Acceptable entry-level J-horror

Based on a short story by Yusuke Yamada, straight-to-DVD director, Jirô Nagae, has dredged the numerically overwhelming J-pop girl-bands (some boasting enough members to near-fill a small stadium) to cast his horror, Kotsutsubo. It’s mostly based around a typical Japanese school (yup, another one) where a quiet unassuming girl, Eri, stumbles across her best friend, Mitsuko, being perved on the classroom floor by their teacher. Eri wants to help Mitsuko stop this lecherous teacher, and decides to get the powdered remains from a casket, that belonged to a cursed woman, interred at a local cemetery. After attempts to get the sensei to ingest some of the powder fails, another student jealously gives the tainted drink to a different teacher of the female persuasion, which eventually unleashes a murderous long-haired grey-faced ghost, that leaves death and dismembered bodies in its wake (sound familiar?).

Directed by
Jirô Nagae
Natsumi Matsubara, Rurika Yokoyama, Rina Miyazaki, Ai Shinozaki
Originally Released
27 May 2012
Nav’s Grade: B-

I wouldn’t say this was near the same class as the likes of Ringu, but it is still a perfectly acceptable entry-level Jap horror flick. It’s similar in many ways to loads I’ve seen before (and will undoubtedly see again), but where Kotsutsubo stands out a little more is the story. It starts us off in the usual manner of Japanese horror, and slowly builds up a decent atmosphere, allowing us to pick up enough information as we go, but always leaving us guessing at what will happen next. This is something that I find most appealing about this type of Jap creep-flick, and while it doesn’t always work, it worked well enough here.

The young casts were expectedly good, and as mentioned, they had the talent pool to choose from, however, the direction could have been tightened up in places, with one scene in particular that made me wary thereafter. It’s a scene where everything appeared well planned and executed, until we saw Mitsuko trying to trick the teacher into taking a drink of her water-bottle. He takes the bottle from Mitsuko, but then stares at it for absolutely no reason whatsoever, and then gives the lamest bit of dialogue as a reason for saving it for later.

The story itself; the acting and the reveal were good, and the direction was mostly not too bad, but the attempts at scaring the audience were not this films strong point, and were pretty clearly borrowed from much stronger efforts than Kotsutsubo could hope to be. That said, it served as a horror that is worth seeing if you’re in the mood for some Japanese cinema, with nice looking chicks in short skirts, and some interesting gore. Out of the many films now that have had the Hollywood treatment, Kotsutsubo might be one that could work well, if the right director helmed, with a reasonable budget for the effects, and would have helped with the likes of the ending of this movie, making it far more effective.

by Nav Qateel