Friday, November 12, 2010

DVD Review: Hide and Go Kill (2008)

Cinema Epoch

DIRECTOR: Tomoya Kainuma
CAST: Saki Yamaguchi, Aimirôra, Haruka Misaki, Rui Ôno

SYNOPSIS: "I have to play hide an seek by myself to escape the loneliness." So starts a blog on a mysterious website which quickly spreads like wildfire, starting a dangerous online game. At 3:00 in the afternoon, a teddy bear stuffed with rice and nails is sunk into a bathtub. The lights go out and the player is required to stab the bear with the knife, then write their experiences in the blog. But lately the comments have taken a dark, demented turn. As though the players are being possessed.

FILM: The Asian culture sure knows how to tell an effective ghost story, real creepy stuff. I'm not super well-versed in Asian horror but I was quite fond of both  Ringu (1998) and Jo-on (2000), they were tense and atmospheric supernatural skin-crawlers and both were remade for American audiences as The Ring (2002) and The Grudge (2004) - it should be said that the remakes were actually quite good. Following the success of these films we saw an onslaught of Asian horror remakes for American audiences. Here's just a smattering...

Tales of Two Sisters (2003) remade as The Uninvited (2009)
Dark Water (2002) remade as Dark Water (2005)
The Eye (2002) remade as The Eye (2008)
Pulse (2001) remade as Pulse (2006)

...the current slasher/horror remake trend has nothing on Asian horror, these films were be remade scant years after the theatrical runs, not decades.

Hide and Go Kill (2008) is the debut film from Japanese filmmaker Tomoya Kainuma. He doesn't set out to reinvent the genre here, this is familiar stuff, but he has made one hell of a creepy film with a unique twist.  Apparently there are a lot of bored Japanese teens who frequent an online blog that tells of a game called Hitoro Kakurenbo (Hide and Seek Alone) that to my mind recalls a more detailed version of the Bloody Mary game we've all heard about and some of us dared play as kids, it's a very similar theme. The blog entries  give  detailed instructions of how the game is played and what the consequences may be if you do not follow them to the letter. I thought to myself why would these teens play such a game, then again, I played Bloody Mary routinely at sleepovers as a pre-teen.

Here's how it works. First you  take a stuffed doll or animal and give it a name. Once you've named it cut it open and remove all the stuffing. Replace the stuffing with rice and your nail clippings and sew it back up using a needle and red thread. When done wrap the doll in the remainder of the thread. Then at precisely 3am take your stuffed animal to the bathroom, holding it in both hands and say "For the first game I'm (state your name) going to be it." three times and  drop the doll in water. Then you must turn off all the light in the house. You may turn on the TV but it must be an off-air static filled station. Now close your eyes and count to ten. Open your eyes and take a knife or sharp implement and return to the bathroom where you must find the doll and exclaim "I found you (state dolls name here)!" and proceed to stab it with a knife. You've won this round.  Next you say "Okay, now (name of dolls here) is it." The Japanese  word for "it" is Oni or "Devil" - weird, right? So, you're basically saying "You're the Devil". Leaving the impaled doll in the bathroom you must quickly run from the room and hide quietly in a closet or similar small space. Bring with you a glass of salt water with you when you hide. The object is to remain hidden in your space until sunrise or as log as you can despite what you may hear, see or feel. According to the blog  people have reported smelling repulsive odors, temperature changes, the sensation of being pulled at or tugged, creaking sounds, furniture moving. No matter what happen you must stay hidden. At sunrise the game is almost over but not quite. Fill your mouth with as much salt water as you can, don't swallow it. With the water in mouth go to the bathroom where you left the doll, keep in mind it may not still be there. Search until you find it, don't give up. When you find it spit the water on the doll and say three time "I won!" The final act is to burn the doll. To stray from any of these steps is to invite death upon yourself. This is a fairly involved game, I feel kinda lazy with the whole Bloody Mary schtick now.

Weird stuff and even odder is that I hear this is an actual game in Japan. Something I've always enjoyed about the Asian ghost films are the ghosts themselves. More often that not it's a contorted woman with unruly long black hair crawling unnaturally across the floor. I don't know why but the image is unnerving to me. Secondly, I think that the Japanese culture is so tech-gizmo crazed that the films usually incorporate laptops, cellphones and text messaging into the plot lines in a way that is natural and actually adds elements of suspense, more so than one might assume. Along those same lines we are fed quite a few details through blog entries and as lame as that sounds it works surprisingly well.

DVD: Hide and Go Kill makes its way to DVD from Cinema Epoch and is  presented in anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen with a Japanese language Dolby Digital Stereo soundtrack with optional English subtitles. Special features include an photo gallery of stills from the film and an image gallery of other Cinema Epoch titles. Pretty bare bones but a good audio/visual presentation.

VERDICT: Hide and Go Kill is a very effective ghost story that incorporates elements of urban legend and technology in a way that is modern but suspenseful with a great sense of atmosphere and intrigue. A great Asian horror entry and a very good film debut from director Tomoya Kainuma.  ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5 stars)