What are Tales Of Terror From Tokyo? Well, basically, they're five minute long shorts dealing with Japanese ghost stories originally broadcast on television in the land of the rising sun. They're pretty much related only in theme and genre, and aside from a couple of two parters, there's no continuity at all between episodes.
Media Blasters, through their Tokyo Shock line, have assembled fifteen of this five minute short films for the first compilation DVD release. Quality varies from episode to episode and, generally, they're pretty unremarkable save for one or two fleeting instances of legitimate and original horror. Sadly, despite the myriad of talent involved in this concept, most of what we get we've seen done before and we've seen it done better. With only five minutes worth of time to tell their stories, most of the filmmakers have opted to go for quick, cheap scares – and unfortunately that's what makes up the bulk of this collection.
Elevator: Directed By Takashi Shimizu, a girl tries to take a trip up on an elevator but when the door opens, it's full of ghosts who are heading down.
The School Excursion: Directed By Ryuta Miyake, this one follows a girl who uses the rest room only to find that the stall she intends to use is inhabited by a female ghost.
Kengo Nishioka: Directed By Norio Tsuruta, this one follows the ghost of a dead construction worker who visits a woman in her home and wants to know where her husband has gone to.
Visitor: Directed By Keisuke Toyoshima, this one begins with a mother asking her two daughters to watch TV nicely. When the youngest hears a noise at the door she thinks they have company – and she's right.
Covering The 100 Tales: Directed By Ichiro Nakayama, this one tells the story of a reporter who shows up to hear 100 tales being told at a temple. When the group start telling their stories, strange things start to happen and soon visitors from beyond the grave show up, wanting to hear more stories.
Cassette Tape: Directed By Shiro Sano, we begin with a man waking up then going through his tape collection. He puts on a tape to listen to some music and instead hears strange, ghastly voices.
Spilt Water: Directed By Norio Tsuruta, a young girl looks at pictures of her late father and, after going grocery shopping with her mother, may or may not receive a message from him.
Backward Suit: Directed By Ryuta Miyake, this one tells the story of a young woman who is pestered by her well meaning drunk father. The more she ignores him the worse he gets until he starts to show up in a different form…
Examination Room #3 (Parts 1 and 2) : Directed By Akio Yoshida, this is the only two parter on this first volume. A boy and a girl explore and abandoned hospital and once they find Examination Room #3, find it to be haunted by a ghost who has a strange attraction to the young lady.
A Forgotten Item: Directed By Ryo Nanba, this one follows a girl who has just broken up with her boyfriend. She tears up their picture in order to move on, but soon gets strange phone calls from someone or some thing.
Video: Directed By Hirokatsu Kihara, we begin when a young woman enters an apartment building alone to visit her sister. She arrives, enters, they greet, and watch a strange video together.
A Drop Of Blood: Directed By Eiji Arakawa in glorious black and white, a woman enters a store, finds it void of people, and is puzzled to find a drop of blood on a picture of herself.
Enlightenment: Directed By Takashi Shimizu, a girl goes through a box of pictures from her childhood, reads her childhood journal, and receives a strange visit from the past.
Waiting Time: Again, directed By Takashi Shimizu, a man sits in a hotel lobby waiting for his girl to come down so they can go get dinner. While he's waiting he's visited by a creepy long haired girl from beyond the grave!
Considering that Takashi Shimizu directed Ju-On: The Grudge, and that Norio Tsuruta did Ring 0: Birthday you'd think we'd get some originality in here somewhere, but no, most of the stories are more or less the same thing – man or woman gets visited by long haired female ghost, gets scared and either dies or helps the ghost get back to where it needs to go. There's very little variation on the theme outside of that, and it gets quite repetitive fairly quickly, even if you do happen to have a high tolerance for Japanese horror films (and I do).
These were all shot on digital video fast and cheap, and it shows in the lighting and overall murkiness of this release. While the picture isn't terrible considering the origins of the material, there is a softness and lack of detail throughout that hurts the disc a bit – this is to be expected to an extent, but it's a shame that more care wasn't put into making the episodes look a little better than they do on this DVD. The overall presentation of this material is watchable but not much better than that as some scenes are really dark. Lighter scenes fair better and there aren't any problems in terms of mpeg compression artifacts or serious edge enhancement issues.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix is in Japanese with optional English language subtitles that are clean, clear and easy to read and thankfully free of any typographical errors. Dialogue comes through nicely in all of the shorts, as do sound effects and background music. The levels are balanced properly and the lower end is strong enough to enhance a few jump scares that are placed here and there in the various episodes.
Media Blasters has provided trailers for One Missed Call, Dogora, Samurai Resurrection and Sisters but there are no extra features on here relating to the actual content of the feature attraction itself.
While Tales Of Terror From Tokyo is an interesting experiment, not too many of the episodes really show us anything new and instead rely too heavily on a lot of tired ideas. Granted, give minutes isn't a lot of time to tell a story so they more or less have to go for 'fast and cheap' but when it was all said and done, the content on this release, while moderately atmospheric and creepy in spots, felt vacant. Fans of Japanese horror will find some enjoyment scattered throughout, everyone else will want to rent it if they're interested.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.