* * *
Back when I was a kid there was talk about a way to get your wish. You had to write your wish (by hand!) on every line of a full page of paper. Then you had to burn it. I think maybe a full moon was involved? Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that humans always want the easy way out. Some of us because we are lazy and greedy, while some because they are so desperate that they will try anything to get out of a bad situation.
High school kids are starting to die off mysteriously, mostly by bizarre suicides. We follow (at least try) four such girls who have attempted the forbidden. At exactly midnight, you call the forbidden number and do a video chat. The Devil (oh yeah, he’s gone high tech) will then grant your wish, with only your life in exchange. But hey, he only takes the amount of life you have for as long as the phone call is connected. There can’t be any trickery involved there, can it?
These are not your normal high school girls. At least not in the fluffy way we idealize kids. One has a drunk bastard of a father, the other is a cutter and another one has to prostitute herself just to pay the exorbitant phone bill. Bam! No cute little Japanese girls tee-heeing for your pleasure. It does help the credibility of their situation – you can at least sympathize with them, to a point. Unfortunately the rest of everything is more of a muddled mess.
The story is not told in a linear fashion – instead we jump from the past to the present and a week ago and then two months later and it gets far too dizzying to remember what time frame you’re in. That really hurts the movie in a large way. When you are trying to keep straight about eight different characters and you keep jumping around the timeline like some drunken Timelord you can’t help but get so incredibly confused. While I was eventually able to catch up, it really didn’t do anything for setting up the mood of the movie. What should have been a mysterious and foreboding story felt more like jigsaw pieces scattered on the floor.
Considering our main villain here is The Devil himself, it is absolutely shocking that it never once feels like a horror movie at all. There is one death scene that was pretty neat, but one decent death does not make horror. What could have been a great atmospheric film filled with dread never happened. It felt more like a soap opera/mystery combination. The focus was so much on the character development of the girls that weaving in some atmosphere was tossed to the side. The end does no better, with a twist that comes far too little and far too late. Not to mention it still never feels like an actual horror genre entry.
To make up for the lack of ambiance, the cinematography tries to compensate by giving us weird angles. Huh. I’m assuming it was supposed to arouse a sense of discombobulation, but the problem is that they are sprinkled rather randomly throughout. While some directors are incredibly successful at utilizing bizarre shots to enhance a movie, writer/director Yamamoto-san does not seem to have a good grasp on the concept just yet. It has to feel organic, it has to evoke some sort of emotional response appropriate to the scene. The cinematography here is just about as forgettable as the rest of the movie.
And therein lies the frustration. The story sound so damn interesting. Perhaps even a bit sinister! But there really and truly is nothing to see here. I just finished watching it today, and as I’m writing this it is already starting to fade away. It makes no mark at all. Even some of the worst movies out there are memorable. Sure, you remember them for the biggest pieces of shit that they are – but hell, at least you are still talking about. You’re thinking about it. And most importantly, it has stirred a strong emotional reaction from you. This movie does none of that. Unless you hate to be confused, in which case you might be lucky enough to hate it.Have You Read...?