• Shiukoku



    Released by: Adness
    Released on: 10/26/2004

    Director: Shunichi Nagasaki
    Cast: Chiaki Kuriyama, Yui Natsukawa, Michitaka Tsutsui, Toshie Negishi
    Year: 1999
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    The Movie:

    Despite the packaging and marketing behind the film, featuringway too cute Kill Bill and Battle Royale star Chiaki Kuriyama (in her feature film debut) with her long black hair over her face, standing in a long flowing white gown, Shikoku isn’t much of a horror movie. In fact, it’s just barely a ghost story.

    The film begins with three kids, females Hinako and Sayori and their boy buddy Fumiya. Hinako sees something strange in Sayori’s house but swears to never tell. Later that day, Hinako almost drowns in the river near the home. Soon after, she moves away to Tokyo with her family, splitting up the group.

    All grown up now, Hinako (Yui Natsukawa of Kitan’s Zatoichi film) returns back to her small home village in Shikoku to deal with some family business. When she arrives, she finds out that her friend Sayori drowned when she was seventeen years old and that her father has been hospitalized for years since a mountain climbing accident. She does meet up with Fumiya (Michitaka Tsutsui) though, and they hit it off nicely. As Fumiya and Hinako grow closer, they both begin to see the ghost of Sayori (Chiaki Kuriyama) appearing at night, but they’re unsure why. When they investigate the circumstances surround these appearances and around Sayori’s mysterious past, they tie it all in to a strange temple that her mother (Toshie Negishi of Takashi Miike’s Audition) has some very strong ties to.

    The first seventy minutes of Shikoku are very, very slow. The film introduces us to the characters right away but takes its sweet time in allowing us to really care about them, and if you are short of attention span, you’ll find yourself looking for the fast forward button on the remote.

    If you’re willing to let the movie unfold at its own pace though, by the time the last half hour or so of the movie finally does roll around you’ll be treated to an interesting romantic ghost story that almost plays out like an Italian gothic of the 1960s. There are plenty of gorgeous sets, some set in bizarre organic looking caverns, lots of primary colored lighting gels used, and a tragic performance from Kuriyama who here plays the polor opposite of the characters she’s best known for in the two previously mentioned films.

    The emphasis here isn’t on horror or jump scares. The film only has two marginally creepy moments and it hardly qualifies are a horror film at all. That doesn’t make it a bad movie though, though it is bound to disappoint those looking for a Ring or Juon clone as it is about as similar to those as it is to Ace Ventura Pet Detective.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Shikoku gets a nice 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer on this DVD release. While the image is a little bit soft, this looks like a stylisitic choice rather than a fault in the presentation. Colors are nice and well defined, black levels are strong and don’t break up at all, and edge enhancement is present but minor and never overly distracting. There’s a pleasantly high level of detail evident in the print, which is clean and free of any major damage save for the occasional speck.

    Viewers have a choice of checking out the movie in either a DTS 5.1 Surround Sound mix or a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, both of which are in Japanese with optional English subtitles that are easy to read and free of any typographical errors. If equipped, the DTS mix is the way to go as it has a lot more punch than the stereo mix but both tracks have clean dialogue and don’t have any problems with hiss or distortion. My only complaint is that on the DTS mix, more use could have been made of the rear channels in a couple of scenes.

    First up are four trailers for four different films, all presented in widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles – Shikoku, Inugami, Isola and Shadow Of The Wraith respectively. There’s also a behind the scenes featurette that runs just over three minutes and shows us the cast and crew hard at work on the set of the film. The dialogue is all in Japanese but there are English subtitles.

    There are also three interviews on this DVD, one a piece with director Shunichi Nagasaki, and actresses Chiaki Kuriyama and Yui Natsukawa. Both the actresses have plenty of kind words about their director, Kuriyama discusses how her film debut differed from her modelling career and Natsukawa discusses how Shikoku is a very atypical horror film. These are pretty brief segments, each running between two to three minutes each.

    The Final Word:

    Shikoku plays much better as a supernatural love story than it does as a horror film, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The movie does really take its time getting going, but the last half hour will reward patient viewers and Adness has done a very nice job on the DVD release.