“I haven’t enjoyed a Japanese feature film this much in a while”

by Ed Blackadder

Cult has been produced by Takashige Ichise, the man behind the highly successful Ring and The Grudge horrors, which is prominently displayed on the posters for this, his latest endeavour. Directed by Kôji Shiraishi, Cult tells the story of three very attractive TV actresses, Yû Abiru, Mari Iriki and Mayuko Iwasa (using their own names) who are sent on an assignment to record the events of an exorcism to be performed at the home of the Kaneda family, by spiritual priest Unsui. It turns out the spirit is too strong for Unsui and eventually an expert in this field is called in to rid the Kaneda’s of their demon. Help arrives in the shape of Neo (yup, The Matrix one), a young man with great power and one glove.

Cult has borrowed from quite a few well-known US and Japanese horrors and put them to good use, with Paranormal Activity‘s multi-camera technique being the most obvious. With their director filming everything, the trio arrive in time to catch all the action first hand (would we have it any other way?) with interesting results. We never have to guess at anything as we get to see pretty much everything as it happens, like the many demons/spirits continually being exorcised from their bodies in various ways. I thought this was a great way to do it as I was never bored.

Directed by
Kôji Shiraishi
Yû Abiru, Mari Iriki, Mayuko Iwasa
Release Date
Ed’s Grade: B

The graphics were very simplistic yet were highly effective in helping tell the story, and that is where this film was a lot better than so many of its contemporaries. Most of the time the “spirits” looked like black worms but then there was this tall demon that, while certainly simple, was pretty creepy looking. We also got some objects moving around by themselves; plates of salt being overturned to create geometric designs, which I thought was cool; spiritual healing, where a demon was in physical form and pulled from one of the girls bodies. We also got a small dog being eaten but this was only spoken of, lest the dog lovers of the world freak, but we at least saw the end results.

Shiraishi would do this thing where he would show us something that you wouldn’t realise was there, then quickly go back only showing a still and zoom in on the image, revealing something vital to the story. The single glove Neo wears could be mistaken by anyone uninitiated in Anime/Japanese cinema for a Michael Jackson thing (plus the fact Neo looks like a Japanese version of MJ), but it’s clearly a nod to the brilliant Anime classic, Vampire Hunter D (based on Hideyuki Kikuchi’s books). Some may not like the way the story doesn’t settle as one minute the person is exorcised, only to discover they still have a few spirits lurking about, but I thought this was in Cult‘s favor. The title, Cult, also gives away something that could have been kept from the viewer as it took a lot out of the surprise ending.

I haven’t enjoyed a Japanese feature film this much in a while, but for anyone into horror of any kind, Cult is definitely one to watch. Subtitles are a problem for lots of people and I can understand why, but this one is worth the effort.