by Jaime Grijalba.
a.k.a. P.O.V. – A Cursed Film
(Japan, 92 min)
First of all, let me redirect you to my blog once again, because it is of interest for this post. In the recent days I’ve started a new mad-man project, since July 24th until October 31st, there are a 100 days, so I decided to post a review, or whatever I thought was possible, daily starting that day until Halloween comes out, just of horror films, and I’ve been having fun reviewing films that I’ve been wanting to for a long time, and also completing some old ‘in the works’ reviews that I had worked on until actual important stuff appeared in my life, or some other urgent matters seemed more adecuate for posting in the blog. Here is the link to all the pieces I’ve written so far, and if I may, I will use this awesome space that has been given to me every other wednesday to actually add one review to the list, one of a 2012 asian film, the ones that I’m featuring this year for my examination (don’t worry, I don’t know yet, but I’ll be writing on other themes or things next year, if I ever get some time to do it, I start working… I hope). So, this japanese horror film is one of the many that have appeared in a recent surge of the ‘horror found footage’ genre, that since ‘The Blair Witch Project’ has maintained some kind of fame on being the scariest examples of the genre to some, and to others of just being a bunch of gimmicks that don’t actually pay off to anything. The recent popularity of these movies is all fault of the 2007 (not released widely until 2009) US film ‘Paranormal Activity’ and its sequels, that have got even bigger budgets and have been equally succesful in attracting viewers from all over the world, and the rest of the world has answered to the craze, going out and making their own films that swear to God that they are real extracts from real recordings of real happenings that are just too horrific to believe. It is quite impressive how this wave was in some way announced in other earlier films from all over the world, like in the spanish ‘[REC]‘ series, released in 2007 and with its latest installment released this year (a review of ‘[REC]3: Genesis’ can be read at my blog, it is quite good), or the japanese masterpiece that is ‘Noroi’, released there in 2005 (you can also read a review/tribute to this film in my blog, clicking the link up there), that follows the fake documentary approach to show us the horrific circumstances that followed a paranormal investigator. Now, when you compare these international films, done before and after the ‘Paranormal Activity’ craze, with the american films either inspired by the succesful series of films whose fourth installment will be released this october, we can easily see that the international filmmakers (I say international, even though I hate myself for doing this, but it is true that most of these movies don’t make it to the US unless it’s on video) have the upper hand in terms of scares and plots for these films, you can see them and really think that they are real, not as in their american counterparts.
Besides, the fact that the films are in other language, they feel as if they could be real happenings, who knows what kind of legislation they have! (That kind of attitude is obviously not blatant, it is more of a thing that is deeply buried inside our subconcious that is always asking the question… how could these be real?) There’s also an unknown audiovisual world that goes beyond the movies that is quite unknown for us that don’t live in Japan… of course, we know the crazy game shows and the anime, and even sometimes the TV series… but they also have their own talk shows, morning shows, direct to dvd ‘how-tos’ and who knows what else different takes on various kind of things, all of it that is hinted at in the narrative of ‘Noroi’ in the sense of VHS tapes that follow a paranormal investigator that is quite famous, or shows where they show experiments made with kids with special powers, or deleted material from a variety show, or many other things that maybe now are more varied than ever with the explosion of the internet audiovisual content and the fact that anyone can grab a camera and record anything they can think of. The other films from Koji Shiraishi, the director of ‘Noroi’, also show us that aspect of the modern japanese life, with ‘Occult’ released in 2009 and more than ever, the 2010 film ‘Shirome’ that features a girl J-Pop band that go to a haunted school to ask for a wish, all in the frame of a tv special that never airs because of the awful circumstances that sorround the happenings… which is quite interesting when you go beyond the watching of the film and find out that the band is real and that its quite popular, and that this film is inside a list of films and TV specials that features the same band in different adventures. So, in that case, I may be certain to say that considering the film that we are going to give a look at today, Japan is making the best and most interesting horror found footage films in the world, and that United States studios should really retire the genre and leave it to the professionals, the Paranormal Activity films have been scary at parts but have never achieved the sentiment of dread and continuous sense of danger that the spanish and japanese films have made in my soul and skin. This specific film puts the found footage element in its title, making it clear what kind of film it is (P.O.V.), it is also a ‘cursed’ film, an element that appears later in the narrative, but even if it is announced, it still becomes a surprise when it comes into place.
The movie also plays with the wild audiovisual world of Japan, starting as a making-off video of a low budget TV show featuring two actresses that knew each other from before, having big hopes of making it big in our screens. The film follows the two main actress arriving the office where they have this little studio where they start recording their show, that being quite honest, seems like its destined to be broadcasted in youtube due to the cheap aspect of it. Nevertheless, they have a thing to talk about, and here’s where we shift to the tape that is recording the program, when they start showing us ghost videos. The host, an actress, is hesitant about the subject, while the other actress, the guest, is willing and she came to the show looking forward to it, so we go on and we start seeing some spooky videos: first, we see an empty public bathroom, and suddenly a door of one of the stalls swings open, the anonymous cameraman goes forward and films inside the stall to find… nothing (the second time they see this clip, they see a hand taking the door as it opens, spooky, as when the camera approaches in the same fashion, the stall is still empty); the second clip is a row of public showers, like those in a gym, the camera approaches one of the showers, that goes on without any intervention… here is where the host starts feeling bad, and the guest is also disturbed, since she knows the places, all of them come from the same school that she went to not so many years ago. She starts to feel sick at the same time that the image from the videos start to fuzz and we see someone filming from the roof of the school showing us the sorroundings, and then approaching the ledge, and as the cameraman prepares to jump, the camera turns and we see a lady dressed in school uniform, laughing and with blood all over her face, the image cuts, at the same time that we cut to behind the scenes footage. The producer and director try to calm the girls, but misfortune and hauntings are in store, as they record how they are trying to calm the girls down, a figure of the same lady appears in the window… they sure are haunted, and they want to go to the source of the problem: the school.
The rest of the film is about how they react about what must be one of the scariest 30 minutes on film in the recent years, with lots of impressive shots in the subjective mode of the film, with scary situations and one or two that will really make you jump out of your seat. The fact that the two actresses are playing themselves (they have a certain small career on TV and small films, but surely that will change after the stupendous turn they give here, showing off their acting abilities at the fullest potential) and the whole context of the film as a mix of making offs, tv/internet shows, the filming of the bulk of the material inside the school, interviews, and some other elements that I really don’t want to spoil and that I wish for you all to see. The film isn’t going to go on the history of film books, but it should go inside a book of this horror craze that we are going through, because it manages not only to create inventive and scary set pieces, but at the same time it is a commentary on that kind of films as well, specially when you look at the third section of the film, that will remain unspoiled by me, because I want most of you to actually see one of the films I’m talking about (here, wink wink). So, I liked this movie, even though the filmmaking wasn’t top notch, it managed to make you feel dread in every single frame of silence, that was also well handled in all the midst of always-talking-screaming characters that one usually founds in these kind of films. There are really scary parts and some extremely good acting to round it all in a nice bundle that should be seen by any fan of japanese or horror cinema, because it is one of the best examples of what the year can offer us so far. I expect that you have some nightmares after you see this one, that’s the best sentiment you can give to an horror fellow viewer, after all, scary movies are so scarce these days, that one has to thank for a jump scare. Please, continue to check out my blog, many scary and horror movies continue to be featured in a daily basis… and about my short film, those who want to see it must email me, that’s all.