Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I've just seen a DVD (rented it from Blockbuster*) called "Scary True Stories: Ten Haunting Tales from the Japanese Underground. Originally it came out in Japan as a series of videotapes back in 1991, and it was a big hit, but the reason why more stories weren't made was because the company that made them fell into financial difficulties and pulled the plug. Years later, in November of 2005, it was re-released on DVD.

I never heard of this movie before, (which is credited with creating what is known as the "J-Horror" craze. The "J" obviously standing for "Japanese".). I'm not a particular fan of foreign films. But I love ghost stories. True ghost stories regardless of where they are from.

I had already rented a couple of Asian ghost story films before. A Tale of Two Sisters and The Sisters. ("The Sisters", made in Thailand, is presumably based on a true story.)

So, while looking around for similar films, I ran across this DVD in a search on Netflix. I put it in my queue, and waited. It seemed to be a very popular film because it immediately went into a "long wait" status, but much to my excitement, Netflix sent me a copy on November 25, only a few days after it had been officially released! And much to my anger, it seemed to have gottten lost in the mails on its way to me.

On December 1st, I still didnt get the movie in the mail and I reported it to Netflix as "missing" that very day. Netflix gave me the option of resending the same movie or the next movie listed in my queue. Naturally, I chose for them to resend me the very same movie. But instead, they sent me my next selection listed in my queue. Irritated and angry at Netflix, I fired off an angry email asking them why they did that to me. I got an email back, apologizing, explaining that they cannot gurantee the availability of every movie (apparently they had no more discs of this particular movie currently available). They sent me a free extra DVD (I'm on the 4 out at a time plan and this free extra one would make it, temporarilly that is, 5 out) and they put Scary True Tales back into the number one spot in my queue for me. However, I noticed that it had a "long wait" status on it. Time went on, I left it in my number one spot, yet everytime it was time for Netflix to send me another movie, "Scary True Tales" kept getting passed over.

I went over to the Blockbuster website where I also rent DVDS by mail (3 at a time plan). They also had Scary True Stories, but also on a "short wait". (For a movie that I've never heard of before, this seemed to be pretty popular!). Occasionally, over at Blockbuster, when a movie is in a "short wait", I still manage to get the movie I want. So I put Scary True Stories into the number one spot in my queue at Blockbuster and removed it from my queue at Netflix.

Hallelujah, one day last week, Wed. the 4th Blockbuster sent me Scary True Stories. Only problem is that their shipping times are usually twice, even three times as long as Netflix. They informed me that I would not be getting the DVD in the mail untill Saturday the 7th. Saturday's mail came, and no DVD.

I felt as if I was never going to get to see this movie!

After the mail came and no DVD, I reported it missing to Blockbuster, who like Netflix gave me the option of resending me the same movie or sending me my next selection in my queue. I chose for them to resend the same movie, and just like Netflix, they ignored my instruction and instead sent me the next selection in my queue. I did not write an angry email to Blockbuster. It wouldn't have done any good. I couldnt blame them. Just like Netflix, this DVD was in short supply with Blockbuster as well.

HOWEVER, on Monday the 9th, the DVD Scary True Stories came in the mail from Blockbuster!!!!

Finally! I watched it that very evening. (I would have watched it during the day, but the mailman doesnt get around to my neighborhood untill late in the afternoon).

Here are the stories in their order:


Segment #1 “The Lonely Girl” Mariko is not as good as a swimmer as the rest of the class and one day she stays later to practice with her instructor while her friends leave before her. When she returns to the dressing room to shower and change back into her street clothes she is confronted by the ghost of a girl who had died at this location one year before.

Segment #2 “Spiritual Flight” A young girl is confronted by a spiritual force on her way how from school one day. Later that evening she encounters the same force this time in her room and she is taken on an out of body experience the leads her to a graveyard by the spot she walked by earlier that day. Only one problem there never was a graveyard there. Was someone from beyond trying to tell her something or was it all a dream?

Segment #3: “Mystery of the Red Earring” Keiko is afraid to be all alone and since her parents are out of town she invites her friend Masayo over for a sleepover. Keiko tells her about a red earring that she found one day while walking home and for the past two weeks she has tried to get rid of it only for it to reappear once again in her possession. Masayo not fully convinced of her friends’ tale soon discovers the truth thanks to things that go bump in the night.

Scary True Stories: Night Two (1991)

Segment #4 “The Gymnasium in Summer” Three friends Chima, Akimi and Yuma decide to break into the schools gym after they hear about an urban legend concerning a death that happened there last summer.

Segment #5 “House of Restless Spirits” Yuko and her family move into a new home after her dad is transferred to a new city because of his job. Each of the three family member encounter spirits who are not friendly and Yuko’s father hires a spiritualist to ride the house of these evil spirits.

Segment #6 “The Hospital at Midnight” Nurse Ogura during her frequent rounds on the midnight shift at the hospital encounters an invisible presence that appears to be almost as real as her as its grasp her in its clutches.

Scary True Stories: Realm of Specters (1992)

Segment #7 “Be Gone Crone!!” Yuka is visited by an old woman who knocks insistently at her window. Unable to ignore the woman’s knock Yuka soon comes face to face with pure evil.

Segment #8 “My Friend at the Stairwell” Yano and her friend Nami on their way to class one day pass what looks like blood a blood stain and a young ghostly looking boy on the schools northern staircase. Yano unable to get the image of this young boy out of her head wants to help him and when she offers a helping hand she soon discovers that she has taken on more then she can handle.

Segment #9 “Paralysis” A young women while sleeping one evening has a disturbing nightmare that leaves her paralyzed.

Segment #10 “The Black Hair in the Abandon Building” Three friends enter an abandon building and while going through the various rooms come across some discarded black hair. Takeshi one of the boys as the insistence of his girlfriend puts the hair they found back into the box they found in it when in the mirror where the hair was hanging a skeleton looking woman appears. The three friends then run for their life and try to escape the abandon building and its evil presence that is now stalking them.


And here is a neat little piece of trivia about the film, from the director himself:

At one point, SCARY TRUE STORIES even had its own mythology tossed back in its face. “In ‘House of Restless Spirits,’ we shot in an old home that was said to be haunted by the ghost of a girl,” Tsuruta reveals. “After the video was released, I started getting letters from viewers saying that you can see a face in the back. Sure enough, in the scene where the exorcism is being performed, in the shot with the mother, father and priest woman, you can see a girl’s face peering out.”

Wow. How's THAT for a movie about true ghost stories? :-)

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Sounds like a Japanese version of the "Masters of Horror" on Showtime (we don't get that channel but I just downloaded the "Cigarette Burns" episode and it was pretty darned scary). Will have to check this one out :-)
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