Monday, January 24, 2011

REGION 2 DVD REVIEW: SHOCK LABYRINTH 3D (2009)

SHOCK LABYRINTH 3D (2009)
Release Date: January 31st 2011
LABEL: Chelsea Films
DURATION: 93 Min.
RATING: Cert. 15
REGION CODE: Region 2
DIRECTOR: Takashi Shimizu
CAST: Yuya Yagira, Shoichiro Masumoto, Ryo Katsuji, Ai Maeda, Suzuki Matsuo


PLOT: When a small group of young friends spending the day at a theme park near the foot of Mount Fuji sneak into the park’s haunted house attraction after hours, the innocent children’s escapade results in the mysterious disappearance of one of them, Yuki. On a rainy evening ten years later, Yuki inexplicably reappears, turning up at the apartment of one of the girls who was present when she disappeared. Yuki is soon reunited with her friends but shortly afterwards collapses and the group rushes her to a nearby hospital where they are unable to find anyone to treat their friend. With little option but to wait in the hospital, they begin to look for help but soon find things are not as they seem. As the night wears on, the friends begin to relive the events from a decade ago and soon come face to face with the terrible truth behind Yuki’s disappearance.

FILM: When it was announced that Japanese master of horror Takashi Shimizu (JU-ON-THE GRUDGE) would be filming Japan's first-ever 3D J-Horror flick I was pretty excited. Whom better to helm a haunted attraction film then Shimizu? The Grudge is a fantastic ghost story and Shimizu's surreal and haunting style would seem to lend itself well to the concept. It was when I realized that the film was based-on 'The Haunted Hospital' the world's largest walk-through haunted house I was less excited. There's something about properties based on theme park attractions that just saddens me. Don't get me wrong, I think the amusement park is a great setting for a horror film, just check out FUNHOUSE (1986) and ZOMBIELAND (2009), good stuff. That the film industry is so unwilling to fund new and innovative film properties that it plunders theme parks and board games for inspiration is what's disheartening. My initial excitement for the film was now tempered by the fact 1. I realized I haven't seen any of Shimizu's films since The Grudge and 2. the basis for the film was a theme park attraction. It was with this cynicism in mind I entered the 3D world of Shock Labyrinth 3D.

A group of friends are startled when Yuki (Misako Renbutsu), a childhood friend whom disappeared ten years previously at a theme park attraction, reappears at the door step of Rin (Ai Maeda), a young blind woman. Shocked at the incredible news the group of childhood friends reassemble. Shortly after the awkward reunion Yuki collapses unconscious to the floor. The friends rush her to the hospital where she disappears once again. While searching for Yuki the group discover that the hospital is deserted, the rooms are eerily empty and as they explore the upper levels of the hospital things only get weirder. They come to realize that somehow they've returned to the haunted attraction where Yuki disappeared a decade earlier. From here the film quickly loses reasoning as each of them begin to have flashbacks to the events that unfolded that fateful day. All the while they are haunted by the reoccurring images of her death, a floating rabbit and they're own guilt ridden memories.

Shock Labyrinth looks quite beautiful at times, vibrant colors, great set dressing and a creepy atmosphere. It definitely feels like a haunted house with all it's novel 3D parlor tricks. Quite a few things worked against the film for me. The first would be some lazily rendered flashbacks framed in hazy halo which I found annoying. The acting is only passable, the characters undeveloped and the PG13 equivalent rating does not allow for anything approaching actual fright. Sure, there's some spooky stuff here but nothing that stirred me and the 3D effects are mostly gimmicky and give little depth to the goings-on. That sorta makes sense as the film is based on a gimmick to begin with but it does little to enhance the film. That's not to say that all is lost here, there are bits and pieces that intrigued me. The fractured non-linear narrative made for some fun viewing as we jump through the past and into present, the overlapping time lines added a sense of the unexpected to the proceedings and the ending caught me by surprise. In the end Shock Labyrinth just seems to be aimed at a much younger audience than myself and will probably play well to the 13-15 mall rats looking for some superficial, creepy fun but not to die-hard horror fanatics.


DVD: Shock Labyrinth 3D is presented with 2-D version on double disc Region 2 DVD with a 16x9 enhanced widecreen transfer with a decent 5.1 surround mix. The films looks quite good with a vibrant color palette. The 3D probably looked pretty good in theatres with RealD)) glasses, no doubt. Unfortunately the cardboard framed red and green 3D here is nearly unwatchable in my opinion. The films is rich in saturated colors and lighting in 2D but the 3D washes it out and lacks definition so much so that halfway through the film I switched to 2D and restarted the film. There's a decent amount of features here but nothing essential. We get an array of behind-the-scenes featurettes regarding the 3D process, press junkets and on-set interviews with the cast and crew.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
- Interviews with: Takashi Shimizu (Director), Yuya Yagira (Cast), Ryo Katsuji (Cast), Ai Maeda (Cast), Erina Mizuno (Cast), Misako Renbutsu (Cast)
- The haunted house and the scary dummies
- The Secret of the Stereoscopic Camera
- Cast + Crew fooling around and shooting last scenes
- Venice Film Festival with Takashi Shimizu
- Press Conference and Opening Day

VERDICT: At it's heart Shock Labyrinth 3D is a rather pedestrian teen-haunting flick mixed with some elements of psychological horror and gimmicky 3D. It was surreal and at times visually intriguing but the characters fell flat, there's no emotional center, no connection for the viewer. It's a novelty, it doesn't push the 3D technology but is a pleasant enough diversion, just don't expect THE GRUDGE as this is a lesser film. Shock Labyrinth 3D is released with 2-D version on double disc DVD by Chelsea Films on January 31st 2011. As of press time there is no Region 1 release currently scheduled.

**1/2 (2.5 out of 5 stars)

Here's the UK trailer: http://onlinemoviepromo.com/newplayer.php?id=3828

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