First up from this anthology series is "The Present" which taps into the scary Santa horror sub-genre (see Tales from The Crypt's "And All Through the House", Silent Night, Deadly Night, Christmas Evil, etc). When Yuko was a little girl her parents warned her that Santa would get her if she was bad. Cut to some years later and a late teen/early twenty-something Yuko has decided to give her virginity to her boyfriend Ryosuke. She, Ryosuke , and some friends take a weekend trip to a big countryside hotel, but Yuko instantly gets a bad feeling and thinks she sees all kinds of strange reminders from her childhood.
No sooner is Yuko deflowered than they hear screams down the hallway and find their friends bludgeoned, hacked, and left in bits. They suddenly find themselves trapped in a splatterfest nightmare where Yuko sees their killer as a "Jingle Bells" whistling mad Santa with a big crazy spur-spiked chain weapon who's turning all the residents of the hotel into kibble for his carnivorous reindeer.
The second story, "Death Make" is a messy little number. At first it seems to be taking a Blair Witch-like route, a group of paranormally inclined people hole up in a haunted building, giving video cam confessionals, being monitored by security cameras, and so forth. The location is supposedly haunted by the ghosts of five girls who disappeared there a decade before. The five investigators are, Rei, a former tv psychic, Manoda, who runs a website about phenomena, an unemployed loser guy, a delusional cutie, and another cutie who draws creepy stuff while in a trance.
The man who put together the experiment disappears before they arrive and the crew is forced to deal with the spooky nonsense- sorry- the mystery on their own. Then it just gets pointlessly confusing. Is it a girlie ghost haunting? Not really, sorta'. Is it a big praying mantis monster? Not really, sorta'. Is it that they are trapped right next to some hellscape dimension? Not really, sorta'. Is it just a group of nightmarish figments come to life? Not really, sorta'. Suffice to say, after suffering through the muddled story and terrible fx, the final explanation will leave a sour taste in most viewers mouths.
I had the same reaction to this volume as I did the first one I reviewed (I've yet to see Vol 2). Its right down the middle a mixed bag, one cool segment, one totally lame one. "The Present" is entertaining because it nails just the right tone, the right amount of humor yet still plenty grisly and overall aims for a deliriousness instead of straight-faced horror. Gruesome, manages some slapstick, has a nice little knowing wink to the audience at the end, making it, for me, a real winner. "Death Make" on the other hand is hodgepodge of several themes, none of which are executed well, from ghost horror, to creature feature, to alternate reality, to out of nowhere Matrix pandering action, to the lame twist ending that patly tries to offer a resolution but feels more like an excuse. Making matters even worse, "Death Make" has terrible production values and fx work that just adds to the annoyance.
The DVD: Media Blasters.
Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. Good image for a tv/video series. The video cam footage in the second segment makes for some obvious and intentional lower grade image quality. Otherwise, the picture is relatively good in all areas, sharp, colorful, with good contrast details and no severe glitches.
Sound: Japanese language 2.0 Stereo with optional English subtitles. Basic stereo track. The subtitle transition is a little unweildly.
Extras: Making Of "The Present" (27:18) and "Death Make" (32:19). --- "Death Make" cast interview (11:18). --- Interview with "The Present" actress Mai Takahashi (6:47). --- Kazuo Umezu Interviews. Each interview, one for each segment, is around 4 and half minutes.
Conclusion: Well, I gotta' lean on a rental purely because I loved one story and hated the other. It's a decent disc with some serviceable extras, so folks who have purchased the proceeding volumes may want to purchase this one. But for your standard viewer, I'd suggest giving it a rental.