Monday, October 31, 2011

October Is Still Spookey Month: Happy Halloween!

Here are a few more of those delightful Tales of Terror videos. First up: a spooky sleep-over!

Looks like another of those ubiquitous school trips. Japanese students go on these excursions each year. Some stay within Japan, like these unfortunate girls, and others go abroad. Do you think this experience will cure Yuki of her school trip insomnia?

Here's yet another school trip.

Most school trips are meant to be educational experiences. From this one, I learned that if I leave my lip cream in the bathroom, I should just wait until morning to retrieve it.

Of course, terror doesn't confine itself to creepy old ryokan in the middle of the night. Sometimes it sneaks up on you around lunchtime in ordinary city apartments.

That was a lovely little flat. Didn't the sister decorate it nicely? Love the dot motif, but it's too bad about the visitor problem.

Well, there are dozens of those Tales of Terror on YouTube. But there are very few Spookey ones. Here's a favorite of mine:

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 28, 2011

October Is Still Spookey Month: Halloween cosplay in Ikebukuro!

I didn't get to go to this, but Sakura Cafe (part of the hotel) in Ikebukuro held a Halloween cosplay party and it looks like everyone had a lot of fun.  Black cats, witches, zombies... characters whose identities I couldn't discern...  I always enjoyed my stays at the Ikebukuro branch of this hotel chain.  It's not that far from the station, features both hostel and "business hotel" accommodations, and -- like all the Sakura Hotels-- has a young, energetic staff that really go all out to make you feel welcome.

When I decided I was too boring to stay in Kabuki-cho in Shinjuku (and too cheap), I switched to the Sakura Hotels and made them my home-away-from home for my annual New Year's junket to Tokyo and the various Melt-Banana shows I attended.  I spent my last 5 nights in Japan at the Hatagaya branch, just a quick subway ride from Shinjuku Station and watched a really lousy American League baseball game in the cafe there waiting for my departure time.  Lousy in that the last couple of innings were interminable, one of those games where one team looks as though it's playing in slow motion and the other team just keeps hitting away.

Not a fun game.  Not a fun day.  But Halloween parties can be a blast.  I always handed out candy on Halloween at my old school, and we talked about the holiday's history and popular costume choices.  The classics proved popular, just like you'll see if you check out the photos in the link above.  You know what else is fun?

Spookey doing "The Tra La La Song (One Banana, Two Banana)" from the old The Banana Splits Adventure Hour TV show!

October Is Still Spookey Month: If you're in Tokyo, go to prison for Halloween!

The Sakura Hotel Asakusa staff blog features a short article on an Alcatraz-themed restaurant that looks like the perfect Halloween destination.  Alcatraz by way of the Hannibal Lecter films.  I hope it's still there next Halloween because I will definitely go there and sample some of their liver with fava beans.  I'll have to pass on the Chianti no matter how nice it is; I no longer drink alcohol.

EEP! What we need after that is a palate cleanser of the musical sort:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

October Is Still Spookey Month: Everyone seems to love Kuchisake-onna!

Why? I'm not not sure. All I know is, this blog gets a lot of Google hits for "slit mouth woman" or "kuchisake-onna," and Youtube features a surprisingly large number of videos describing her legend. As it turns out, she's not only freaky, she's also incredibly popular.

I also find her very tragic, but that's not saying I particularly want to meet her.  One of the most disturbing and therefore effective aspects of a lot of these Japanese horror tales is the arbitrary victim selection.  Few of these people deserve their fates, unlike in most Western horror stories.  You know-- the philandering lover, the know-it-all jerk, the greedy relatives, the kids who willfully ignore societal mores and go skinnydipping in Crystal Lake all receive their comeuppance.

But what about the kid who's just hanging out at home when a ghost comes to call?  Or the young woman who finds herself running a little late and gets stuck in an elevator?  Or the poor woman with the coughing fit in the park, and her child?  When Kuchisake-onna catches up to you, it doesn't matter if you're a nice person or not. And speaking of nice, here's another performance by Toy Missile, outside Shinjuku Station. This is where I saw them way back in August, 2007. Their official website seems to have gone dark, so it may be they live now only in my memories. And on Youtube.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

October Is Still Spookey Month: "Three People Are Coming" and a couple more Japanese horror shorts...

That's a pretty lousy elevator. I don't think I'd enjoy riding that one, either. I rode some creepy elevators during my time in Japan, but I was lucky in that I never had that poor girl's experience. Nice job with those English subtitles by "montecristo73returns," though. What else can we find? How about this one?

Lesson learned? Cram school sucks! Again, great job on the subtitles. But if you stay out of elevators and cram schools, you're completely safe, right?

Yikes! That looks a lot like my old apartment! Nice job, KuljeetChauhan. I have no idea where these short films come from. Shown on television? From a DVD? They're pretty cool and there seem to be dozens of them. Now... here's a movie I made. You may have seen it before!

Monday, October 24, 2011

October Is Still Spookey Month: At last-- Tsukiko versus Tomie in the new movie!

While we're on the subject of Japanese horror, the Tomie film series is apparently as unkillable as their eponymous villain. Tomie Unlimited is the newest offering from Toei Company, LTD. and it seems to be at least loosely based on the "Tsukiko" stories from Junji Ito's manga. This makes me happy, because I'm a big fan of those particular Tomie stories and of the character Tsukiko, the cheerfully amoral purveyor of candid photos of cute guys she sells to the girls who have crushes on them.

While the movie Tsukiko eschews her comic book counterpart's pixie cut and happy-go-lucky capitalist demeanor, Miu Nakamura makes quite a convincing Tomie.  Several of the scenes from the trailer look astoundingly like panels from Ito's stories.  It would be too much to ask for a completely faithful adaptation-- here, Tsukiko is Tomie's little sister rather than simply a classmate.  However, the publicity materials promising a Tomie who "reveals her true face only when she is with Tsukiko" make this the most intriguing series entry in quite some time.

In the comic, Tsukiko makes a fun and vivacious enemy for Tomie, and Tomie's position as the head of her school's Public Morality Committee provides a bit of ironic counterpoint to Tsukiko's scheme.  Just as Tsukiko abuses the privileges that come with being a member of the photography club-- access to a dark room and materials to make her illicit yet lucrative prints-- Tomie soon has her own club lackeys pursuing her unfortunate enemy.  And it becomes apparent that Tsukiko's crimes pale in the face of Tomie's monstrous true self and the bloody murders she causes during their personal war.

The stories also benefit from a unity of setting, unlike the other Tomie tales which are only loosely connected.  The idea of a beautiful yet thoroughly evil young woman who drives her lovers to madness and murder-- and yet cannot be killed herself, no matter how hard everyone tries-- is good for a few chills here and there, and benefit from Ito's trademark gross out scenes.  But by grounding her in a specific locale and taking some time to develop her victims Ito creates a cycle of stories that have no problem standing alone.  If character development is Ito's weak point as a writer, with the introduction of Tsukiko he solves this problem, and it helps bring Tomie herself into focus.

Even if you probably won't want to see what develops as a result.  Isn't that right, Tsukiko?  Tsukiko?  Oh yeah, the school officials suspended her.  Oh well.  That gives her plenty of time to get to know her new best friend, Tomie.  Here's Toy Missile, one of my favorite Japanese bands!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

October Is Still Spookey Month: Here's Chiaki Kuriyama in an early horror role!

This is a scene from the original direct-to-video Ju-on (2000) that spawned the movie series, the American remake and its sequels.  I have no idea about the Ju-on mythology or back story, but I do know the American release of the first theatrical movie has a redundant title, and the Japanese release of the American version has a silly one.

While we tend to like our ghost stories set in the fall during Halloween season, Japanese culture favors the late summer during Obon time.  This scene establishes mood early with the oppressive cicada static in the background; that's the soundtrack of summer there in Japan.  They still ring in my ears and the I last experienced Japanese summer two years ago.  The school bell briefly heard brings back a lot of memories for me as well.  The cellphone is a neat plot device-- a more modern conduit for mysterious messages and voices from the other side, but its size and simplicity instantly date this movie.  It's a period piece.

The message with the repeating 4s may not seem particularly chilling to Americans like myself, but the Japanese word for 4 is "shi," which also means death, so this is a pun commonly used in J-horror.  Come to think of it, it might not be all that frightening even for a Japanese audience, because it's probably cliche by now.  Remind me to ask!

Still, four is just not an auspicious number; I used to go get check-ups at a local hospital that had examining rooms numbered 3 and 5, but not 4.  But it must be Kuriyama's lucky number, because she also appeared in a movie called Shikoku, the name of one of Japan's main islands (which uses its more benign meaning), but can also mean "land of the dead."

At least in that one, she gets to play the ghost rather than its victim.

Chiaki Kuriyama is one of the coolest people on earth.  Unfortunately, I don't find the little kid ghost anywhere near as creepy as Sadako from the Ringu series, or even Tomie. Heeeeeeeeerrrrrrre's Sadako:

Monday, October 3, 2011

Once again, October is Spookey Month!

Because Halloween is awesome and so are they, here's a video from Hamamatsu's all-girl punk band, Spookey: