You've certainly got to hand it to these Asian horror writers/directors, as they continue to run circles around the toothless and floundering American horror film industry. At some point in the evolution of the American horror movie we stepped off the path to follow an endless stream of somewhat entertaining, but ultimately shallow slasher films abandoning the very foundation upon which horror the world over is based, the fear of the unknown or more specifically, the Supernatural, that which departs from the physical realm which we call existence and deals with occurrences and phenomena which cannot be explained.
Sure, I guess some people have grown tired of the whole "curse" genre which has swept Japan, the rest of Asia and now the world. Everything from homes to phones, videotapes to websites have been cursed in one way or another over the last few years. It's definitely a genre I have yet to tire of, especially since there is still so much fun and creativity left in the filmmakers. Media Blasters recent release Cursed is no exception. Following in the V-Cinema mode of the Ju-On series, Cursed is about the phenomena surrounding a haunted convenience store.
Oooooh, terrifying, I know. Still, the low budget look and feel work well and actually help deliver some scares and laughs along the way. Nao Shingaki must have the worst part-time job in the world, as she has to work at the local convenience store, which isso reviled that no one who lives in town dares enter. Only those unfamiliar with the place and it's evil reputation are foolish enough to brave its harsh fluorescent lit aisles. Apparently there was a curse placed on the store by the contractor, who mixed the crushed bones of the unloved with the mortar of the buildings foundation. He did this to gain revenge on the crooked owner who was cheating him. Ironically, the contractor was the first victim of the curse, crushed by a cement truck while completing the job.
From the increasingly bizarre owners of the store to the parka-wearing apparition who loiters by the magazine rack, there are a number of odd and eccentric characters populating this haunted block of town. As for the curse itself, it seems to stem directly from your purchases. If something rings up at 6.66 yen, you might want to add a pack of gum to your total, or else you could find a hammer wielding maniac lurking in your apartment, or become possessed by a hideous demon inhabiting your refrigerator. Nao's only ally in her fight against the spirits haunting her is Ryoko, a representative from a larger store chain that wants to incorporate this emporium of evil into their organization.
Apparently, this move is based on a popular book which about some of the strange occurrences which have taken place in Japan over the years. These tales are each woven loosely into the overriding narrative of the cursed store and those whose lives are affected by it. While it's not going to win any awards, it certainly gets a ribbon from me for originality, as the fun and creativity of some of the effects more than make up for the low production value. Some may gripe about the home-brewed CGI, but when combined with the fun DIY aesthetic present in the rest of the piece, how can you not be won over?
Picture: The film is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen format. The transfer looks good and since the film was shot on DV, there is no grain present and little pixellation noticeable, although the low production values show.
Audio: The Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Track (w/English subs) sounds good. There is some nice sound design as well as a decent soundtrack.
Extras: The only Extra included on this DVD is the DVD trailer, which is disappointing to say the least. It clocks in at less than 30 seconds, while the Original Theatrical Trailer, which can be found online, is longer by more than a minute.
Conclusion: I didn't expect much from this title, and that might be the reason why I liked it so much. I've been let down too many times when my expectations get too high for a film. When I saw the Cursed trailer online, I thought it looked like the bottom of the V-Cinema barrel, but instead it was a smart, fun and, yes, even scary movie. I'd like to take a second to thank the acquisitions dept. over at Media Blasters for picking another winner, but for some reason the MSRP seems really high for this title, especially given the almost complete lack of Extra Features. Rent It, you won't be disappointed.