I want the truth. No matter how terrifying. I want the truth. ~ Masafumi Kobayashi
When I think about the genre of mockumentaries, the first image that comes to my mind is that of Trailer Park Boys (2001-2018) doing crazy stuff while drinking lots of alcohol. Little did I know, director Koji Shiraishi utilised the exceptional style documentary/found footage convention to make some juicy J-Horror flicks. Without hesitation, I checked out the most praised Shiraishi’s horror movie, Noroi: The Curse from 2005.
Masafumi Kobayashi (Jin Muraki) is an enthusiast of paranormal phenomena. He researches the domain of the supernatural and frequently records his investigations on camera. Called by concerned neighbours, he tries to interview a certain Junko Ishii (Tomono Kuga) and her young son due to paranormal stuff which is supposedly going on in the house. Kobayashi is chased away together with his cameraman, but he keeps digging. He discovers that Ishii used to be a daughter of a respected exorcist from the now non-existing village Shimokage. It turns out that an ancient demon known as Kagutaba is on the loose, possessing souls of innocent victims. Kobayashi joins forces with a crazy psychic Hori (Satoru Jitsunashi) and actress Marika Matsumoto (herself) to solve the mystery.
I have to say that I found it hard to treat this film seriously at the very beginning. The opening credits literally throw a major spoiler at you, and Masafumi Kobayashi is such a one-dimensional character that it’s best to describe him as a lost member of the Ghostbusters team who chases after Scooby-Doo cases. Nevertheless, this is where my criticism ends.
After a shaky encounter with Junko Ishii, the movie really picks up in terms of quality and pacing. I found myself totally engrossed in a mysterious tale, really wanting to find out how all the things are connected. What is more, apart from the misadventures of Masafumi, the viewers are presented with clips from variety shows, newsflash, and family recordings. As a result, the documentary style does not downplay but actually enhances the aesthetic tone of this horror story.
What is more, I have to praise Koji Shiraishi for not relying on jumpscares (*Ring PTSD flashbacks*), and instead trying to provide the scares in a more unique manner (video distortions, weird visions of the characters, etc.) The whole concept of Kagutaba and the demon’s backstory are excellent. A lot of this information is provided via exposition, but it really triggers the viewers’ imagination and provides a huge pay-off at the end. In addition, maybe it’s just me, but I think that the music score was inspired by Ennio Morricone’s theme for The Thing (1982).
With regard to performances, a lot of unknown faces appear in this movie, but you can still spot such recognisable actors as Yosuke Asari, Sarina Suzuki, and Dankan in very small parts. Marika Matsumoto, Satoru Jitsunashi, and Tomono Kuga really gave their best on the screen. Jin Muraki is okay as Masafumi. Noroi remains Muraki’s most recognisable picture as the actor did not do much acting work after this movie.
If you look for some proper thrills and not-to-shabby J-Horror, then Noroi: The Curse is the choice for you. Being encouraged by this mockumentary, I will try to check out other films by Koji Shiraishi. The movie is available on Shudder.
Oliver Ebisuno is a guy who likes watching (and reviewing) Asian movies. I have my own blog, Watching Asia Film Reviews, and I’m also submitting articles as well as editorials to MyDramaList, Kayo Kyoku Plus, and Asian Film Fans.