Kayarath’s Adventures In Horror!

Posted on Apr 10 2014

Kayarath's Adventures In Horror

Hey everyone, it’s sakura season! Time to enjoy some Japanese themed events hosted by the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia! Today we’re gonna see a bunch of J-horror films at the appropriately titled “Film Showcase: New Generation of J-Horror!” If you thought the Ringu movie was all that, then you’ll totally dig this. I, however, avoid horror because I don’t enjoy being scared. I got a job to do though, so it can’t be helped.

The event took place at PhilaMOCA, or the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art. What was once a tombstone showroom soon became an art space hosting a large array of performances, including films and chip tune shows. PhilaMOCA resides in the bowels of Philly’s Chinatown, a short walk from the SEPTA train lines. I admit, it’s not the most gentrified place I ever visited, but there are nice touches you can see if you look close enough. I think most people would be surprised to find an indie art venue here.

The Showcase began with an introduction by Tetsuki Ijichi, President and CEO of Tidepoint Pictures. This event was largely his doing, since the films came from Tidepoint’s catalog. The company specializes in bringing cutting edge live action Japanese films to American audiences. He briefly describes each film and touched on J-horror in general.

When it comes to horror, the element of surprise is of the utmost importance. I’ll be taking extra care to ensure that I don’t give any spoilers so I’m gonna err on the side of non disclosure. I don’t want to take away the shock of any plot twist! I will say that most of them aren’t as scary as I thought they would be. Instead of trying to just frighten the viewers, these films used horror elements in order to tell unique and edgy stories.

The first piece was Sayonara Dystopia, a love story set in Tokyo with zombies. Life there isn’t as bad as you think it would be. Utilities work, there are regular supply drops, and there’s even a nice loud siren warning whenever the zombies, or YORU, attack. The protagonist even finds time to vlog with his Iphone. In fact, this entire movie was recorded via Iphone. Patton Oswalt was right, we really do have all the movie making power we need in our hands.

The film is set up like a romantic movie, where a guy goes about trying to win the love of a girl. While an observant person should be able to predict where the plot goes, they should still be disgusted by the ending. I mean that in an “oh, that is disturbing” and not “oh, this is a bad movie” type of way. The whole film was designed to set up the ending, and it does succeed in that. I can still remember that sick feeling in my stomach feeling.

The second show was Hide and Seek, directed by Kayoko Asakura. Here a plucky young Koto player (she’s plucky because the Koto is a string instrument you play by plucking, get it?) must contend with mysterious visions that come and go. Utilizing only eleven minutes, three actors, and one location, Hide and Seek crafts an emotionally intense story. The artistic quality of this short is far beyond a mere genre’ piece. It should be considered “art” in its own right. It dashed between being suspenseful, hopeful, heartwarming, surprising and tragic at unnatural speed. Hide and Seek is a film that deserves to be taken seriously.

Idol is Dead is not a serious movie. It’s a musical horror comedy taking place during “The Warring State Period of Idols.” Yes, it’s that type of movie. What began as a ruse to cover up manslaughter transforms into an epic quest to ascend to the top of the idol world. If you thought Wake Up Girls didn’t deconstruct idol groups enough, then this is the film for you. It’s Death to Smoochy full of kawaii J-girls! A lot of the humor for the movie derives not from jokes but from awkwardness. Weird pauses and straight faced expressions amid ridiculous situations is what drives the laughter. You’ll also get a kick out of the chessey special effects. The obvious mannequins and camera tricks just add to the charm somehow. If you ever wanted to see idols beating the living crud out of each other, then go see this film! They got actual idols for the film, just to add that extra touch of authenticity.

To my surprise, I enjoyed the showcase. I don’t consider horror to be my thing but I came with an open mind and liked what I saw. Tetsuki Ijichi was happy with the turnout and said that he would like to do future showcases in the future. I won’t be scared of going to them.

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