NOROI: THE CURSE (October 8th)
YOU'VE GOT RED ON YOU TAKES PART IN THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE; WATCHING ONE HORROR MOVIE A DAY THROUGHOUT OCTOBER. SOME OF THEM OLD, SOME OF THEM NEW, SOME OF THEM HAVE JUST BEEN ON OUR SHELVES FOR YEARS GATHERING DUST, STILL IN CELLOPHANE...
J-Horror was particularly popular in the west after a terrifying little movie called Ringu crawled its way out of the TV set and into our nightmares at the end of the 90s. It's not as if Japanese horror hadn't existed up until then, because it most definitely had. But it took that film to awake the rest of the world up to the fact that they were producing some pretty scary shit over there. The following decade saw a whole host of J-Horror movies being made, imported and remade by American studios. Ring 2, Dark Water, The Grudge, Pulse, Audition, One Missed Call – people lapped these films up and rightly so as most of them were very good (the remakes of these were a but hit and miss though). There is one film though that was made during the latter years of this boom that has seemingly flown under the radar a little. Although released in Japan back in 2015, it's not been widely available internationally but fortunately Shudder UK is streaming it right now, so I grabbed the chance to finally watch it. That film is Noroi: The Curse, directed by Koji Shiraishi.
It's an odd sort of format really but in essence, it's a found footage mockumentary type dealio. It's about a paranormal investigator and journalist called Masafumi Koboyashi, who strangely disappeared after making his latest documentary called 'The Curse'. This information is fed to us at the beginning of the film and we are then shown the entirety of Koboyashi's documentary. This is where the found footage elements kicks in as it is predominantly Koboyashi being filmed by his cameramen as he investigates a series of strange deaths that he believes may be linked to one another. He interviews people, he tracks people down, he goes into peoples homes, he travels across the country and along the way, the case becomes more and more dangerous and unsettling...
This is one of those films that is generally very well regarded by those who have seen it. On Letterboxd it's got an average rating of 3.7, which is pretty freaking good. However people seem to either really love it or they don't understand what any of the fuss is about. Apart from me, I'm pretty much smack bang in the middle. There is so much going on in this film that it's difficult to take ALL of it in on a first viewing. It's not a short film either, running at just under two hours long and there are definitely points where you start to fatigue a little. A second watch would probably help actually and at some point I will do exactly that but for now I am content to just sit on it and try and absorb as much of what I have seen as I can.
It's actually quite a difficult film to review and I am still in the process of working out how much I liked it. I know I didn't hate this, but I also know that I don't feel quite as affected as some other viewers have after seeing it. The format works well. It's basically edited footage with a score over the top in places so it's an interesting mix of dramatisation and that 'found footage' feel that is so good at grounding things. It's a sprawling film too and it has that feeling as it goes on that you are descending further into the unknown, further down a rabbit hole. The first hour is where you might switch off a little but it's worth sticking with as the tempo picks up a bit in the second half and the last ten minutes or so are worth the wait. There is a real sense of the ominous about it too and although there are stretches where nothing 'scary' really happens, when the horror elements are played out, they chill your soul a little. It is not a film of jump scares or gore, There are no long haired female ghosts crawling out of wells or ghost children hiding in wardrobes. Noroi is much more interested in building up suspense and a sense of foreboding. The ritualistic Japanese elements that are explored here are also intriguing too.
It's too long. I think ten or fifteen minutes could have easily been trimmed off this and it would instantly make things a bit tighter and appeal to more people. The film is generally very good at justifying the whole 'why someone is filming?' issue but in the final few minutes it fails on that front completely and harms what is otherwise a pretty memorable final scene. Some people have called Noroi one of the scariest films ever made and while I disagree with that, I do think it is an engrossing and atmospheric J-Horror that deserves a bit more recognition.
It's available on Shudder if you fancy two hours of slow burn suspense.