While 2005’s “Gurozuka” isn’t a carbon copy of “The Ring,” I doubt there will be many American reviews that fail to drop the name. Uh, including this one.
The females-only film follows two high school groups — the do-gooder, two-member Movie Club and the snooty, three-member Drama Club — as they venture deep into the woods to shoot an improvisational project. Driving them there is Ms. Yoko, who looks like the Asian Sarah Palin, and brings along the strange and silent student Takako, whom none of the girls like and whom they suspect is having a lesbian affair with Yoko.
That’s actually more backstory than “Gurozuka” requires, other than to set up Takako as a de facto red herring, suspected of stealing food in the abandoned lodge in which they stay. It’s where the old, creepy Super 8 footage — found by the Movie Club duo in this flick’s first scene — reportedly was shot, only for the girl in the demon mask to go nuts and slice up her co-stars, who were never seen again.
This being a horror film, there’s no “reportedly” about it. Still sporting the undeniably unsettling mask and gripping the same sharp implement, Devil Woman lives … to kill!
I wish there were more to “Gurozuka” than that, but predictability reigns. That’s not to say it can’t be enjoyed, but expectations must be divided by … oh, say five. Even at 84 minutes, it’s a little long for a work lacking any fresh ideas of its own; one scene appears lifted straight from Sam Raimi’s “The Evil Dead.” The best thing about “Gurozuka” is its eerie, understated score, as if Angelo Badalamenti had collaborated with Claudio Simonetti.
Although arriving to DVD via Synapse Films several years too late to ride the brief wave of mainstream America’s excitement over Asian horror, “Gurozuka” has enough going for it to merit a weekend rental. For optimum viewing, watch with friends. —Rod Lott