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   Now in our eleventh calendar year
    PCR #511  (Vol. 11, No. 2)  This edition is for the week of January 4--10, 2010.

"The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus"  by Mike Smith
Forgotten Horrors: Bad Ronald  by ED Tucker
Kokkuri  by Jason Fetters
Death and Redemption of the Message Board  by John Miller
I'm Calling It Par 69 .... Baseball Notes .... Hey Were Frosted.....hey I'm Dead .... The Nominees Are .... Happy Birthday .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf by Mike Smith


Kokkuri is a spooky, psychological J-horror movie that lingers in the mind long after the end credits roll. I really enjoyed this intelligent and mysterious movie in a decade that is bombarded with CGI and quick hokey deaths as in the dreadful Final Destination series. I am glad that Kokkuri has none of that.

Kokkuri is actually a kid’s game that is similar to an Ouija board. There are many differences between the two. I learned how to play from the extras included on the DVD. To play Kokkuri, you first take a sheet of paper and write the hiragana alphabet. Then you draw a torii or a Japanese gate and you write hai (yes), on one side of the gate, and iie (no) on the other side. You write the 4 directions; followed by the numbers 1-10. Next, you open a door to allow Kokkuri-san to enter where you are. Everyone puts a finger on a 10-yen coin and one person says “Kokkuri-san, “ and asks a question like “who loves me?” or “when will I become rich?” It is important to remember to send Kokkuri-san away after playing by saying “Kokkuri-san, please go home.” Then you close the door and burn the paper game board. The last step is strongly encouraged.

In Kokkuri, three high school girls start playing the Kokkuri game and one of the questions is, “When will I die?” Kokkuri-san responds by spelling out 18. The girl is 17 and her 18th birthday is coming up in a month. So you already have this wonderful foreshadow that something bad is going to happen at any moment to this girl. Throughout the movie she has many close calls yet not all are fatal. I won’t spoil the ending but I could never predict how it actually happened.

Kokkuri is a very subtle and mysterious film that you have to pay attention to so you can understand. There are many details such as the fatal girl who almost drowned but was saved. For this girl to be saved, her mother drowned. Water is a key point that threads the entire film together.

Director Zeze Takahisa uses water often to symbolize death. When one character gets physically or emotionally hurt, it is raining, or running water will splash on someone, or someone will be compelled to drown themselves. One girl runs to a bathtub filled with water in a strange suicide attempt. At the beginning a child is shown drowned and bobbing up and down gently in the sea.

Besides being a use for death, water is also utilized to show melancholy. Characters are shown crying, with rain, or some form of water hitting the character or close to where the character is. This is a cool device because when you see any form of water you know someone is sad or someone has been hurt or something bad is going to happen. I have seen water used as a death symbol in films but I haven’t really seen a horror movie that uses water like the Jaws theme, to let you know a scary scene is coming up.

Another effective technique is the cinematography. Zeze sets up each shot similar to Dario Argento. Each scene has excellent lighting, which is sometimes rare in Japanese films, and beautiful scenery. Whether the shot is of a home interior where the girls play Kokkuri, or at the beach, or standing on a bridge, you get this feeling that each actor and surrounding background is placed in just the right position. That combined with the lighting and camera angles make this work in the same way that old horror movies worked better before CGI and sped up film and pointless action shots.

There is not a lot of action but what little is in Kokkuri is much more effective because of this absence.

Kokkuri is a great film of restraint and how you don’t always have to go all out to achieve an eerie atmosphere that draws in the viewer like hands slowly extending out towards your neck and slowly, over a long time, finally feeling fingers close across your throat and choking you.

Overall, Kokkuri is a great horror film that leaves a creepy mental aftertaste. I don’t think I will be playing Kokkuri anytime soon. Not after seeing this.

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2010 by Jason Fetters.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.