Tendency to be menaced by the supernatural. Reason #287 Judge David Johnson would not want to be a young Japanese girl.
Pre-Ringu supernatural wackiness from the Far East.
Touted as the inspiration for much of the popular "J-Horror" (Japanese horror) films that have been pumped out of the Land of the Rising Sun, this collection of early 90s suspense programming gives you lots of ghosts, atmospheric mood music, and plucky high school girls. But is it worth your hard-earned yen?
Facts of the Case
Scary True Stories was originally a popular Japanese television series, which now finds its way to your DVD player thanks to upsurge of interest in all things with the key words "horror" and "Japanese" in them. Dark Sky Films has assembled 10 of these tales, grouped into three separate programs ("Scary True Stories," "Scary True Stories: Night Two," and "All New Scary True Stories: Realm of Specters").
Each story is supposedly based on real events of a human-ghost encounter. Essentially, Scary True Stories is like the Japanese equivalent of Unsolved Mysteries except instead of Robert Stack you get a voiceover narrative from the supposed "witnesses" of the supernatural phenomena, and nothing's in English.
Ten stories. Three episodes. Nearly 140 minutes of things that go bump in the night. Let's take a look at what the precursor to modern-day J-horror has in store:
Scary True Stories (1991)
• "The Lonely Girl"
• "Spiritual Flight"
• "Mystery of the Red Earring"
Scary True Stories: Night Two 1991
• "The Gymnasium in Summer"
• "House of Restless Spirits"
• "The Hospital at Midnight"
All New Scary True Stories: Realm of Specters 1992
• "Be Gone Crone!"
• "My Friend at the Stairwell"
• "The Black Hair in the Abandoned Building"
Overall, I'd recommend this disc to horror fans, especially followers of the Japanese type of shockers. While I haven't really bombarded my eyeballs with tons of J-horror, stacking the stories on this disc against some of the stuff I have seen, shows lots of similarities: creepy visuals, jump scenes, effective music, and more young girls in school uniforms than you can shake a chopstick at.
While there are certainly some lame stories here—"Spiritual Flight" is nothing more than a sequence of prolonged black-and-white aerial shots and "The Lonely Girl" is mainly just smoke and mirrors and a girl in swimsuit screaming her head off—the majority of tales range from creepy to creepy-ass. The last batch of stories (Realm of Specters) especially. All four of these, including the abbreviated but no less disturbing "Be Gone Crone!" boast some righteous scares. My favorite moments: that crazy bloody kid from "My Friend at the Stairwell" and those horrifying midgets from "Paralysis."
Everything is in full-frame, and though it looks it age, the visuals are far from horrible. The 2.0 stereo sound is all Japanese, with well-translated English subtitles. Only a few disposable extras: storyboards from "The House of Restless Spirits" and a trailer.
I think this disc should appeal to both fans of Japanese horror and general aficionados of well-made ghost stories. Some of the gags misfire, but the majority of supernatural hijinks on display is solid.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Dark Sky Films
Review content copyright © 2006 David Johnson; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.