JANUARY 31, 2013
Well here's an odd one. According to Blockbuster, Scream Girls is about a group of schoolgirls who "band together to battle the avenging spirit of a classmate whose death they cause during a cruel prank", and how they are "convinced that they will be the target of her wrath once the ghost gains enough power to strike back". Sounds pretty cool, right? Well, none of that actually happens in the movie, but it could presumably be the plot of a sequel if there was one, given how this one ends. But here's the funny part - the IMDb ONLY lists a movie called Scream Girls 2, without this original entry.
Of course, I can find no existing information for a sequel anywhere else, so it's possible that the IMDb just added a "2" for some reason, but it doesn't change the fact that the plot synopsis seems to be about a different movie. What the movie is ACTUALLY about is a girl who is obsessed with an urban legend named Hikiko, even running a website dedicated to her. She has few friends, and seems to annoy them more often than not, and when one of their little sisters is killed by a serial killer that has claimed two other victims, all the blame falls on her. They assume she's dressing as Hikiko and committing the murders to drive interest to her website, but since they can't prove it, they just start harassing her in class and such. And then-
Well, I can't say anymore, because what follows the "and then" part would be the film's final 15 minutes. Had I not read the synopsis beforehand, I probably wouldn't have thought much about it, but as we got to the 45 minute mark or so and just really got into the bullying, I found it a bit odd that they'd be describing the film's second half. And I say "half" because the same thing with the synopsis claimed the movie was 90 minutes long, but it was actually only 62. It's funny; I got to about 53 minutes and stopped it so I could get ready for work, saving what I thought was nearly 40 minutes until later, only to discover there was only two more scenes to go (and credits I couldn't read anyway). I could have finished the damn thing while I got dressed! And this is another obscure movie, like last week's equally IMDb-challenged The Roommate (since it's a common movie name and they also had it listed under a different year), which is also from the same director: Hisaaki Nagaoka. Not only is it hard to find the film on the site, it also has next to no real information whatsoever (the script is attributed to the guy who did the subtitles) and no linked reviews, so I can't investigate any further. Did he run over the IMDb's puppy or something?
But if you can A. find the damn thing and B. ignore the misleading, more exciting plot description, you'll find a pretty good little horror/drama that should appeal to fans of the (Korean) Whispering Corridors movies. Set primarily in school and focusing on lonely teenage girls driven to extremes, it's a very similar type of movie, but with the added bonus of not being that hard to follow. There's a twist of course, but until that point it's pretty straightforward, if a bit oddly structured. Maybe it was because I was waiting for it to turn into Tamara, but even a proper synopsis would probably discuss the bullying aspect, which doesn't start for a long time (sort of like saying Shocker is about a killer coming back from the dead - he isn't killed until the movie's almost half over). There's a lot of time devoted to explaining how terrible this poor girl's life is; in addition to being the "weirdo" of the group (her attempts at practical jokes are largely met with anger and confusion from her friends), her father is horribly abusive, prone to lashing out and beating her (with fists and feet) for no real reason. And then her friends abandon her, so pretty much all she has left is her website, which causes her even more problems later. It's quite effective and sad, even more so when you consider that these movies tend to let the (usually gibberish) back-story and scares get in the way of strong character development.
It's a shame Nagaoka couldn't have secured a better camera and/or a few lights for his production, however. It's clearly a micro-budget affair; everything seems to be shot in real locations (no sets) which noticeably cramps the camerawork for the interior scenes, and the poor lighting makes it difficult to see what is even happening during a few scenes. The first time we see the girl being abused, I literally had no idea what was going on - the lighting on her spot at the table was all but total blackness, so when the father (who I could also barely see) began smacking her around I just kept saying "Huh? Who? What?" to my TV until the scene ended. It wasn't until the second scene (which was slightly less dark) that I was able to figure out what was happening and fill in the blanks from the previous one. It's sad; the DVD has a photo gallery and whatever camera they used for the stills offers far better resolution than the one they shot the movie with - it's the first time in history that I've found use for this particular bonus feature on a DVD.
The only other extra of note (there are a few trailers on there, including this one) is a behind the scenes piece which mainly focuses on the actresses, why they signed on for the movie, whether they believe in ghosts, how much acting they had done previously, etc. It was of no interest to me, but if you add the supplements' total runtime to the movie's, you get that 90 minutes, so there's a mystery solved, I guess.
It's interesting seeing these no/low budget movies from Japan, the equivalent of the things that would be picked up by Lionsgate a few years back (like, Dark Harvest 2 style affairs) or even found on the Decrepit Crypt set. When I first started HMAD, I had barely seen any Asian horror at all, and for the most part I've only seen the more notable titles (i.e. the ones that got remade in the US), so it's good to get a taste of their more independent productions. If anyone has any recommendations for similar DIY fare out of Japan, Korea, etc, feel free to recommend! Time is running out for HMAD but it's not like I'm abandoning horror - I'll still be watching things that people recommend I seek out.
What say you?