ContactSales: Fortissimo Films, Amsterdam ([email protected])
Theatrical release: Japan, 17 Oct. 2009.
Presented by The Shock Labyrinth Film Committee 2009. Produced by Asmik Ace Entertainment (JP), in association with Agung Inc. Executive producer: Teshima Masao. Producers: Tanishima Masayuki, Ogura Satoru, Miyazaki Hiroshi.
Script: Hosaka Daisuke. Photography: Tanabe Tsukasa. Editing: Hori Zensuke. Music: Haishima Kuniaki. Production design: Fukuda Nori. Visual effects: Kazuno Tsuyoshi.
Cast: Yagira Yuya (Kawashima Ken), Renbutsu Misako (Toyama Yuki), Katsuji Ryo (Hayashi Motoki), Maeda Ai (Takashima Rin, his wife), Mizuno Erina (Miyu, Yuki's younger sister), Matsuo Suzuki (Detective Tanba), Nakamura Kumi (Yuki & Miyu's mother), Yamanaka Takashi (Detective Katsuno), Hiroaka Takuma (young Ken), Matsumoto Hana (young Yuki), Mori Daigo (young Motoki), Arakawa Chika (young Rin), Ito Sei (young Miyu), Nakajima Hiroko (Ken's mother).
The Shock Labyrinth 戦慄迷宮
2009, colour, 3-D, 1.85:1, 88 mins
Directed by Shimizu Takashi (清水崇)
By Derek Elley
Fri, 28 May 2010, 15:26 PM (HKT)
Japan's first live-action 3-D movie is low on real shocks but high on sustained creepiness. Some theatrical beyond Asia, on strength of director Shimizu Takashi's name, prior to healthy ancillary.
Japan, present day. After 10 years away from his hometown, Kawashima Ken (Yagira Yuya) takes the train from Tokyo to see his childhood friends Hayashi (Katsuji Ryo) and Rin (Maeda Ai), who have since married. However, the blind Rin is being haunted by memories of their mutual friend Yuki (Renbutsu Misako), who disappeared a decade ago after an accident in a funfair's House of Horrors. The night Ken arrives, Yuki suddenly turns up, battered and bruised; but Miyu, her younger sister, says she always thought Yuki was dead. The four of them take Yuki to a hospital, where the deserted corridors lead back in time to the House of Horrors in 1999 and Yuki starts to take revenge for the past.
As The Grudge 呪怨 (2002) and its various versions/sequels have shown, SHIMIZU Takashi 清水崇 has always been stronger on atmosphere than pure horror and on circular narratives rather than linear storylines. The Shock Labyrinth 戦慄迷宮 (2009) again shows these trademarks but this time they're married to a more straightforward plot (with a few nice twists at the end) and with 3-D that really enhances the movie. The extra depth of field is particularly effective, not only in the early apartment scenes between the childhood friends but also in the long red-carpeted corridors of the House of Horrors and some genuinely shocking morphing effects. This is one 3-D movie that won't pack half its punch in its flat version.
Shimizu manages to sustain the mystery and tension right until the end, by seamlessly moving between past (the House of Horrors) and present (the modern hospital) to create a single location in the characters' memories. The basic slasher plot has only enough material to sustain a half-hour short but Shimizu juggles his decorative effects (a floating bunny, water droplets, etc.), various sexual tensions between the main characters, and repeated motifs (Yuki being dragged into darkness, Yuki walking up a circular staircase) with considerable skill. Even better, the whole package does finally make some sort of sense at the end.
There are vague parallels with William Castle's classic 1959 shocker, House on Haunted Hill but also with numerous funfair/horror movies over the years. (The film was actually inspired by the Haunted Hospital at Fuji-Q Highland amusement park, at the foot of Mt. Fuji, which claims to be the world's largest haunted attraction and whose exteriors are used in the movie's flashback scenes.) However, in his main dramatic fumble, Shimizu seems unsure whether to go the full funfair hog by having the dummies come to life and participate in the finale or to keep the focus on the main story and characters.
Within the limitations of a genre slasher, the cast is fine, with the women (especially MAEDA Ai 前田愛's blind wife and MIZUNO Erina 水野絵梨奈's confused sister) slightly more characterful than the men. The main weakness is YAGIRA Yuya 柳楽優弥's unsympathetic, pop-eyed performance as Ken, who slowly turns out to be central to the whole mystery. HAISHIMA Kuniaki 蓜島邦明's lullaby-like, wistful score is a big help in knitting the whole thing together, and TANABE Tsukasa 田辺司's photography moves easily between modern-day normality, diffused pastel flashbacks and the dank corridors of the House of Horrors. Overall, it's notable how Shimizu's technical proficiency has increased since making the Hollywood version of The Grudge. The running time of the original Japanese theatrical version is 95 minutes.