Same as the ghosts haunting the films of J-Horror, the films themselves cannot be stopped. While the genre may have run the gamut here in the States, they’re still churned out with abandon in their homeland of Japan. With our remakes we saw a massive decline in quality — for every The Ring and The Grudge there’s a Shutter, One Missed Call, or The Eye. Even the original directors weren’t able to salvage Hollywood’s attempts at cashing in on such massive hits as Ju-on or Ringu.
Takashi Shimizu was responsible for his own remakes (The Grudge, The Grudge 2) but they pale in comparison to his originals. I still consider Ju-on 2 one of the most frightening films I’ve ever seen (along with both of the original Eye films from the Pang Brothers). Now Shimizu is up to his old tricks. But he’s not pulling any of them off with Tormented, a pseudo companion piece to Shock Labyrinth. This being his second 3D feature, it seems he’s learned from past mistakes and brought along cinematographer Christopher Doyle (Hero, In the Mood for Love) to make good on the effect.
Tormented brings us the sordid tale of young Daigo (Takeru Shibuya) who lives with his mute half-sister Kiriko (Hikari Mitsushima) and their pop-up book illustrating father Kohei (Teruyuki Kagawa). One day at school, Daigo crushes a dying rabbit out on the schoolyard with a brick. Now Daigo refuses to return to school to avoid being bullied. Schoolmates go so far as to carve crude bloody rabbit drawings on the library desks where Kiriko works. At night, Daigo is tormented by someone in a giant rabbit costume after attending a 3D showing of Shock Labyrinth. While at the movie, a stuffed rabbit floats out of the screen and Daigo takes it home in his backpack. Now, whoever is haunting Daigo in the rabbit costume must be stopped, whether Kohei wants to believe his children or not.
I was a little worried about what Tormented would look like after reading reviews of how terrible Shock Labyrinth 3D was. Have no fear, dear viewers, Doyle reigns supreme. Presented in 1080p at a ratio of 1.78:1 on a BD-50, using the Panasonic AG-3DA1 camera, there is a true sense of depth to every frame. While blacks never reach their full potential (they come off as more dark grey), the 2K resolution makes for impressive detail. The only oddity I ran across was some shimmering on book spines in the first school library scene, but didn’t see it again. Detail is so sharp, in fact, that while Daigo and Kiriko are eating a meal you can read every word on a Tabasco bottle label. A few scenes really show off the 3D effect involving the floating rabbit in the theater, a rainstorm, the opening credit sequence, and oddly enough, window curtains. No banding, aliasing, or even noise to be found here.
The Japanese 5.1 DTS-Master Audio does what it can with some effective rear surround effects, but the score from Kenji Kawai picks up most of the slack with less LFE than you’d expect from a film filled with “boo” moments. The only special features are a trailer for Tormented and previews for upcoming, or already available, Well Go USA titles Bedevilled, The Shock Labyrinth, and Splintered. The main film is obviously the attraction here, but even that may not warrant a purchase. However, the current Amazon price of $14.99 is extremely reasonable for any new 3D Blu-ray release if you ask me. You won’t be able to find it at that price — even used.
The bottom line is that if you’re still a fan of J-Horror (although I’m starting to think it’s truly run its course), then there’s plenty to like here. Shimizu is one of the original directors who started the American craze and while he may not have utilized the 3D to full effect (word has it that Doyle clashed on set with him and this is also Doyle’s first 3D film), you can do far worse; especially from our very own Hollywood. Just be warned that this is the kind of film that has one twist that works, but then proceeds to bury it under another half hour of twists that don’t, making sure you’re never going to be Tormented yourself.
Cover art and photo courtesy Well Go USA