Category Archives: Terror Cotta Horror Night

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