Monday, 13 November 2017

Oni-gokko (2011) - Short Horror Film Review

Yesterday was American Virus and today is another short horror that was written and directed also by Shane Ryan. Oni-gokko (Tag) is an eight minute long Japanese horror, now I have a history with those as I consider the anthology box set; Tales of Terror (that is made up of 33 Japanese short horror films) to be the scariest, nay, the most terrifying item I own. To this day I haven't been able to bring myself to rewatch it, but that's a story for another time. This doesn't join that exclusive club, but there is something about this that leaves an impression.

The plot isn't totally explained, or rather it is left to the viewer to fill in some gaps. From what I can tell a teenage girl (Miki played by Eri Akita) is seemingly being haunted by the vengeful spirit of her sister Aki (Mariko Wordell) who holds her responsible for her death when she was just six years old. Aki wants her sister to prove just how sorry she is for her past sins...

I loved the mystery behind this, the fact that events are so open to interpretation means it stuck with me. The death of Aki in the past for instance, just how much was her sister to blame, there are so many questions about that. There is also a possibility that Aki is just a figment of Miki's guilt riddled mind, and that her self harm is a response to that guilt. Just because this features Japanese actresses this doesn't mean it follows the vogue of what occurs in that countries films, instead Ryan gives his own spin with a spirit that is less black and white. Wordell comes across as pretty sinister with the emotionless look on her face, her performance is helped no end by the use of light and shadow to really make her seem out of place, my favourite shot had her spinning in a circle while the lighting dims and brightens briefly. It was a bit strange that the spirit was not that of a little girl but it did add to the oddity to have Aki grown up.

There were some almost art house moments at times, such as the aforementioned lighting change, that and the fact there is full frontal nudity (which I have forever linked with art house in my mind). The nudity is for both characters but it isn't without purpose as it displays the scars of Aki and the cuts of Miki while also showing the vulnerability alongside that. The scar effects looked decent, though for me the cuts in the self harm scenes didn't seem as authentic. I will say that the manic act of the cutting was very well realised with a swift series of edits adding authenticity to this ritual. The silence that comes follows this also seemed realistic with Maki almost being in a fugue state as can often happen.

That more sedate section was the slight problem with this for me as Oni-gokko is a film of two halves. The first is much more horror oriented, the darkness of the room, the initial stairwell descent, the creepiness of Aki, the razor blade, these are some effective elements. The other part is better lit and more compassionate in tone, and so diffused some of the atmosphere ever so slightly. Again though the framing is lovely to look at, and I thought the ending was nicely done.

Oni-gokko is a neat short that in terms of the film work and music hardly puts a foot wrong. The openness to interpretation was welcome and adds a layer of mystery to something that is different to the norm (I say that a lot but it really is the case here). The full version of Oni-gokko was included in short horror anthology Theatre of the Deranged 2 that came out in 2013.


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