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Review: Noroi: The Curse (movie)

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Noroi: The Curse (2005)

Directed by Kji Shiraishi

Movie Review: Noroi: The Curse (2005)Noroi: The Curse is a Japanese found footage style movie, directed by Kōji Shiraishi. The main character is a man named Masafumi Kobayashi. He is an expert on the supernatural and has produced a number of books and video documentaries about paranormal activity in Japan. Kobayashi disappeared shortly after finishing his latest documentary The Curse. Only Kobayashi's video footage remains to tell the story and it is presented alongside news bulletins and clips from various different Japanese TV shows.

I had read several very positive reviews of Noroi and, already being a big fan of Asian horror movies, I was really looking forward to this one. It wasn’t what I expected at all and, with so many people saying so many good things about Noroi, I almost feel the need to apologise for saying that the movie failed to impress me. 

In all fairness I must add that I think that this could be one of those movies that work better on a second viewing because the storyline is rather complex and many aspects of it only begin to make sense towards the end of the movie.

The main story begins with Kobayashi investigating reports of strange noises coming from the home of a woman named Junko Ishii.  He knocks on her door, but barely manages to introduce himself before she asks him, "What kind of way is that to talk to me?" and flies into a rage. Kobayashi is quite naturally confused by her strange behaviour.

When he next visits the street the next door neighbour, Ryoko Okui, informs Kobayashi that Junko Ishii has moved away. Five days later Okui and her young daughter are killed in a car accident. 

Clippings from a TV show about psychic children introduce the next important character, an exceptionally gifted young girl, named Kana Yano, who passes all but one of the tests conducted on her and even succeeds in manifesting some water into a sealed bottle. After the show has finished, however, Kana complains of feeling unwell. The doctor cannot find anything wrong with her so Kana’s parents invite Kobayashi into their home to see if he has any idea what the problem might be. He has no answers either, but he feels that the show pushed the children too far. On a subsequent visit Kana is taken ill at the dinner table after the crockery slides her across the table and onto the floor. Two weeks later Kana disappears and a few months after this Mr Yano murders his wife.

Cut footage from a TV show introduces a young actress named Marika Matsumoto. The show was filmed at a haunted shrine, where Marika became extremely frightened and went into a fit. The footage is later aired at a live talk show. Kobayashi and Marika are both present and are discussing the incident. The 'Super Psychic' Mitsuo Hori has also been invited along to examine Marika's condition. He is presently busy trying to protect humans from ectoplasmic worms, but has taken time out to attend and arrives on stage wearing tinfoil coated clothing. His behaviour is as odd as his dress sense and as soon as he sees Marika he attacks her, all the while issuing warnings to her about pigeons.

At this point I had to question Hori's credibility, but pigeons do appear to have a genuine significance to the story. Kobayashi often finds the bodies of dead pigeons outside the homes he visits and in one case he notices live pigeons congregating on someone’s balcony. The person in question is later found hanging from a swing, beside six other people, all strangers to each other, but joined in death as part of a strange suicide pact. One of them is Marika’s neighbour and she is so shaken up by this that Kobayashi invites her to stay at his home. Soon after her arrival though, kamikaze pigeons assault the windows and break their necks. It is all very strange and Kobayashi’s investigation continually leads him to Junko Ishii and the village she used to live in. A village where the residents used to perform a strange annual ritual to appease the wrath of a demon named Kagutaba. The village is no more and the ceremony long neglected because the whole area was flooded when a new dam was built.

Special effects are in limited supply in Noroi and are very poor for a movie that was produced in 2005. The scene where strange alien like faces—or could they be ectoplasmic worms?—disrupt the footage are particularly poor—squares with faces on them stacking up on the screen? It’s nice to see a movie that does not try to rely on special effects, but this one has taken a few too many steps in the wrong direction and even an 80s technician could have produced something better than those blue blocks of face.

Many Aspects of Noroi also made it hard for me to suspend disbelief. Would anyone really take Mr Horoi seriously? He could, perhaps, getaway with all the tinfoil, but his half-baked antics are another matter entirely. He spends so much time screaming and squirming and talking into the tube in his pocket that it is next to impossible to get any sense out of him, yet Kobayashi seeks his assistance on several occasions.

I found this a difficult movie to watch and with a runtime of nearly two hours, it is a pretty long movie, but some of the scenes, such as the one where a ghostly figure show up on the footage from the haunted shrine, did send a shiver down my spine. And in many instances the dark atmosphere generated made me feel as if something bad could happen at any moment, so certain points pf the movie did work for me. Overall though, I found Noroi hard work. Having said that, a small part of me wants to sit through it all over again because I am left with the feeling that there is a lot more to Noroi than I think and I cannot help but wonder if such a complex movie would not work better with dubbed voices rather than subtitles. In general I prefer subtitles, but in this case a dubbed option would have been nice.

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