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Shadow of the Wraith
Since I certainly wouldn't be likely to swallow an American horror movie that's basically a glossy vehicle for a pair of pop-singer siblings -- odds are that I'll have even less patience for one from another country. I mean ... if, during their New Kids on the Block heyday, Donnie and Mark Wahlberg popped up in a tedious little fright flick, I'd probably spend 90 minutes yawning and laughing before the movie got remanded to the part of my brain that still remembers Glitter, Hard to Hold, and Cool as Ice.
Koji & Yuichi Matsuo are a pair of pop-singer brothers who go by the name of "Doggy Bag," which at least explains how two such uninteresting actors got to star in their own movie. Needless to say, the brothers do get a few opportunities during Shadow of the Wraith (a.k.a. Ikisudama) in which to play their singularly uninspiring music ... but let's get on to the movie.
Some kind of a 2-part anthology (but not really), Shadow of the Wraith tells the story of a creepy little loner of a high-school girl, an intensely shy young sweetie who is apparently able to be in two places at once, smash glass with her mind, and cause the death of any silly girl who happens to make goo-goo eyes at the oh-so-dreamy Ryoji. But just when the story starts to congeal into something halfway interesting ...
... we switch to an entirely new story. (This is not precisely the way that a good anthology collection works, people.) Now we have Ryoji's brother as he's forced to contend with the exact same kind of potentially haunted home that we saw in The Grudge. Nothing particularly exciting or unexpected happens in story #2, which kind of makes story #1 seem a whole lot better -- if only by comparison.
Directed by one of the filmmakers who helped to kick off the "modern era" of Japanese horror, Evil Dead Trap's Toshiharu Ikeda, Shadow of the Wraith sure does look sleek and pretty ... but this particular pair of poltergeist tales moves at a snail's pace and tosses out next to nothing we haven't seen elsewhere. Those hoping to see the sort of high-end gore quotient found in Evil Dead Trap will be sorely disappointed, while those on the hunt for the creepy Japanese jitters will find that the yawns outnumber the yipes.
Video: Ventura Entertainment does deliver Shadow of the Wraith in a crisp and clean Widescreen (1.85:1) Anamorphic transfer, so if you are a fan of this particular flick, you'll be happy to know that the visual presentation is pretty darn solid.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 - Japanese with optional English subtitles.
Video: A collection of trailers for Shadow of the Wraith, Resurrection of Garden Wolf, Never Give Up, Shikoku, Inugami, and Isola.
I find myself slightly bored by even the most highly esteemed examples of Japanese Horror Cinema, so clearly you can take my criticisms with a grain of salt. But I'd be lying if I said that Shadow of the Wraith did anything besides inspire me to brew a pot of coffee. If you're a big fan of horror of the Asian persuasion, I'd say give it a rent one night and see if I'm wrong.