tisdag 26 juni 2012

Okaruto (2009)

Kôji Shiraishis 2005 Noroi is one of the finest mockumentaries I have seen to date, a tautly constructed chiller that builds its case slowly and deliberately, making itself a perfect example of how a fake documentary should be done. Four years later Shiraishi comes with another movie in the same mold and proves that he is a strong filmmaker who is in his true element. Unfortunately he also shows that one bad scene can almost ruin a movie but more on that later on.

Okarauto aka Occult is one of those movies you should go into knowing as little as possible about plot and I will only tell you the basics. Shiraishi plays a version of himself, a documentary filmmaker looking into a strange killing spree in a forest park where a young man started to kill indiscriminately before jumping off a cliff and vanishing. He interviews the survivors and relatives of the victims and is told a number of strange things that at first just sound weird such as the husband of a dead woman who claims to have seen his wife and shows a photo of himself with a woman in the background that looks a lot like her. Another man that was stabbed in the back several times has a strangely shaped scar very similar to a birthmark that the perpetrator had and it goes even weirder when he claims to have started to see strange ufo-like things that he calls miracles. The documentary makers decided to give him a camera to documents all these happenings and from there the story really starts to take into strange land.

The best thing about this type of movie is that it is based on legends that are very Japanese, taking its horrors from a source that is somewhat similar yet very alien to our own, thus being perfect for a horror movie. Somehow I think that this works even better for a gaijin like me that hasn’t grown up with all of this. This is the reason why Noroi is so good and while Okurato might not use these as much as I would have liked it to, it still has that very undercurrent of odd folktales that keeps the story interesting, especially in the latter half of the movie when Kiyoshi Kurosawa cameos playing himself as an amateur researcher into a particular legend. This leads to a series of quite unpredictable events and a very shocking ending that really punches you in the gut. But, and there is that major but, now we get to the major flaw of the movie. The special effects budget of Okaruto must have been exceptionally low. Most of the "miracles" that one of the characters see all the time are shown with really simple and cheap digital effects which I suppose could take away some of the atmosphere of the story. They aren’t exactly awful and some even work really well but it is most noticeable in the final coda of the movie, a short sequence that is so mind-bogglingly bad that you wonder if the director’s ten year old son made it and put it in the movie with anyone knowing it. I would not be surprised if some people would rate the movie negatively because of this since it is actually that bad. This is a true shame when the rest of the movie is a good as it actually is and personally I try to dismiss the ineptness of that scene and take it for what it is supposed to represent (though I admit it took me several days to overcome this little hurdle). While some of the parts of the story might not gel into the picture in a satisfying way (I suspect they were just there to add some additional mystery) the whole experience is what matters and this movie does that very well. There are several exceptional plot twist that needs to be seen with your own eyes. Okaruto is simply put a well written, well-acted and very exciting fake documentary about a number of supernatural events that merge into a horrible coming event and if you liked Noroi or fake documentaries in general, then this will serve your addiction well. It's a shame about that final image but personally I wont let myself hate it. The rest of the movie is that good.

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