I think this might be the first foreign language film on the list this year, which is bad form on my part. There was a time where I viewed a lot of films from around the world, not just horror, and I still do. But there was a particular time where I was watching horror from our Asian friends, so it’s a surprise that this film slipped out of my grasp initially.
Creepy kid movies really came to the forefront of horror with The Ring (There were of course many films before then on both sides of the pond like The Children of the Corn, that one episode of The Twilight Zone where everyone is terrified of that one kid because he has the mental power to do anything, Curly Sue. But that particular brand of creepy child really hit it big when that film was initially released). Noiri isn’t really really child horror, though there are fleeting moments of that, as much as it is just creepy everything.
It has the peculiar conceit of being a documentary within a documentary, if that makes sense. Kobayashi is an Investigative reporter who investigates mainly strange goings on and has a cameraman along to document everything. He then releases these tapes as ‘Paranormal Specials’ and the ilk. We see his final tape. In it he investigates the strange sounds of crying children coming from a house. He talks to the neighbour who’s concerned for her young girl and is the person that called him. He knocks the door of the house, a woman answers who’s a little worse for wear, shouts at him and then slams the door. We see her little boy appear in the window and learn that she moved out shortly after. A day or so later the neighbour and her child die in a car crash. From there Kobayashi moves from one tenuously linked case to another (A psychic girl, a mass suicide) until slowly the events start to draw together.
So it’s a mystery, and I love a good mystery. I also appreciate how it approaches it from the point of view of a complete documentary rather than just ‘found footage’. Those things always start to lose steam when you think about how you’re seeing what you’re seeing (Who edited together all those Paranormal Activity films?) but Noroi manages to avoid that. As a result it’s much more of a slow burn. There’s a lead, Kobayashi investigate it. Sometimes it leads to something, sometimes it doesn’t. Some celebrities play themselves (We get some segments set on a Japanese Variety show, or a Ghost Hunters like show) in footage that makes the whole thing seem a little more ‘real’.
Things get a little weird of course. But almost always in an intriguing way than a scary one. There’s stuff about birds (Flying things not like, you know, women) there’s ancient Japanese Demons, there’s a whole weird thing about aborted fetuses and like most Japanese horror there’s a confused me at the end of it. I am curious if that’s just from not knowing the culture and from watching a film with subtitles. There’s always going to be something lost in the translation so I am curious to see if some aspects make a little more sense to a native speaker than they would to an outsider.
Be warned, it’s also a slow burn. Things don’t really get going in any traditional way until the final act, wherein we’re treated to some incredibly dubious CGI, but it’s fleeting enough to not really be a problem. Up until then though it’s just low-rent, unsettling scenes of people doing weird things with knots. Trust me it’ll make sense when you see the movie…