Scary True Stories

"Very Good"

Scary True Stories Review


Japanese horror, called now J-horror, is inseparable from the early '00s boom in supernatural horror cinema. With blockbuster remakes like The Ring and The Grudge filling the Hollywood coffers, producers have looked far and wide for the next shot of Asian ghostliness they can remake. DVD companies, similarly, have been raiding the vaults looking for any J-horror film with a remotely frightening premise. The nets have now been flung even wider: Supernatural horror films from Korea, India, and Indonesia are (for the first time) being shown in American theatres. Always looking for the "next" wave, talent scouts are scouring the remotest regions of the world for suitably freaky films.

That's not a bad thing. Honestly. In many cases they are able to bring fantastic slices of horror cinema to the U.S. My friend Yam Laranas' brilliant Fillipino horror film (F-horror or P-horror?) The Echo has been well received in the U.S. and is poised for a big remake. Yet with every trend, good product runs out and the crud rolls in. We're subjected to slap-dash productions that weren't even popular in their home countries. They seem to sprout up like noxious mushrooms on the shelves of Tower Records and Best Buy.

Scary True Stories is finding our shores via Dark Sky Films, an imprint of MPI. And while at first I was hesitant to check it out, I was certainly glad I did. This is truly creepy stuff and it is rightfully advertised by Dark Sky as the precedent for popular films like The Grudge and The Ring series.

Scary True Stories is not a film, or even a series of films; it was a popular television series in Japan in the early '90s. Shot on video, it's not an elaborate affair. There are no CGI effects. There are no A-list actors or actresses. But that makes it all the more haunting. In a sense, Scary True Stories is the precursor to The Blair Witch Project. You don't see much, and that just generates even more tension.

It's a bit like the popular '80s show Unsolved Mysteries. Each episode of Scary True Stories is under an hour and most contain three vignettes that are supposedly based on true events of haunting. Interestingly, and I'm sure there's a perfectly Japanese reason for this, every vignette revolves around a school-aged girl.

The first episode contains several spooky tales but the first is by far the best. Titled "The Lonely Girl" it's a nice visualization of every person's fear of being left alone in a dark, quiet place. This first episode ends with "The Mystery of the Red Earring" which is both gruesome and oddly detached. The second episode, Scary True Stories II, is in much the same vein, with schoolgirls relating spooky stories about abandoned buildings, gymnasiums and old houses. By far the best of the lot, and clearly the inspiration for the deadly sweep of black hair found in The Grudge, is "The Black Hair in the Abandoned Building."

Scary True Stories is a production for the small screen and a dated one at that (gotta love the Bart Simpson "Peace Man!" sweatshirt that one Japanese fashion victim wears.) It is, as previously mentioned, shot on video and at times the image is pretty flat. However, like 28 Days Later, it lends the series a nice atmosphere that would not have been attainable on film.

Slight but quite influential, Scary True Stories is something that every self-proclaimed J-horror aficionado must see. For the rest of us it's a great way to creep out.

Aka Honto ni atta kowai hanashi, Scary True Stories - Ten Haunting Tales From the Japanese Underground.

Shout at the devil.



Scary True Stories

Facts and Figures

Run time: 50 mins

In Theaters: Friday 5th July 1991

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Naokatsu Ito,

Contactmusic


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