Category Archives: Terracotta 2013

HENGE (Hajime Ohata: 2011)

When her husband, Yoshiaki Kadota (Kazunari Aizawa) starts suffering from strange fits and hallucinating that he is being taken over by giant bugs, Keiko (Aki Morita) tries to help him by calling in an old friend, Minoru Sakashita (Teruhiko Nobukuni) that Yoshiaki was at medical school with. At a loss of what to do, Yoshiaki allows Sakashita to take Yoshiaki away in order to try and discover what is causing his fits. However Sakashita is more interested in Keiko than curing Yoshiaki and coveting his friend’s wife will turn out to be a deadly affair when Yoshiaki discovers Sakashita trying to convince Keiko to run away with him. The bonds between husband and wife however are threatened when Keiko discovers that not only does her husband transform into a giant monster but that he is behind a series of brutal murders that have left the police baffled. Will Keiko stand by her man/monster?

With shades of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis (1915) as reconfigured in Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986), Henge manages to combine almost seamlessly a powerful love story and the daikajiu genre. This is due both to the skilful direction of Ohata and the nuanced performances of the leads, which means by the time that Henge becomes an out-and-out monster film; we are already invested in the characters and care more about Yoshiaki and Keiko than the monster being defeated. Henge is a must see for anyone who is a fan of the daikajiu genre and/or monster films more generally as well as fans of Japanese horror cinema. This is a film that transcends genre restrictions, and I would highly recommend seeing it on the big screen.

Henge is playing as part of the Terror Cotta Horror Night, in association with Fright Fest that is taking place Friday, 7th June 2013. You can book tickets directly from Prince Charles Cinema

Zomvideo (Kenji Murakami: 2012)

A normal day in the office turns out to be not so normal when zombies come knocking on the door. Without recourse of the conventional weapons that are commonly used to dispatch zombies, the office staff are forced to make do with stationary supplies in order to evade the shuffling hoards. A set of videos made in the 1970s seem provide the staff with ammunition on how to deal with the zombies – including how to make the ultimate zombie weapon out of office furniture and sundries  and a supposed video signal cure for zombification – or do they? Is there in fact something more sinister and demented as work?

Japan specialises in offbeat and innovative horror, although sometimes Japanese cinema pushes through boundaries that are there for a reason – especially in terms of gendered violence. Happily though Zomvideo is the former rather than the later and is a great deal of fun to watch especially if you are familiar with the zombie genre. There is also a nicely embedded subtext about the human rights of the zombies, which manages to implicitly critique the U.S colonization of Japan and the way in which popular representations of the Japanese by the West functioned to dehumanize and demonize the Japanese Other.

Zomvideo reminded me of the deranged fun of Stacy (Kenji Otsuki: 2001), another low-budget Japanese zom/com, and was a great deal more entertaining than Tokyo Zombie (Sakichi Satô: 2005). There is no doubt that Japan has produced some of the most interesting and original video films of late, and Zomvideo is one of the best.

Zomvideo is playing as part of the Terror Cotta Horror Night, in association with Fright Fest, that is taking place Friday, 7th June 2013. You can book tickets directly from Prince Charles Cinema.

The Ghost Story of Yotsuya (1959)

The Ghost Story of Yotsuya concerns a deceitful Samurai, Iemon, who is down on his luck and wishes to pursue a profitable alliance with the daughter, of a rich merchant. Unfortunately his wife, Oiwa, and newly born son stand in the way of his ambition and so, Oiwa has to die. Poisoned and driven mad by pain, Oiwa dies cursing her unfaithful husband with her last breath, returning from the dead in order to avenge her untimely death.

The strange and sad story of Oiwa is one of the most popular Japanese ghost stories (kaidan), and has provided the template for numerous plays, television dramas and films. Deceived by her husband, Oiwa dies – directly or indirectly as a result of Iemon’s behaviour – returning as the archetypal vengeful ghost (Onryou) to torment her betrayer. Of the many cinematic versions, Nobuo’s is one of the finest – a cinematic tour-de-force of operatic dimensions, beautifully designed sets and suitably nuanced performances by   Shigeru Amachi as the devious Iemon and Katsuko Wakasugi as the betrayed wife/vengeful ghost.

The opportunity to see Nobuo’s version of this classic tale on the big screen on its own is reason enough to attend Terror Cotta Horror Night, 7th June 2013. This is a film, although deemed a classic of Japanese cinema, is not readily available in the West, which makes this a rare opportunity to see one of the foundational films of Japanese Edo-Gothic cinema that should not be missed.

Tickets can be booked directly from Prince Charles Cinema

Countdown (Nattawat Poonpiriya, Thailand: 2012)

Three young Thai students living in New York decide to celebrate the countdown to the New Year by calling in the services of their local friendly drug dealer. However the drug dealer turns out to be not so friendly, and transforms into a bible thumping psychotic killer who may or may not be Jesus – a particularly vengeful one it should be noted – after whom he is ‘aptly’ named.

A refreshing change from the traditional ghost narratives that Thailand churns out, Countdown owes much of its impact to the suitably demented performance of David Asavanond as the eponymous Jesus, who also appeared in the original short on which Countdown is based. A hybrid home invasion/teen slasher film, Countdown goes for the cinematic jugular only, unfortunately, to sanitize the narrative with a coda of religious redemption. However this does not detract significantly from what is an enjoyable ride, and the score alone warrants an excursion to the cinema rather than waiting to see it on DVD or online.

Countdown is showing as part of the Terror Cotta Horror Night, in association with Film 4 Fright Fest, at the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square, London, on 7th June 2013. Tickets can be booked direct from the Prince Charles Cinema

Terracotta 2013: Preview

This year, the Terracotta film festival is divided into four strands: In Memory Of: Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui; Current Asian Cinema;  Terror-Cotta Horror All-Nighter and Spotlight on Indonesia.

The first four days will take place at the Prince Charles Cinema, Leicester Square, London, with the Festival shifting to the ICA for the remaining time.


The Current Asian Cinema strand showcases the best in Asian mainstream and independent cinema and consists of films from  Hong Kong, China, Japan,Taiwan, Thailand and South Korea.

Hong Kong

It is nice to see the coverage of Hong Kong cinema expanding from previous years. This year’s films are: Cold War (Sunny Luk & Longman Leung: 2012), A Bullet Vanishes (Law Chi Leung: 2012), Love Me Not (Gilitte Leung: 2012) and Drug War (Johnnie To: 2012).

My pick would be The Bullet Vanishes, which is not only visually breathtaking but has an intriguing plot about the mysterious deaths of factory workers who die from bullet wounds without any actual bullets being found.


The Assassins (Zhao Yiyang: 2012) is one of my picks of the Festival. Not only does China excel at epic cinema but The Assassins has one of my favorite actors in it: Chow Yun Fat. Chow Yun Fat’s collaborations with John Woo in his Hong Kong balletic bloodshed films are the some of the finest films that came out of pre-Handover Hong Kong. Despite a misguided move to Hollywood, Chow Yun Fat’s presence in The Assassins is enough to make me buy a ticket.


When a Wolf Falls in Love With A Sheep (Hou Chi-Jan: 2012), a surrealistic romantic comedy set on Nanyang Street – a place famous for its crammer schools known as  buxibans – is well worth catching.


My pick of the Japanese films showing – Land of Hope (Sono Sion: 2012), See You Tomorrow, Everyone (Yoshihiro Nakamura: 2012) and The Story of Yonosuke (Okita Shuichi: 2012) – would be See You Tomorrow, Everyone by the director of Fish Story. which details life on a Japanese Council estate from the perspective of Saturu (Gaku Hamada), a naive young men who has been lead to believe that everything on the Estate is so perfect that he should never leave it. However, I expect Sono’s Land of Hope to be one of the big draws to the Festival – although I have yet to forgive him for Cold Fish.


Viscra Vichit Vadakan’s Karaoke Girl is the only contribution from Thailand this year and is a gritty, docu-drama about a Bangkok hostess’s struggle to provide for her family in rural Thailand.

South Korea

The South Korea section of the Festival boasts two of the highest grossing films of 2012/2013 domestically and the follow-up to the cult hit Invasion of Alien Bikini, Young Gun in Time (Oh Young-doo: 2012).

While I suspect Jo Sung-hee’s Gothic romance A Werewolf Boy to sell out almost as soon as tickets are released (I have yet to read a negative review), I am excited about the opportunity to see The Berlin File (Ryoo Seung-wan: 2012), an espionage thriller by one of South Korea’s finest contemporary directors.

Contrasting in style and budget to the films over, Young Gun in Time promises to be one of the better South Korea science fiction films of recent years and comes highly recommended.


My favorite section of Terracotta  even though pulling an all-nighter is beyond me these days, boasts an outstanding line-up and includes one of the best examples of Edo-Gothic horror cinema Nakagawa Nobuo’s Ghost Story of Yotsuya (1959). On its own, Ghost Story of Yotsuya is reason enough to make an effort to stay up all night!

My pick of the other films showing is Belenggu (Upi, Indonesia: 2012), merely because it boasts a giant, rabbit throwing rabbit – what more could a horror fan want?

Countdown (Nattawut Poonpiriya, Thailand: 2012), with its demonic drug dealer whose clients are in for an exceedingly bad trip, also looks worth catching.

Japan seems to specialize in off-beat zombie films, and Zomvideo seems to continue the trend. In Zomvideo office workers have only everyday stationary supplies to defend themselves from the zombie apocalypse.

Also from Japan is Henge (Metamorphosis, Hajime Ohata: 2012), a fairly short (52 minute) film in which a wife has to deal with her husband’s metamorphosis into a hideous monster.

(reviews of the above will be available soon).


One of the highlights of Terracotta 2013 is this introduction to contemporary Indonesian cinema with three films that promote a very different view of Indonesian cinema to that commonly associated with low-budget horror cinema. My pick of the three films showing is Opera Jawa (Garin Nugroho/Arturo Gp/Arswendi, 2006), which is based upon the Sanskrit epic ‘Ramayana’ and takes the form of a Javanese ‘opera’.

However Mouly Surya’s What They Don’t Talk About When They Talk About Love (2013), which is set at a special needs boarding school, sounds well worth catching as does The Dancer (Ifa Isfansyah: 2011), set in 1960’s Indonesia, which was the official entry at the 85th Academy Awards.


Leslie Cheung (1956- 2003) was one of the great stars of Hong Kong Cinema, who sadly took his own life in 2003. He leaves behind a considerable legacy as actor, director, singer and songwriter. Perhaps best known in the West, for his role as Cheng Dievi in the award-winning Farewell My Concubine (Kaige Chen: 1993), it was his role as Kit in John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow (1986) that marks the beginning of his meteoric rise to super-stardom in Asia and beyond.

Anita Mui (1964-2003), also died in 2003, succumbing to cervical cancer in November. Like Cheung, she began her career as a singer before diversifying into film and gained international recognition for her role as Elaine in the Jackie Chan star vehicle, Rumble in The Bronx (Stanley Tong: 1995).

In 1988, Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui appeared together in Rouge (Stanley Kwan), a supernatural romance about a doomed love affair between a prostitute and a rich businessman. A difficult film to get hold off until very recently, Rouge is one of my picks of Terracotta 2013.

Also showing is this section of the Festival are Won Kar Wai’s Days of Being Wild (1990) and Happy Together (1997) both starring Leslie Cheung.

Full details can be found here: Terracotta Festival 2013

TERRACOTTA FAR EAST FILM FESTIVAL 2013 – Preview coming soon

The 5th Terracotta Film Festival promises to the biggest and best yet expanding from the usual four days to ten days. The films will be screened at The Prince Charles Cinema and the ICA. With an outstanding line up of mainstream and independent cinema from across Asia and masterclasses from some of the key players of Asian cinema, Terracotta has something for anyone with an interest in Asian cinemas along with screenings that will please the general cinephile and a special Terror-cotta (with Fright Fest) all night line-up of the best of Asian horror (which includes my all-time number one Japanese horror film).

The festival this year is organised into four strands: Current Asian Cinema, In Memory Of: Leslie Cheung & Anita Mui, Spotlight on: Indonesia and of course, the Terror-cotta horror all nighter as previously mentioned.

Dates for your diary are:

Thursday 6 June to Saturday 15 June 2013.

Check back here for a brief rundown of the full line up after 4pm tomorrow (7th May 2013).


If you cannot wait, perhaps you want to think about entering Terracotta’s (in conjunction with Cathay Pacific) short film competition, the remit of which is: the film can be shot on any device (including i-phones), and can take any form as long as it addresses the key theme of ‘Asia in London’. The prize for the winning film is:

  • 2 Cathay Pacific Economy class return flights from London Heathrow to Hong Kong
  • 3 nights stay at a Design Hotel The Mira Hong Kong including daily breakfast for two
  • Winning entry to have an Official World Premiere screening at Terracotta Festival 2013

You can submit your short film any time between now and 12 noon on 20th May 2013.

Full details and how to enter can be found at: Asia in London