story is just an excuse to plaster Vincent Price’s face on the cover of the VHS in order to sell it. Okay, it’s a pretty standard way to wrap up an anthology and connect the stories (though if you paid attention some share actors between each other). It reminded me a bit of the final story in season 4 of Yamishibai where the storyteller is revealed to have brought all the stories to life (oddly enough that isn’t as big a spoiler as you might think as the introduction of each episode in the series features a masked storyteller). Framing stories tend to be hard to make effective though there are some from the 70s (and those noted above) which achieved it but they had a stronger thematic through-line between stories so it already felt connected even without the framing story to create a cohesion between them.

There’s nothing to draw you to this unless you feel like riffing on it with friends or having an example of how cheesy some 1980s and early 90s horror anthologies could be. It’s B movie horror stories in the bad sense. As is always said of anthologies they’re only as strong as their weakest link and the overly drawn out panning shots used throughout instead of establishing scenes just seem there to pad out the running the time. Having read the above you’ll imagine something better than what was depicted on screen. I looked up the IMDB entry and it sees this was a vanity piece for David Steensland who directed, wrote and produced it. Who was he? Where did he go after this project? Was it a pseudonym used by an established person in the industry? We might never know…

The entire film is on YouTube should you want to watch it. It’s not worth it to be honest. ‘Coffee Break’ is classic cheesy 80s horror. The ‘Who’s there?’ one is a funny story to tell a child to amuse them (no need to watch it – any embellishment you make will be an improvement). ‘Think Twice’ is flawed but could have been good if what the gem was was at least alluded to and honestly the rest are rubbish.

There is a version of Escapes which runs 16 minutes longer but I don’t know what that adds to it as this is already a bloated film. I don’t think there is an omitted story just more overly long panning shots I presume. If you’ve seen the longer version what extra is in that version?

Tl;dr

For anyone interested I would rank the stories, best to worse, as: Coffee Break, Who’s There?, Think Twice, A Little Fishy, Jonah’s Dream, Hall of Faces.

Skip it or go check it out on double speed on YouTube if you must check it out. It’s forgettable and poorly made. More a fantasy than horror anthology. I bet you only came here because there’s so little information about it. Admit it – you did. If you liked it, besides due to rose tinted nostalgia from seeing it many years ago, tell me and explain why.

Locke & Key: Netflix Series: Season 1 Review

Locke & Key is a Netflix adaption of the American comic book series written by Joe Hill.

Premise:

Rendell Locke is murdered at the hands of former student Sam Lesser, so his wife Nina is forced to move with her three children Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode from Seattle to Matheson, Massachusetts and take residence in Rendell’s family home, the Keyhouse. The children soon discover a number of mysterious keys throughout the house that can be used to unlock various doors in magical ways. However, they become aware of a demonic entity that is also searching for the keys for its own malevolent purposes.

The music in the series is not as effective sadly.

It’s an enjoyable, mild, adventure and seems to focus more on the fantastical aspects of the story than the horrific making it the inverse of the comic’s version of events. Certainly aspects of the original get toned down such as how scarred Sam Lesser’s face is.

The first season covers, more or less, the first 3 collected volumes of the comic series. It’s not scary but for a younger audience may be unnerving.

Is it faithful to the comics?:

For fans of the comic I would say it’s best to see this as a reinterpretation of the core concept, i.e. ‘a family moves into their ancestral home and discover a mystery involving magical keys’, than hope for a faithful adaption. There is more of a sense of wonder and charm here than impending threat. Some characters are amalgamated, others lost and a few incidents and keys work in a different way to the comics.

Is this like a Stephen King mini series?:

If you come to this with the mindset that because Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son you’re going to be getting a King like story… well I can’t say it’s a million miles away from his father’s work but there is a very distinct difference. Joe focuses on individuals and their interactions thus builds his characters up far more than his father. That is to say we spend more time seeing the effect of events on them personally, both in their past and present, than the development of a plot where people become pieces in the greater narrative with their past merely serving as a shorthand to indicate their archetype (e.g. King’s infamous favourite of a ‘divorced, drunkard, writer’ where we see no aspect of those affect the current narrative when faced with some supernatural threat). Joe is more focused on the inter-social impact of things than his father although you could argue Stephen King initially had a similar style, in his earlier works such as Carrie, before moving towards a more plot driven style of writing.

Is Joe Hill’s Locke & Key like Stephen King’s IT?:

To make a direct comparison, which is no doubt obvious, we have elements in Locke and Key which echo King’s novel IT and it’s adaptions. The ‘Keepers of the Keys’ (a.k.a. The ‘Tamers of the Tempest’ in the comics) come across like a ‘what if’ scenario of the youth parts of IT featuring the ‘Loser’s Club’. Dodge plays a similar role to IT albeit the intentions are somewhat different as one seeks to unleash demons into the world while the other is a predatory entity using the town as a feeding ground. At one point Dodge speaks to Sam via a mounted illustration print as IT did to the Loser’s Club children at one point via ones in a book. There is also the Downing cave which is easily comparable to IT’s inner sanctum in the sewers of Derry, as a pivotal location of confrontation, albeit with a few differences… and yet some similarities too really. Sam Lesser is clearly a parallel to Henry Bowers albeit slightly more tragic ultimately.

Locke and Key does address one aspect people often cite as an issue with IT and its adaptions – audiences enjoy the childhood losers club side of the story but less enamoured when we see how embittered they’ve become in adulthood so we have a much harder time identifying with that part of the story. In Locke and Key it is a multi-generational story instead.

The younger characters, discovering this world for the first time alongside the audience, allow us to enjoy the escapist aspects as they enjoy their adventure with discovery of the keys and their abilities, suffer some turmoil (both socially and plot driven) and eventually overcoming the villain. Meanwhile the adults, who have gone down this route previously but with a bad result barely surviving, are allowed to have more naturally drifted apart (without King’s ‘magic amnesia’ as often criticised in IT between the two parts and it’s ending) and in some cases become such damaged individuals it ultimately leads to setting in place all the circumstances required to lure the next generation of the Locke family back to their ancestral home.

The adults in Locke and Key hide some dark stories and repressed memories from their history and we see the consequences of it on the Locke children. However there is a greater sense of hope for the future in Hill’s story than his father’s which, despite his best efforts, ends on a somewhat more muted tone intentionally or not.

On a side note both King and Hill have an odd attitude towards depictions of mentally ill or neuroatypical/neurodivergent characters such as Rufus where there is no way for them to be ‘normal’ in what the media portrays as ‘normal’. It is never defined what his condition is, no doubt for fear of causing offence to real world individuals with such conditions, thus ironically making them ‘magical’ in tone as Rufus (at least in the comics though not yet shown on the show if they ever do address it) being immune to the effects of the ‘head key’ as if his undefined mental condition is something even magic cannot surpass. As for King there are multiple characters across his works, both depicted positively and negatively, who have undefined yet clearly presented mental conditions. You see this with characters in other series of course so it’s not just King and Hill who are guilty of it. For example Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory where he is ‘off’ due to his manner of social interaction and clearly there is an issue but it’s never honestly addressed by the people making the show even when directly asked about it as that makes writing it as a source of comedy more difficult (though you might compare Sheldon to the lead character in Netflix’s series Atypical which is a ‘coming-of-age comedy-drama’). The fact they chose, in the adaption, for the only person Rufus to be able to speak on equal terms with is the six year old Bode (via soldier terminology) creates a certain stereotype about his mental age. In the adaption he is clearly well into his later teens but was much younger in the comics making his interactions with Bode seem more natural. Why they chose to increase his age I’m not sure unless they had trouble finding a suitable actor of a younger age. Again it unintentionally delivers a certain message of normalising prejudice, about his ability to function effectively in society intentionally or not, to audiences regarding people who are not neurotypical. In truth it’s an essay all on it’s own. It doesn’t have much impact on the first season of Locke & Key but may come up next time…

What is the series like besides the similarities?:

Episode 5 certainly comes across as a ‘breather episode’ where the powers of one key is used to play pranks at school before the season arcing story line finally begins to come into the forefront with the end of episode six leading into episode seven which is primarily a flashback dominated where we learn why the Locke’s returned to their ancestral home is revealed. I am going to say that there are some scenes in episode one which you will have to accept at face value regarding the father being killed than only now will be given any real context so I partially feel maybe they should have omitted those scenes and left it until now to fully explain the reason for the move to the house so it was more coherent.

Steven Williams as Joe Ridgeway steals every scene he is in. Most, if not all, the young actors do very well with special note towards Jackson Robert Scott as Bode Locke for not coming across as overly precocious nor just rattling his lines off with no authenticity (and extra bonus Hill/King connection points as he played Georgie in the recent duology film adaption of IT). Patrice Jones, though he performs his role well, feels particularly misplaced due to his British accent unless I am missing something.

Dodge I feel is not well acted by Laysla de Oliveira but I don’t know if that’s the actor’s choices or how she was directed. She comes off more as a teen drama ‘queen bitch’ antagonist. For most of the series she only appears occasionally to bully six year old Bode (at least until the end of the sixth episode) rather than a demonic entity with malicious intentions. In a way it’s bizarrely comical. Even at the end of episode eight she comes across like she should be in a teen drama due to how she behaves now she finally comes to confront the Locke children face to face with what she is finally fully revealed. That stereotypical ‘teen drama antagonist’ interpretation is established early on with events of her going on an international shopping spree and generally only interacting with little boys for the majority of the first six episodes (though there is a twist I’m not addressing yet as it’s quite a big one if you’re unfamiliar with the comics which comes into play towards the end) which really undermines what a threat Dodge is supposed to be for nearly the entire first season.

Sam is introduced very early on but only really becomes relevant by the end of episode six and playing an active role in the narrative during episode seven in which his entire backstory is also told at the same time with everything regarding him wrapped up neatly by the end of that episode (including Tyler absolving himself of his guilt regarding Sam killing his father – at which point he also aggressively rejects Sam’s friendship too which felt spiteful but realistic for a teenager probably). The role is performed well but the writing doesn’t do the character justice although there is a potential way for him to return in season two’s events as a ghost so maybe there will be some interaction with Tyler there.

Overall tl;dr opinion?:

I would recommend checking it out if the premise sounds appealing. There is some teen drama in there but it’s relatively well done and doesn’t distract from the greater ‘find the keys, find out what happened with the adults and stop Dodge’ season long arc. The assumption that adults can’t see magic being subverted was good and seems a more developed version of a similar attitude in IT which in the connected universe of King’s works didn’t make much sense beyond some vague insistence that ‘what happens in Derry stays in Derry’.

My only real gripes with the series are relatively minor otherwise. The generic soundtrack is relatively forgettable with little impact on the scenes where it is used and they use licensed music at certain points which seems common right now for Netflix series aimed at a younger audience – if you’ve seen Suicide Squad it’s as jarring and as on the nose here as it was there. There’s a distinct chord played when Lucas appears which is a bit on the nose once you know the Dodge twist. Comic readers will already know it so it’s not that much of a give away but once you notice it it seems a bit of a poor choice to scream out to the unfamiliar that there’s something dodgy about Lucas. The role is very well performed when you consider the context of the role and how it had to gel distinctly with Dodge’s actress and interact with Ellie. It’ll sort of odd he carries the callous yet manipulative tone of the Dodge role off very well after the reveal but the main actress for the role couldn’t…

I would hope for a bit more intensity in the presentation of the antagonistic elements in the story. There is a lot of what people would deem teen drama padding which really slows the plot development between episodes 3 through to the end of 6. All you really learn in those episodes is some of the key abilities so in theory you could skip those episodes and as long as you had an idea of what each of the keys does and the consequences you wouldn’t lose anything in regards to the core ‘stopping Dodge’ storyline. I still enjoyed them though as individual mini adventures towards the great goal and they were good for character development but it does make the series as a whole feel poorly balanced overall.

The ‘echo’ key’s ability doesn’t really make sense in terms of what it does. Why it brings back who it does instead of the intended person? You assume it brings back the dead person completely not who was in the body of said person. That’s probably the one flaw that is inherent in the story which can’t be explained as it’s bringing the spirit back not the flesh presumably. Namely how ‘demon Dodge’ returns with the body and not Lucas Dodge as himself implying possession equates destruction of the soul but it’s never clarified. Also why did Dodge change back to their female form? Probably to be recognised by the children to intimidate them… but then they also got a dress when other times the key only seemed to change the face? I mean there are a lot of questions the end of episode 9 and start of episode 10 throw up to an audience really implying some keys have more extensive powers than are ever portrayed. The ‘ghost’ CGI is… cartoonish but I’m not sure if that’s intentionally stylised or not as it’s so obvious.

In hindsight maybe the season could have been a few episodes shorter to be honest. The pace doesn’t really pick up until episode six but the prior episodes help develop the characters and ease you into understanding the use of the keys.

Check it out as it’s stronger than many adaptions of Stephen King’s works and has some nice twists in episode 8. It’s not as tightly paced as Stranger Things but you’re getting a lot of similar aspects present in this production. If you are unfamiliar with the comics it is easy to get into and an enjoyable story. If you are familiar with them it’s an interesting take on the story with a few of the keys changed to produce different resulting powers.

Conclusion (a.k.a the real tl;dr):

It’s worth checking out but the middle few episodes might seem to go nowhere though they help develop the main and side characters a bit. If you want an IT like story it’ll scratch your itch. If you want an adventure series with a mystery you’ll be given snippets in each episode to deduce it yourself before it’s laid out plainly at the end of the season. There’s also a good twist at the end which will leave you waiting in anticipation for season 2 – and if you don’t want more it can be read as a downer ending befitting a horror series.

The Tears of Lilith by Clark Ashton Smith

O lovely demon, half-divine!

Hemlock and hydromel and gall,

Honey and aconite and wine

Mingle to make thatmouth of thine-

 

Thy mouth I love: but most of all

It is thy tears that I desire-

Thy tears, like fountain-drops that fall

In garden red,Satanical;

 

Or like the tears of mist and fire,

Wept by the moon, that wizards use

to secret runes when they require

Some silver philtre,sweet and dire.

 

By Clark Ashton Smith

The Witch with Eyes of Amber by Clark Ashton Smith

I met a witch with amber eyes

Who slowly sang a scarlet rune,

Shifting to an icy laughter

Like the laughter of the moon.

Red as a wanton’s was her mouth.

And fair the breast she bade me take

With a word that clove and clung

Burning like a furnace-flake.

But from her bright and lifted bosom,

When I touched it with my hand,

Came the many-needled coldness

Of a glacier-taken land.

And, lo! The witch with eyes of amber

Vanished like a blown-out flame,

Leaving but the lichen-eaten

Stone that bore a blotted name.

 

by Clark Ashton Smith

Hallowe’en by R.S. Thomas

Outside a surfeit of planes.

Inside the hunger of the departed

to come back. ‘Ah, erstwhile humans,

would you make your mistakes

over again? In life, as in love,

the second time around is

no better.’

I confront their expressions

in the embers, on grey walls:

faces among the stones watching

me to see if this night

of all nights I will make sacrifice

to the spirits of hearth and of

roof-tree, pouring a libation.

 

‘Stay where you are,’ I implore.

‘This is no world for escaped beings

to make their way back into.

The well that you took your pails

to is polluted. At the centre

of the mind’s labyrinth to machine howls

for the sacrifice of the affections;

vocabulary has on a soft collar

but the tamed words are not to be trusted.

As long as the flames hum, making

their honey, better to look in

upon truth’s comb than to

take off as we do on fixed wings

for depollinated horizons.’

 

by R. S Thomas

from No Truce with the Furies (1995)

Two Sentence Horror Stories

I begin tucking him into bed and he tells me, ‘Daddy check for monsters under my bed’. I look underneath for his amusement and see him, another him, under the bed, staring back at me quivering and whispering, ‘Daddy theres somebody on my bed’.

justAnotherMuffledVo


My daughter wont stop crying and screaming in the middle of the night. I visit her grave and ask her to stop, but it doesnt help.

skuppy


After working a hard day I came home to see my girlfriend cradling our child. I didnt know which was more frightening, seeing my dead girlfriend and stillborn child, or knowing that someone broke into my apartment to place them there.

cobaltcollapse


The last thing I saw was my alarm clock flashing 12:07 before she pushed her long rotting nails through my chest, her other hand muffling my screams.

I sat bolt upright, relieved it was only a dream, but as I saw my alarm clock read 12:06, I heard my closet door creak open.

jmperson


The doctors told the amputee he might experience a phantom limb from time to time. Nobody prepared him for the moments though, when he felt cold fingers brush across his phantom hand.

Gagege


The heart attack came and went, knocking Mike into unconsciousness, and as he awoke he could hear the graveside service around him. Somehow the casket was translucent to him and he recognized some of his friends, but his body would not move and he realized with terror what death really was.

rolypolyman


You hear your mom calling you into the kitchen. As you are heading down the stairs you hear a whisper from the closet saying ‘Dont go down there honey, I heard it too’.

comparativelysane


It sat on my shelf, with thoughtless porcelain eyes and the prettiest pink doll dress I could find. Why did she have to be born still?

Horseseverywhere


You get home, tired after a long days work and ready for a relaxing night alone. You reach for the light switch, but another hand is already there.


I kiss my wife and daughter goodnight before I go to sleep. When I wake up, Im in a padded room and the nurses tell me it was just a dream.

StoryTellerBob


Dont be scared of the monsters, just look for them. Look to your left, to your right, under your bed, behind your dresser, in your closet but never look up, she hates being seen.

AnarchistWaffles


I wish I could remember whose these people are. They tell me I have Alzheimers.

Nezzatic


You mutter the words ‘hey dad’ as you recognize the familiar figure of your father in the reflection of your laptop screen. A personalized ringing signifies a text from your dad, it reads: ‘tell mom I’ll be home late’.

meigues


The grinning face stared at me from the darkness beyond my bedroom window. I live on the 14th floor.

bentreflection


I can’t move, breathe, speak or hear and its so dark all the time. If I knew it would be this lonely, I would have been cremated instead.

Graboid27


Neatly laid across my dining room table, I found a dull kitchen knife, a torn, crusty rag, and a Flip video camera which seemed to be recording. I own none of these items.

NuclearPink


Attending his funeral today was really scary. It might have been the constant muffled screams I heard or the worry of someone noticing the dirt on my hands.


The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock at the door.

Fredrick Brown


To the woman who keeps pounding on my door at night. Im not letting you out.

Pizzaface4372


The doctors discussed pulling the plug today. Why don’t they hear my screaming?

BrewDoctor


As I sat staring into the mirror, all I could think was that my face didn’t look right. Honestly, this man’s skin doesnt fit well at all.

Teklogikal


The monsters closed their eyes. And not a single star in the sky was seen that night.

Lithiuminus


The egotistical tyrant convinced them all that he was all-powerful, and they accepted it on faith without question, blindly; they had no choice. All except one named Lucifer.

jasammele


It’s a weird feeling, staring at your own grave. but it’s even weirder when you dig it up and see what lies there.

Pacosheo


“I woke up to hear knocking on glass. At first, I thought it was the window…until I heard it come from the mirror again.”


“I just saw my reflection blink.”


“You start to drift off into a comfortable sleep when you hear your name being whispered. You live alone.”


“There was a picture in my phone of me sleeping. I live alone.”


“In all of the time that I’ve lived alone in this house, I swear to God I’ve closed more doors than I’ve opened.”


“They celebrated the first successful cryogenic freezing. He had no way of letting them know he was still conscious.”


“I always thought my cat had a staring problem. She always seemed fixated on my face. Until one day, when I realized that she was always looking just behind me.”


“My sister says that mommy killed her. Mommy says that I don’t have a sister.”


“I never go to sleep. But I keep waking up.”


“The funeral attendees never came out of the catacombs. Something locked the crypt door from the inside.”


“My wife woke me up last night to tell me there was an intruder in our house. She was murdered by an intruder 2 years ago.


“Working the night shift alone tonight. There is a face in the cellar staring at the security camera.”


”I can’t sleep,” she whispered, crawling into bed with me. I woke up cold, clutching the dress she was buried in.


“While lying in bed trying to go to sleep, I heard my dog scratching my bedroom door. As I got up to let her in, I found her sleeping at the side of the bed.”


Fuan no Tane (2013) Japanese Horror Film Review

Another ‘I watched a Japanese film’ entry.

This time it’s Fuan no Tane, a.k.a Pet Peeves, based on the anthology horror manga of the same name. In the manga the vignettes were apparently ‘based on true stories’ which in modern horror parlance means ‘I made it up but it’s set in a real world place’ – sort of like how the ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ is based on real events – in so far as Texas is a real world place and cannibals exist.

I read the first volume of the manga and most, if not all, the threads of this film come from that. If you haven’t read it then it consists of urban myth stories lasting no more than three to seven pages in length and usually are more humourous than scary (which may be unintentional due to the overly simplistic design used for the ‘scary’ ghosts). For those expecting some ‘Tit-ilation’, as per the tradition of modern horror films having some gratuitous nudity to the point its a cliché, I have to disappoint you and tell you there is none (its more of a Western thing that rarely appears in East Asian cinema). So, to be clear to those expecting it, the bizarre story featured in the manga where a boy finds a demolished house with a pair of breasts growing out the wall, which he gropes being a little pervert, is not featured in this film. However some of the more memorable stories from the anthology are.

If you want explanations of where the ghosts come from, as is common in Western horror films, forget it. The Japanese prefer to exist in the present not reflect on the past in such matters usually. Of course there are exceptions to this but that is usually reserved for cases of cute ghost girls who were part of a tragic love triangle and died unexpectedly e.g. Shikoku (starring Kill Bill’s/ Battle Royale’s Chiaki Kuriyama in an early role) or the Fatal Frame film (which tags on the camera obscura at the end for no real reason having had nothing to do with it the previous 70 minutes). There is a half arsed ‘conspiracy’ hinted at towards the end but really it is unnecessary and convoluted. In fact there is quite a bit to mock in this film. Where it should probably have gone for a slightly irreverent tone it instead plays out earnestly and it’s hilarious but not in a good way.

So onto the film…

The film changes throughout the first part between a family who have moved into a new, but haunted, house and a student who begins dating his female coworker who apparently has a few ‘secrets’ *cough*occult magnets *cough*.

The first scene we are introduced to has 1970s level of SFX human eyeballs sliding on down the highway being crushed by ongoing traffic. Where are they going? What are they doing? Nothing really. This is one of the short stories depicted in its entirity…and apparently these same eyeballs also haunt a house, causing an old man to slip up, when not committing suicide on the highway. Or because the crew liked how cheap and reuseable this practical effect was unlike the CGI they used elsewhere.

A motorcyclist delivery man, who we later learn may or may not be named Seiji, discovers a guy stuck in a hedgerow and we only see half of him vertically as he begs for help. So of course being a good Samaritan Seiji helps pull him out. There is no other half and the half-ghost collapses on top of Seiji and makes him scream in the empty street. Except for a lone girl stood in the background wearing all white. (Clearly an Ayanami Rei reference). He’s a ghost. There are spooky people watching him. There are eyeballs that might have caused an accident. WOoooooooOOOOOOoooooohhhhh are you scared yet?

Guys, slightly drunk or just you classic movie jerks who rarely exist in real life, see an attractive woman walking ahead of them. They cat call to her and one runs up to speak to her face to face. She has an inhuman face – in this case a bale of straw. The Japanese love this kind of ‘looked human but, nope, it was a yurei/yokai. The anal eye one, shirime, always gets people’s attention although its more common to see the ‘blank’ face type, Noppera-bō, usually said to be Tanukis playing pranks.

A little boy wants to pee but between him and the downstairs toilet there’s a shadowy figure lurking in the low lit dark at the bottom of the stairs and it can hang from the ceiling too. In fairness this one is definitely based on children’s reality. There were a few others in this vein they could have easily done like a teenage boy leaving school and refusing to look at a wall because he knows it’s a giant monster face. But instead we get what seems like two stories, and a few loose ends, that suddenly become one in a omnishambles ending. So from here on out you even get time stamps in case you ever find a way to watch this film and want to skip to the good bits.

19.30 A clumsy waiter, soon to be a main character, encounters some ‘badass’ Japanese biker type guys who enter his restaurant and snarl at him. The Japanese are comical when trying to seem tough using foreign influences. Their Yanki bikers, teenager bike gangs based on an exaggerated image of 1950s American biker culture (similar to how Russian Stilyagi are an exagerated version of 1950s rock and roll youths) are a prime example of how they don’t quite ‘get’ what it is they’re aping so amalgamate it with some of their own culture to create a strangely synergistically unique version that is all their own. These bikers serve no other purpose in the film which is a shame as they were far more charismatic than the main cast – and all they did was grunt.

There is a person sat in a dimly lit corner in a mac coat, wide-brimmed hat and a surgery mask. Waiter boy’s coworker, who is also soon going to be a main character soon, stops him serving the guy. She says don’t ever serve that person. (they caught the reflection of the film’s cameraman in this shot too).

The guy of course serves him! He has to! In order to tempt fate and actually give us something daunting to threat over. Well maybe not threat about as this guys a chump asking for death it seems. Or just to spite his coworker. She probably looks at any customer who isn’t bishonen, a J-Pop Idol or whatever passes for an attractive male in Japan and instantly declares ‘I’m not serving that person they’re a ghost!’ and thus is kind of crap at her job probably.

The mystery guy is a ghost with something under the mask… we don’t see what but at this budget level it is probably better to leave it to or imagination as the precedent of ‘human but with a non-human object face’ is giving me flash backs to Reeves and Mortimer in the 1990s.

The ghost follows him home. Well I mean come on he’s the only person whose going to serve him any food or drink. A bit like a stray cat or dog when you think about it.

It watches his apartment from across the street at night waiting beneath a telephone pole. In my head this scene could really take on a different tone with the right music.

Ultravox or something. Or this:

As FBI agent Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks might say “that’s a damn fine cup of water”. Enough to defy passing on for apparently. Quite a lonely ghost really and in the end it didn’t do much except stand outside.

The next section had faulty subtitles so if you read the Misa Kuroi reviews you know I just have to guess what the hell is happening… I did read the manga chapter this is based on but only half remember it.

The evil containing tea-pot: The guy gets invited to his former coworker-now-girlfreind’s appartment. They chat over tea. She asks if there is anything wrong. It’s as if someone or something, is hurting him. He denies it because he wants to seem all alpha male for her and assure progress from tea buddies to D in da PDA-buddies but she sees past his bluff, calls him a liar and becomes enraged. She’s a modern woman and can deal with a beta male for a partner. They kiss and sleep together. Either way ‘mission accomplished’ in his mind I guess…

Time apparently passes quite significantly during a single scene transition as he now suddenly notes, after 5 minutes of screen time together as a couple, that stress has built up between them daily. Sexual tension? Nope can’t be that – that notch is already carved in the bed post for him. Must be something else.

One night he explores her apartment – because that sort of invasion of privacy is always good in a relationship isn’t it? In a small cupboard he finds a grime covered old teapot. Someone who hides dirty kitchen ware instead of wash it – yup that’s early 20 something kind of behaviour – nothing suspicious here then. She appears behind him. Was she there the entire time? It reminds me of that woman who hid in a guy’s flat for years without him noticing.

Yeah she is definitely that kind of crazy – even though it’s her apartment. The teapot was an inherited item and the idea is you rid yourself of negativity by using it. She demonstrates by taking the lid off and shouting into it. She acts like this is normal and offers it to him so he can try. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all…

He notes how the grime has affected not only the teapot but also the surrounding surface. Very observant of him. Maybe he could just man up, get a wet cloth and wipe it down for goodness sakes rather than complain about it since it’s the twenty first century.

As he goes to touch it his arm becomes badly affected by low quality CGI veins and he pulls agonising faces. Me too – the acting is really corny. IMPOSSIBRU style facial contortion levels of acting. Like a constipated orange. She jokes around about it and scares him. And yet he can’t say no to her because… because… it must be true what they say about the skills of crazy people in the bedroom. Think with you head and run for the hills main guy! Or don’t as you don’t seem like the sort of guy who can chat up women easily. If this was an American film he would have a ‘comic relief’, or ‘so-cool-you-seriously-question-why-they-are-friends’ friend telling him she was out of his league. Well it’s a small town and he has no friends so he’s doomed. The urge to dry hump overpowers the brain in such cases.

33.38 The stalker ghost waits for him across the street from his apartment. night-time and daytime it doesn’t matter. He can’t leave his apartment. Again this scene needs its own soundtrack.

It is at this point I begin to confuse ‘met the half ghost’ delivery motorcycle guy from the start and the ‘I was a waiter but now I’m a shut-in hikikomori’ guys. I mean it’s not as if the characters are very distinct. So… yeah a case of ‘the main guy is also not the main guy because the main guy is someone else… but maybe he isn’t’. Even worse, both ride motorcycles so… yeah. Distinct characters. They have very similar haircuts too and have that overall indistinct ‘attractive guy’ look so… One dies at the and the other doesn’t.

‘Spoilers’ you cry. ‘Horror clichés’ I reply. No one is getting out of this experience untainted.

35.25 The theme tune of the movie plays. Was all of it so far just a set up? Hell even the James Bond ones don’t go over 15 minutes at most for their cold openers! Ghosts are drawn to the electrical charge of the overhead power lines. I know because I read the manga to know the context. To you, watching it without context, it’s cloth rags drawn to the static of the power lines as if they’re acting like a Van Der Graf generator. See you’ve learned some science in todays account so it’s not been completely pointless. Either way its some bad CGI again. For all their technological advances the Japanese don’t seem bothered by sub par CGI use. Maybe they use the logic ‘it’s meant to look unreal… bad CGI looks unreal… so case closed’.

We are back with the family from the start of the film. Power suddenly goes out across the town for no reason. The boy finds a flashlight for his family. He flashes it on and off and they joke about having a disco. This is meant to endear them to use despite us all knowing, from experience, what’s coming up next… Him being told to knock it off, disciplined and told treat the situation seriously? Nope. Of course not. He really deserved a slap to be honest. Kid or not this was an annoying sequence. I bet they didn’t have any candles or matches in the house either yet risked him breaking the torch for a bit of ‘look this is a loving family’ forced character dynamics.

He switches it on permanently and sees a disfigured ghost behind his parents and so of course drops the torch from shock. Because we all know if you can’t see it then it definitely can’t see you. White eyes. See, no one says it but these dead things all have severe cataracts in their eyes. Blind as bats one and all.

When the father puts it back on their mother has disappeared. A scream echoes through the house. They run towards her location only to find a discarded arm stump and hand. Something falls over. Coughing. A figure grabs the father and stabs him to death as his children watch terrified. Was it the mother? The torch is picked back up by the boy and he looks to his father, then the arm stump and finally the fresh corpse of his dead mother.

The boy is grabbed and his head held. He tells his sister to run. WOAH KID! It’s almost like you are going to be set up as a heroic protagonist we will be seeing more of later in the film as if this was someone’s back story but we just haven’t been told it is yet! She runs out of the house as his head seems to be crushed.

Oh maybe not then…

I will give it to the Japanese. They don’t generally shy away from killing children in horror films if it seems the logical conclusion to a scene.

Back with the couple we see the teapot is being thrown in the river. If it was that easy why didn’t she do it before? Well because she liked the outlet of contaminating the teapot with her negative emotions. Lucky for her it wasn’t over a hundred years old and became a tsukumogami… except it was a family heirloom so probably it could have been. I personally can’t wait for Fuan no Tane 2: Revenge of the Angry Teapot.

It was Yoko, the girlfriend’s, childhood being recounted everytime we saw this family you’ll be surprised to hear. That was actually a nice surprise as usually female characters can seem like window dressing in Japanese films. She is still depicted as a helpless victim so that’s not so good but baby steps.

Also note I finally learn their names at this point. Not intentionally but the subtitles finally got around to actually mentioning them. I think the subtitler also began to get confused between restaurant boy and delivery boy.

She tells her boyfriend they found the father’s corpse but not those of her mother or brother. Ever since then she has the ability to see ghosts etc. That’s how ESP and other occult powers work. Sort of like Spider-man except the spider just walked across his hand rather than intentionally bit him. A guy who will soon die she says i.e. Seiji the protagonist a.k.a the boyfriend she is speaking to or is it the shut-in? SHOCK! We get a flashback to the half corpse and she was the girl who was down the road watching him. I thought they had skimped on the budget for background extras after the restaurant scene but apparently this was intentional. Very Rei Ayanami of her then… He huddles up at home under a blanket. Him. The other guy. The one with a ghost stalker. You know who I mean.

46.00 The stalker ghost is gone from the street. Seiji notes a hand sticking up out of some nearby garbage on the street and hides away again. He considers it is probably a fake. He laughs. Ha ha ha yes all this stuff about a stalker ghost who has made you sit under your blanket for the past… however long the couple have been going out which must be over a month by now at least… Yeah it’s all just make-believe that someone has been stood outside your apartment waiting for you. He decides to go look at the rubbish bags and finds out it’s a mannequin’s hand. Ha ha ha. But UH OH a voice calls out that someone is touching her hand! He turns and sees a woman with a hideous face missing her hand and she starts hitting him with a hand axe or hammer… a piece of coal on a stick? He is hit over and over. Very slowly. Very very slowly. Incredibly slowly. Without any ‘striking’ sound effect as he cries. Obviously there was no budget for a foley artist. He goes home. That… that was rather non-commital for a sudden assault. It reminded me of the following:

Seriously…

50.00 – the ‘funny face’ symbol, which looks like a melted plug socket, recurs on someones door as a badge. I remember this face from the manga and it was one of the stupidest stories that went nowhere yet seemed a favourite of the author. The owner flicks it away but it reappears. He ignores it. Heroes always ignore danger. I think this is motorcycle-deliver-man-who-saw-half-ghost’ guy. He has a motorcycle so let’s just assume it is. He has a leather jacket. He’s a protagonist. Let’s not discuss it any further.

Night time – his next door neighbour, an attractive lady, returns and washes. The water in the bath next to her bubbles and a ghost begins to rise. Freddy Kruger is that you? Oh, wait, no they’re just doing something similar. Next day the guy goes to investigate the noise outside and finds a police investigation and onlookers there. Did he seriously not hear anyone outside? I mean seriously? I know the Japanese have this cultural thing about being considerate of others but I think a load of the local goose-neckers and old women housewife gossips wouldn’t be that considerate. Yoko appears and expositions about… stuff. Not important stuff. Just ‘there be ghosts’ vagueness. Honestly you won’t figure anything out from what she says. The subtext is ‘I’m a mysterious girl with connections to the supernatural’… which we already know Miss ‘Shouts-In-Teapots’.

The guy blames the badge symbol. Good call although would you really lead to that conclusion if you were in his position? Someones been murdered? Can you imagine Columbo, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, Porfiry Petrovich, Erast Petrovich Fandorin, Kogoro Akechi, Kindaichi Kosuke, Tintin, [insert the names of any other detectives you know] to reach such a conclusion?

53.40 Seiji survived the light pummeling though he now has a bloody bandage on his head. So either he under-reacted, over-reacted or had a delayed response and should have some brain swelling at this point and already be dead. The film ignores this more interesting possibilities and its a case of ‘he’s got a boo-boo on his bonce’ here. Yoko had been taking care of him. So she’s having it off with both guys. Well she is ‘supernaturally’ aligned and so its a given she is a bit of a ‘lady of the night’ morally. Deny it. Tell me there is a group of mythologies where women are not depicted as tempresses. You can’t, I bet.

Maybe this guy isn’t Seiji. I don’t care as mentioned earlier. He panics and she tries to calm him. She admits the town is… but doesn’t finish what she is saying. She tries to comfort him then flies into a rage telling him maybe he should just leave. she tells him the town is saying die die die die die! Bunny boiling alert! She then kicks him, an injured man, and tells him to go die and leaves. The Japanese view of women… The guy decides he needs to leave and can’t do as Yoko asked. Defying the order to die… um, good for you? Stand up for yourself Mr MGTOW! Oh well we got this far without the awkwardness of japanese narrative logic creating out of character moments just to justify plot developments so let’s just ignore this scene. She didn’t turn into a massive malformed demon so clearly it wasn’t an RPG boss fight he needed to complete in order to progress the story.

56.00 – Now the stalker ghost and hammer ghost girl both wait in the street together and Yoko walks past his apartment glancing up at it. What song fits this scene? It’s hard to say…

I mean… I assume they grew up in the town.

56.40 – Guy returns to his apartment and the face symbol is there again. He peels it off and puts it on next door’s or it magically attached when he flicks it. Very heroic to let yet another person fall victim to it when he knows the consequences. Next morning there is another crime scene and Yoko. The guy must be a deep sleeper and his alarm clock has a radio that plays at full blast as he does his morning routine. That’s the only explanation. A suicide by hanging this time. She tells him to ‘leave that evil thing alone. wherever the symbol is stuck it’ll certainly … bring their end’. Thanks Miss Exposition but you’re a few scenes too late.

56.56 – Another little boy protagonist who is talking to his family writing and drawing about a scary faced ghost he can see called Ochanan. It’s a stupid face. in the manga it feels more like a joke story but here they try to make out there’s some weird conspiracy about it. Seriously it doesn’t get explained and as far as I know there is no sequel so it seems very stupid to base the main storyline around this gag story in what is, I assume, meant to be a seriously toned film. It’s very weird and it would freak you out but not in a way that you wouldn’t instantly just kick it in the face for invading your privacy. An adult shows another adult a photo of the boy with the ghost in a window behind him.

Are you scared yet? No? Shock! Have some respect! I mean it’s not as if at this point I was myself seriously considering having a nap since nothing interesting has been happening during the sedate pacing of the film…

Guy looks at his next door’s front door and gets on his motorbike. Yes you just allowed someone to die for no good reason because you are too cool to risk seeming paranoid by saying ‘hey, someone died here so… you know… maybe consider moving?’ Cool guys let people die. Especially when they could be riding about on a motorcycle instead.

1.01.00 – The coworker guy is still stuck in his flat mumbling to himself. Someone approaches the building. Footsteps can be heard. Tension builds and it’s Yoko. Isn’t that more scary? I mean between a girl who kicks him and tells him to go die versus a ghost who stands under s street light at night I would go with the less immediate threat personally. She tells him to hurry and hide. He looks out the window. The ghosts are not there. No they have common sense unlike you.

1.04.20 – Seiji a.k.a. biker-boy is on his motorcycle recalling Yoko’s words. He decides to live… Speeds up… The sun glares blinding him… He hurtles into the same hedgerow he saw the ghost at. He is the new ‘Mr vertical sliceghost’… or maybe it was his own ghost he saw at the beginning but didn’t recognise. Trust me it make sense I offer this suggestion once you learn the ‘it was her family all along’ twist isn’t the only time related story twist of this film.

1.05.40 – Yoko’s coworker runs out his door and she slowly follows. She isn’t going to escape with him. She says she can’t leave the town. SHE’S A GHOST!?

Probably… or an ‘occult girl’ stereotype which is popular in Japan. I mean I’ve seen enough supernatural/occult related Japanese media to say that this sort of character is a stock figure for such tales and rarely gets given much of a background beyond the sort of ‘she’s a bad girl’ kind you get for female roles in 1950’s films. It’s like that bit in Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows where the daughter suddenly turns out to be a werewolf and she tells her mother to ‘just deal with it’. Seriously, that scene was asinine… It’s the same deal with these ‘oh so cool’ occult girls in Japanese productions. You are not told much of their abilities so they just make them up as needed like a Silver age Superman or Batman with his utility belt. It doesn’t make for drama and your budget doesn’t allow for spectacle to distract us from this like some of the recent Marvel films do. If you don’t give people a reason to care for a character then they won’t. Especially one who seems to be dealing with the situation fine and is fully in control.

Yoko is just Misa Kuroi under an alias! If you rounded up all these generic Japanese occult girls from various series they would have an ‘I’m Spartacus’ scene – except in this case they really would be interchangeable. Long dark hair and pale skin are always essential. Monosyllabic communication is also often a common trait. Any dismissal of others is an added bonus for depicting such characters. After all they do know what is going on and the normal people freaking out, because a creature who defies all physics and just ate a few people after passing through a wall unhindered, is just being pathetic obviously.

Its been hinted throughout the film (poorly) she is something to do with the supernatural conspiracy of the town. She kissed the guy goodbye. It lasts a bit too long really. It’s a goodbye kiss… FOREVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRR

Seiji crashes and the badge flies through the air landing by some kids playing football in the street. They, being stupid kids who touch shiny things, pick it up and put it on the coworker’s motorcycle as Yoko watchs them do so while maintaining the kiss with the guy. Seiji didn’t crash as we suspected he would. He barely missed doing so and leaves safely riding past Yoko and the coworker who are still in the process of kissing…

Clearly it’s never mentioned but they have to have gills to have been kissing this long. They’re descended from the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Deep Ones, Mermaids (Ningyo for those wanting it to all be Japanese mythology… so she could be a Yaobikuni like figure in such a case and if so the whole time loop thing reminds me of the PS2 game Forbidden Siren) or any other such figure – take your pick of ‘people who don’t need to breathe the normal way’e.g. Quiet from Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain.

1.08.30 They say farewell finally and he goes to ride off with the badge stuck to his motorbike. Can you see what’s coming? You don’t get a reward for guessing. She watches him head off. On the motorway he is muttering about how he can escape destiny/her/being the other guy/this film. He rides and there are some good static overhead shots in fairness to the cinematographer. Shame they arrived so late to the production as it might have at least been a visually interesting film otherwise. He thinks he made it. Of course he does. If he thought ‘I haven’t made it’ we wouldn’t be able to criticise him. Then he sees Ochanan boy hanging onto him and he crashes into the hedgerow. Wow what bad CGI on the boy’s face. It’s actually more hideous than if they had used any of the budget on better effects. The coworker is now like the vertically cut ghost from the earlier part of the film. Maybe he was the ghost from the earlier part. Who knows. All the guys in this film are interchangeable.

… wait did they have two versions explaining the ‘vertical ghost’ thing. I am not sure. Did I rewind the film a bit and watch the same sequence? I… what… it’s like there’s some sort of time warp… *cough*hint*cough*

1.11.15 A press conference of a well dressed man and woman shaking hands in front of a banner with the Ochanan face symbol on it. Either they are in government or business together it’s unclear. There is no explanation so this scene is completely random except to suggest some sort of ‘curse handed down by the region’s ruling samurai family. A side story which only now gets introduced (though I added suggestions to find a way they possibly tried hinting at it very poorly earlier in the film).

Seiji pulls up to the side of the road watching the sunset. He wonders about Yoko…. who then turns up. he realises he lived. She changed his fate then? They silently stand by each other watching the sunset over the steelworks of the town. This is romantic scene gold. He says there were no more stange incidents and he graduated university with Yoko. Umm… what? Seriously? What has this to do with anything?

A photo of the Ochanan writing boy, who I assumed to be Seiji in the past, is shown static on-screen. But no, in fact, Seiji married Yoko and this boy is their son. The boy was/is haunted by Ochanan.

So all this time the boy writing was ‘in the future’ of the main narrative. The family of Yoko, Seiji and the boy sit having dinner with Seiji’s father who is admiring the boy’s drawing of Ochanan. He tells Seiji when he was younger Seiji also saw the ghost. The grandfather says how there are two Ochanans. one whose eyes slant upwards is the one to be beware of. (In the manga they also mention the good one but that is skipped here which makes mention that this is ‘the bad one’ awkward as there is only the one version of it ever addressed).

The boy sees Ochanan in the slightly ajar futon cupboard behind his mother as fuzzy CGI. Terrifying… The lights go out. The boy finds the torch and gives it to Seiji. It goes on and off. Everyone has disappeared. Daiki is the boy’s name. Did we need to learn that at this late stage? No, not really. There is a crash and coworker is there in his half cut form and Seiji sees his dead father who, along with the coworker, begins crawling towards him. SHAKEY CAMERA TIME! Seiji gets a knife and stabs the ghost repeatedly. Seiji recovers and finds himself stood in Yoko’s old home having murdered her father and mother. He killed his in-laws (as many no doubt wish they could)! But that was the past and this is the future so.. so… so time is cyclical? He travelled back through time? Or did the kitchen scene and him overlap just for that brief moment in time thus creating the illusion of a ghost in both scenarios? It just throws up too many questions…

Its like the Forbidden Siren series on the PS2… except that made sense and justified the looping time frame.

1.19.54 Yoko and Daiki are safe but Seiji is missing. A voice begins singing the theme tune. Oh, are we going to have a big song and dance finale!? Yokai and yurei and everyone comes out to do a big parade song and dance to send the audience off? It’s a fox wedding in the rain?!

No… No we don’t. But don’t rain on my parade as it’s a better ending to what we got.

It’s a boy sat facing the wall. It’s Ochanan! So Ochanan is her brother’s ghost? I… how does that work? His face looks ridiculous. (Then who was the ghost that turned him into Ochanan? … Or was Ochanan possessing him and took his form?) Then one of the half corpses comes down from the ceiling for a jump scare.

Cut to black.

The eyes are sliding along the highway again and the song is still being sung. Time is a flat circle.

Ochanan’s symbol is seen on a road sign. It’s the region’s symbol I guess. Yoko and Daiki look over the highway and their faces are now straw bales. So she was the ‘sexy lady walking dow the road being harassed by drunks’ woman too then? So Daiki was always half yokai/yurei? Were stalker-ghost and hand-missing-hammer-girl ghost actually Yoko’s parents? The CGI is badly overlapped onto their faces considering this is the final shot of the film… then the film’s ending theme song of soft rock kicks in. Horror always ends with soft rock in Japan. It’s the ‘music of the devil’ for a conservative audience with delicate sensibilities.

… What.

What was that ending all about? A sequel hook?

My sentiment of this film’s existence and a possible explanation of what they were going for with the time looping twist which failed miserably. You cannot escape your fate – only delay it until time repeats itself.

The film tries to combine a few of the anthology manga’s ‘true stories’ and makes for a really awkward mess in the end. There’s no logic and I made an effort to make it credible but it’s ridiculous. If they played it for laughs I would enjoy it but it seems to be earnest in its narrative. I liked the manga as the brevity of each story meant if you didn’t like one then, within a few pages, there was a different one (albeit a few themes got repeated like ghosts haunting walls or Ochanan) to read. Here they make a muddled mess of a narrative starting off with one idea and then deciding they might as well throw as much in as they can.

Have you see the Goosebumps film? Or at least the trailer? Same thing applies here. Trying to do too much from the source material to appease a wide a demographic as possible and ultimately under serving everything. The various concepts they could have gone with, if they focused on just one or two with common themes, are shown in their most basic form instead of their potential being explored. The stories are, as urban myths, all a bit generic but there is nothing wrong with that as long as you make an effort for the experience to be enjoyable. Sadly they don’t here and probably relied on brand recognition of the Fuan no Tane name for those already familiar with it as an already existing audience. A lot of film making companies do that nowadays but it’s a sad pattern.

This film in conclusion… don’t watch it. It doesn’t bring anything new to the table and it’s either dull or underplays what it does deliver. I came for a fun time – I leave pessimistic. I hope you enjoyed my account of it. It was more fun than the film was.