Japanese horror is responsible for some of the genre's best films, with classics like Ju-on, Ringu, and Kwaidan putting Japanese horror on the map. Because there are so many different horror films all over the world, it can get a little overwhelming to decipher what's actually worthwhile — and one film that deserves its recognition is the 2005 Japanese found footage horror film Noroi: The Curse.
With a surge of the found-footage horror films in the early '00s, many films relied on repeating tropes from their predecessors, but Noroi: The Curse comes ahead of the trend. Taking (several) risks, the movie tells a full-fledged story that avoids the ambiguity crutch for films that aren't sure how to reach their end goal. Without any further introduction, let's dive into why you need to check out Noroi: The Curse.
It successfully juggles different ideas.
If you take an unhinged psychic, an actress, a missing child, a demonic entity, "ectoplasmic worms," and a documentary filmmaker, mixing them into one cinematic concoction, it will result in Noroi: The Curse.
At a glance, a lot of these ideas seem like they would struggle to find an overall footing; the film actually follows up with each concept and feels like it provides helpful information. Links are drawn by the film's final act that answers several questions and manages to avoid a common flaw in the genre where an off-the-wall ending can take away from an overall experience.
In Noroi: The Curse, the film's conclusion brings each storyline to a close but leaves a possible open-ended fate for one character — admittedly a solid creative choice. For having a vintage and indie-energy, the film is one of the most ambitious horror films and has everything essential to be considered a cult classic.
A refreshing change of pace
In many found-footage horror films, there's an ending that results in the death of just about everyone involved. If you go down lists of films that use the same techniques, it's typically a predictable outcome for the entirety of the cast, or at the very least, you have an idea of how it will end for almost every character.
In Noroi: The Curse, we follow Marika Matsumoto, who plays herself (known for Reincarnation and Final Fantasy.) Her character has an overwhelmingly likable personality that sets her up as someone you truly root for. Considering she's a target of the demon that's behind the chaos, the entire film sets up a reason to believe she will follow the pattern leading to a specific outcome — however, revealing too much, that's not necessarily the case.
Despite every other second of waiting for the other shoe to drop, Marika's storyline feels handled and isn't nearly as grim as you would fear when being introduced to her story. Matsumoto gives a spectacular performance as the haunted actor, and her range in the film gives her much more depth than characters we would typically follow in modern horror. For those of you assuming I'm saying we need a survivor in every film — that isn't the case. Though when a film sets you up with the belief that finds ways to surprise you, it's a definite win for filmmakers'. Who would have thought a hidden gem from 2005 could be such a breath of fresh air an impressive 15 years later?
An assortment bag of scares
Noroi: The Curse doesn't rely on one tactic for its scares, and that's largely due to the fact that multiple paths to take. For example, the most prominent inclusion is the paranormal aspect of the film, and it manifests masterfully through possession, or in other instances, it finds its way to the surface with apparitions, but it regularly shuffles the deck enough to keep you on the edge of your seat.
The grainy, VHS quality of the tape and a realistic-atmospheric horror precedes the vast majority of found footage films, so it doesn't have the option of pulling from others the way that the excellent South Korean film Gonjiam Asylum had the privilege of.
Noroi: The Curse also massively succeeds in using documentary filmmaking to its advantage, following the event from a qualified perspective. Aside from using the docu-style as a natural way to uncover the truth behind the events of the film, it experiments with effective subtleties to stay true to the tone. One of those traditional patterns comes from creating designated focal points with a pause and zoom-in effect on the horrors captured on camera. By bringing attention to occurrences, it forces the filmmaker to craft the right amount of tension without being too overt — and that requires more effort than just taking the easy approach via jump scares.
All in all, It isn't flashy effects that makes Noroi: The Curse scary; it's the ability to take you outside your comfort zone in horror. Due to the fact that it's willing to push boundaries and make some risky choices, Noroi is something that sticks with you upon viewing and makes a perfect Halloween watch.
Do yourself a favor and check out Noroi: The Curse, available on Amazon Prime.