Media Blasters follows up their two Tales Of Terror From Tokyo compilation discs (each one housing roughly fifteen short films clocking in at about five minutes a piece) with Tales Of Terror From Tokyo – The Movie in which seven filmmakers are given the chance to each present a short film that is supposedly based on an actual supernatural incident that took place in and around Tokyo, Japan.
They're not really linked much at all, as opposed to better known older horror anthology titles like the kind that Amicus used to make but they are least fit into the same kind of groove in terms of themes and what not so it makes sense to have them all together here. The eight shorts play out as follows:
The Night Watchman by Akio Yoshida: For some reason, a security company assigned to guard a building keeps losing employees when they're assigned there. One of the managers takes it upon himself to go to the property and investigate things on his own and when he does, he soon learns that the place is completely haunted. All but one man has left, and he only manages to keep himself sane by convincing himself that it's all imaginary, that the ghosts only exist in his head. This is a reasonably spooky start to the movie. The female ghost who manifests towards the end of the movie might be a bit of a cliché by this point in the game but Yoshida still manages to create some eerie atmosphere during her scenes, which is a testament to his skill. It isn't easy to scare us with something we've been beaten over the head with and here he does come pretty close.
Wisps Of Smoke/The Weight by Kosuke Suzuki Kosuke Suzuki is the only director affiliated with the project to contribute two stories, the first of which, Wisps Of Smoke, follows three cute teenage girls who find themselves lost in the thick of a forest. While they're there, they encounter a strange ghost made out of smoke whose various body parts seem to disappear. Suzuki's second entry, The Weight, follows a woman who keeps being startled awake at night quite violently when she feels some very heavy pressure in her lungs and her rib cage. When she wakes up, she's freaked out to see a strange ghostly looking man jumping up and down on her chest. These two are definitely the weakest of the entries here. Suzuki has a very creative mind an a keen eye for composition but the stories just aren't scary, only marginally weird.
Gloves by Hirohisa Sasaki: In a story that is similar to the last one, a woman wakes up at night choking, as if someone is squeezing her neck with their hands. Initially, she thinks that her new roommate might be behind it, up to something sinister or possibly playing some bizarre trick on her. Unfortunately for both of them, the culprit is someone, or something, completely other-worldly. Although this one does drag a little bit and could have used some tighter editing in spots, it's a slick little story that actually has a pretty strong and fairly creepy ending. It's a tad predictable, but it's well shot, well acted, and genuinely interesting.
Full-Length Mirror by Ryuta Miyake: A haunted mirror that's locked away proves to be too much temptation for a pair of high school students to resist, and so they track it down and pull it out of its storage compartment to check it out. Bad idea – one of the kids gets sucked into it and the face of a dead girl soon appears in the glass. Unfortunately for the one kid left, this proves to be the least of his problems, especially when he heads into the gym where he soon realizes that there are a lot more ghosts in the area than he'd ever expected. The strongest short on the entire disc, this one is actually quite scary and very well made. It builds quite nicely and very effectively given its short running time and it'll be interesting to see what comes next from director Ryuta Miyake as there is some serious promise shown here.
Line Of Sight by Keisuke Toyoshima: When a teenage girl plays back some video footage that she recently shot and happens to spy a ghost in the footage, she gets curious and tries to figure out how it got there. Her detective work uncovers a fire that took place in the school where she shot the footage years earlier and the ghost that showed up on the tape was one of the victims, trapped forever in a horribly disfigured form and cursed for all eternity to roam the building. Not quite as good as the one that came before, Line Of Sight is another strong entry and a fairly eerie little story in its own right.
The Promise by Keita Amemiya: A young man needs a place to live and so his uncle cuts him a deal and rents him an apartment in the building that he owns but he tells him before he moves in to make sure that he answers when he is called. With those odd instructions in mind, the first night he spends in his new place exposes some strange paranormal behavior. At first a voice calls out to him, but it isn't his name – regardless, he answers anyway. This continues to happen and soon it's part of his daily routine until one day he's hanging out with his girlfriend and one thing leads to another and for the first time since he's moved in, he misses a reply. When he does, it all hits the fan and he realizes how seriously he should have taken his uncle's warning. If you're able to look past the fact that the uncle rents a seriously haunted apartment to a family member that he supposedly likes, this is a fun one with a good jump scare or two thrown into the mix. Some of the humor doesn't work all that well but the finale is effective.
Hisao by Shunichi Hirano: The last story is the strangest of the lot. A woman, who may or may not be off her rocker, is talking to her son who may or may not be a ghost but who definitely seems to leave a trail of murky water after him wherever he goes, though that's all we ever see of him. From here it switches gears and becomes a supernatural tale of vengeance from beyond the grave, which turns out to be an effective little surprise ending. Not the strongest of the lot but an okay way to end the collection.
How do they hold up? Well, seeing as these shorts are a little longer than the five minute stories we were getting on the two previous volumes, there's a little bit more depth to them but these are still coming at you quickly and without much background of characterization. When it all settles, these are basically just quick little 'boo – gotcha!' jump scares that are fun once but that really have very little replay value. Japanese ghost story fanatics might enjoy this material as there are some neat cultural oddities scattered throughout the proceedings but those without a keen interest in Japanese culture or who have already been exposed to the multitude of Japanese ghost films that have come out in the last ten years will likely see this as little more than a few cheaply made shorts cobbled together to form a feature – which is really what it is, even if it is a fun diversion.
Tales Of Terror From Tokyo – The Movie hits region one DVD with a decent 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Parts of the film look to have been intentionally muted a bit in terms of color reproduction and certain scenes are definitely on the grim side because of this but again, it appears to be a stylistic choice rather than a flaw. Detail levels aren't bad, and there aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts though some obvious filtering is present as is some edge enhancement but overall the movie looks pretty decent on this DVD.
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 a few other Tokyo Shock releases but there are no extra features on here relating to the actual content of the feature attraction itself.
Tales Of Terror From Tokyo – The Movie does contain a few creepy moments and a couple of decent jump scares but sadly offers little in the way of story development or interesting characters. It's worth a look for a few successful surface elements and you could do a lot worse than renting it, there isn't a lot of replay value or really much substance here.
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.