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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Tokyo Psycho
Tokyo Psycho
Panik House // Unrated // February 28, 2006
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted February 13, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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Tokyo Psycho (2004) is a tale of love. Well, the kind of love where you stalk a girl and send her weird fragmented notes tied together with piano wire, with the words "You Will Marry Me." scrawled on them, and have pictures of the girl smeared with blood and punctured by staples. Okay, maybe that's not love.... It's that other thing.... What do you call it?.... Totally batshit crazy.

Young, pretty Yumiko (Sachiko Kokubu- Onmyoji, Menotto), who runs a design agency with her best friend Moe (Mizuho Nakamura), is having problems. She's been receiving strange letters which she initially cannot figure out until she goes to a school reunion. At the reunion, her fellow classmates help her recall a one semester student who was pulled out of school and rumored to have gone crazy. The student, Mikuriya (Masashi Tamaguchi), had a crush on her, and a little internet digging reveals that he did indeed go crazy and strangle a few people with piano wire. The packages keep coming, and Yumiko's fears grow worse. She enlists the help of a detective agency that bends the law, hoping to track down Mikuriya's whereabouts, but her stalker may have already gotten closer to her than she thinks.

I popped in the flick knowing absolutely nothing about it. After it was over, my initial impression was that it was a fairly standard bit of direct to video, shot on video horror. Nothing great, low budget, limited, innocuous. But, then I got into the DVD extras and found out it was made by a fairly established Japanese horror director, Ataru Oikawa of Tomie fame, and based upon a story by Japanese horror scribe Yumeaki Hirayama. My first reaction was that the film was probably made by total novices or fresh out of school film students, therefore I was a little forgiving with its quality. But coming from professionals, well, Tokyo Psycho is obviously a very throwaway, subpar film.

Compounding matters further, DVD extras, like the text article and the commentary, note how the story was inspired by true life cases, the most notorious being the late 80's Otaku child murderer. Similar to the US blowup over incidents involving spree-killing teens who said they were influenced by Natural Born Killers and Grand Theft Auto, the Japanese public made a big stink over a child murderer who was a die hard collector of violent and perverted anime and manga which he said fed into his fantasies. Now, this is a great starting point for a horrific film and a chance to explore a cultural issue that the makers of Tokyo Psycho completely squandered. The only connecting point to the two stories is that the Otaku murderer sent his victims families creepy letters, pictures, and body parts of their children. Tokyo Pyscho's psycho does the same to his obsessive object, but he has no back story whatsoever other than the bland, crazy guy in middle school who grows up nuts. Strangely, if this DVD were barebones and I didn't know how much wasted opportunity they had to deliver a better film, not only in terms of talent behind the camera but in the actual concept stage, I would have given the movie a higher grade.

Lead actress and former swimsuit model Sachiko Kokubu is quite good and engaging. As a matter of fact, most of the actors do quite a good job, adding color to their characters and never coming across as amateurish. The same cannot be said about our bad guy, who is played cartoonishly as a gibbering maniac.

The film goes for simple little jump shocks, creepy unease, and never really presses the gore or horror. I expected it to follow the pattern of a lot of Japanese DV horrors and be pretty extreme, and the subject matter definitely suggests it could be along the lines of All Night Long. As the film reached its conclusion, I felt it was a setback that it was is less gruesome than an average episode of CSI or one of those SciFi Channel original movies. Atmospheric unease is hard to pull off without a decent budget for set design and cinematography, so this kind of flick is better served going for a little blood and guts.

The DVD: Panik House.

Picture: Non-Anamorphic Widescreen. Well, this is apparently a "director approved" transfer, so I wont make a big stink about the lack of anamorphic enhancement. For a DV film, Tokyo Psycho looks pretty good. There are the obvious drawbacks to being a low budget DV flick. The mdeium has some slight softness, lack of deep contrast, and, in addition, there are instances where some scenes exhibit bad grain, slight edge enhancement, and aliasing. But, overall, I was fairly impressed with the look of the film. Sure, most of the film looks rushed so scenes might have a slightly off composition, but there are very few instances of sloppy lighting or other low budget quirks.

Sound: 5.1 or 2.0 Stereo Surround, Japanese language with optional English or Spanish subtitles. Maybe I'm getting old (I did just have a birthday), but my ears didn't catch much surround treatment. Most of the mix seemed pretty centered with vocals and fx getting the forefront, while the music came in and filled out the sides and rear channels a little. Good subs. I liked how the score did a little 'da-dum' Jaws-influenced thing.

Extras: First, a note on the packaging. The cover is actually a puzzle, that functions, with pieces that can be removed, a nice touch. Inside the keepcase you'll find a sticker.

In the disc: Bios. Nice, informative, but get minus points for trying to suggest those involved need some kind of international validation. Beyond her bio, you get a bonus gallery of some pinup shots of Sachiko Kokubu. — Poster and Still Galleries.— Production Notes.— "True Crime: The Inspiration for Tokyo Psycho" text info.— Trailers for Tokyo Psycho and Teruo Iishi's Blind Beast Vs. Killer Dwarf and Screwed.— Tokyo Psycho Premiere (5:37) footage. Good bit with the actors and director talking to the public before a screening. A little post screening talk too. — Behind the Scenes Featurette (6:15). Begins with some post-wrap party interviews, then moves on to show some behind the scenes filming. — Two audio commentaries, one with Panik House president Matt Kennedy and Japanese licensor Ko Mori and a Spanish commentary track by cine-east.com's Enrique Calvez.

Conclusion: This is one of those times where a DVD company is clearly doing everything they can to package and present a good product but the actual film content is more the stuff of a rental. If you do decide to buy the film, you'll get your moneys worth. But, I gotta' say, for your average horror consumer, this is the stuff of a casual rental. It is a mediocre flick, a bit uninspired, but it has a couple of good points for a low budget DV horror.

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