In a month all about expanding our film horizons on the Collab, we watched…a bunch of horror. We did at least focus on watching horror from Japan & Korea, countries well-versed in making chilling classics in the genre. This week’s pick is a horrifying true story…of made-up events. That REALLY happened.
Noroi: The Curse
While making a documentary about his latest investigation, a paranormal researcher vanishes under suspicious circumstances.
Be cautioned, all who decide to watch this film: it has been deemed too disturbing for the general public to view. So we are warned, anyway. Our film really commits to its setup as a found footage documentary, never once dropping the pretense.
We follow Kobayashi, a researcher who has been investigating paranormal activity for decades through the medium of documentary film-making. His (presumably) last project has ended on a rather dark note; ultimately, his wife died in a mysterious fire in the family home, and Kobayashi himself has been missing since. Not to worry–this is all relatively low spoiler-y, as all of this knowledge drops within the first 10 minutes or so of our film.
Before things all went horribly wrong, Kobayashi was busy being a one-man X-Files stop shop, investigating a woman’s report that she and her young son hear the sounds of crying babies haunting their home. Genuinely awful. Soon after, the neighbor and her daughter die in a suspicious car accident.
Meanwhile, Kobayashi is intrigued by the disappearance of Kana, a girl with psychic abilities, which he observes on…some sort of psychic reality competition? I didn’t 100% understand what was happening in this section honestly, and not because psychic powers were needed to digest it. Probably.
Before her disappearance, tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist Hori visited Kana. Naturally, he has a theory about her absence: she was taken by ectoplasmic worms. The need to straightfacedly respond to statements like this has cut my budding career as a documentary filmmaker tragically short.
To add yet another red thread to the already convoluted investigation board, actress Marika begins behaving oddly after visiting a supposedly haunted shrine and having a minor (major) freakout. Concerned that she’s exhibiting strange behavior at night, Marika agrees to Kobayashi setting up a camera to film her activities. This leads to a major clue when Marika is recorded saying the word “Kagutaba,” which turns out to be a demon imprisoned beneath a village. Every year, the villagers would perform a ritual to appease the demon…that is, until the village was destroyed to make way for the construction of a dam. All of this thrilling to the local historian who only ever gets asked to scan obituaries so people can do their boring genealogy research.
This comes full circle when Kobayashi suspects one of the people he’s already encountered is none other than the daughter of the priest who performed the last appeasement ritual, seemingly becoming possessed by the demon. And yes–things get even more convoluted from here on out, with the bonus of creepy children, fetus embryos, and some seriously shaky camera work. But, you know, intentionally shaky camera work.
3/5 Pink Panther Heads
Supposedly people either think this is the scariest film ever made or boring AF. Guess which camp I fall into. Maybe because we’re watching this after found footage becoming such a trope in horror films, or because I’m tired and my uncultured American eyes didn’t feel like reading subtitles. Whatever the reason, I didn’t get the feeling of dread the film is clearly creating as it builds to events that unfold only in the last 30 minutes or so. I found some of the found footage techniques to be a bit silly and melodramatic, to be honest.
What I do find interesting about this one is that it does capture the research and investigation process in a way that feels organic. At first, the pieces don’t seem to fit together at all as Kobayashi follows whatever leads he can–and it’s not until it’s too late that he understands what’s happening. There are some genuinely chilling scenes and revelations, brought to life by the cast and the jarring film techniques.
When the film works, it’s largely because I enjoy the characters of Marika and Hori so much. Marika is a caring person determined to find out the truth of what’s happening to her; it’s impossible not to hope she will succeed, although the tone of the film suggests otherwise. Hori, our tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist, is a character who would annoy me in reality (as conspiracy theorists frequently do) but who is fun onscreen, giving us just a dash of quirkiness needed to liven things up.
I can appreciate the approach, but I wasn’t particularly feeling this one.