After File 01 went off with a bang, Koji Shiraishi’s Senritsu Kaiki File Kowasugi! File 02: Shivering Ghost (2012) tries something different and turns out unexpectedly good. The first episode of the mockumentary series didn’t disappoint in serving Koji’s found footage brands and Japanese myth goodness, showing how his knack for storytelling and genre filmmaking overcomes low budget and its restraints. In his second attempt in the film series, he challenges his narrative to territories he hasn’t charted yet until Cult (2013), his found footage film a year after.

His unusually satisfactory found footage technique comes from his compelling strategic storytelling in a genre where narratives are fabricated to look spontaneous and wind up ironically scattered. Choosing the mockumentary setup is a preventive measure to not fall into that recklessness. But more than that, he acknowledges our curiosity and responds with crumbs that assure us that we are not waiting in vain. And most of the time, these fragments hold their own intriguing anecdotes that hold up as they build up. So, he builds our confidence with his plan that in the end, every account in Shiraishi’s Yokai-infested world is a factor that promises a culmination as significant and satisfactory as the bigger half of the film. Fortunately, he delivers well.

Senritsu Kaiki File Kowasugi File 02: Shivering Ghost

But he veered from his usual style and went on for a more risky approach in File 02. The trio, who dared to track down and photograph the slit-mouthed woman in the first film, disturbed the supernatural once more as they pursued the trail of a ghost caught on camera by teenagers who had recently toured a deserted school to try and frighten themselves. It started like the first film. The crew acquired a haunted tape that will dictate the content for their episode. However, the difference is that tape is not as thought-provoking as the one with the slit-mouthed woman.

The glut of found footage films might’ve benumbed our tolerance for ghosts caught on camera. The footage the crew examined is nothing special at all. File 02 really dodged a bullet because the story quickly moved on to their haunted visitation in the school. Although their ghostly encounter is also quite lackluster, one particular scene you should look out for is when the crew acknowledged some ties with the first film. It’s a nice and easy-to-spot homage that showed up again during its culminating scene.

Senritsu Kaiki File Kowasugi File 02: Shivering Ghost

The short runtime must be the saving grace of the film because it does not get much exciting until its 40-minute mark. Since it is a Shiraishi film, we tend to anticipate something extraordinary along the way that will help occupy us until the big reveal. And yet, their ghost investigation appears unfit for Koji’s style. It does not harbor too much intrigue, mainly because there’s nothing notable about it like the Slit-mouthed woman who came from famous Japanese folklore. So, the repercussions of the poor CGI and the lengthy dialogues become much more conspicuous, disrupting the attention retained by a few scenes that make the film somehow tolerable.

Here’s where Koji Shiraishi proved he would persist with such a tricky story approach. While he had assembled segments that reassure a fitting conclusion in his past films, he exploits our nonchalance with File 02’s mediocre first half to fully disorient us in the latter half. He bombards us with gripping revelation after revelation as it creeps toward the end. And no one can ever see what’s coming.

Everything came from the risk he took when he decided to keep us in the dark from the beginning. All the interviews never feel like pieces of a bigger picture to be revealed because all of them seem to lead nowhere. And yet, their innate believability raises tension and conspiracy. Its cryptic atmosphere separates it from Shiraishi’s past features. Noroi: The Curse established him as a grand schemer because its narrative deliberately grows richer and more discernible as anecdotes and mythology fittingly come together while the horror develops naturally. But the story becomes more ambiguous as it advances in File 02 and would only give the viewers a translucent glimpse of what’s happening when they finally interview other people aside from the initial interviewees. But its ambiguity becomes its most dynamic element because it tactically perpetuates the horror and suspense that only materialized late in the game.


Senritsu Kaiki File Kowasugi File 02: Shivering Ghost

All the hype is focused on the rush of the final 30 minutes. The crazy crossbreed of realism and obscurity that Shiraishi’s famous for is, surprisingly, still prevalent in every wild and snappy turn of events until the ending credits. The payoff, at long last, is legitimately compelling because the adrenaline only makes every twist memorable. It might not have a conclusion as creepy and satisfying as File 01, but it is still worth the wait after an hour of mixed and bewildering emotions.

While the ‘ghost hunting’ portion of this film may annoy some who are expectant of Shiraishi, what’s bothersome is how they handled Kudo’s anger issues throughout the film. His violence is way too excessive that selling it as a believable documentary won’t cut it because it feels sloppily edited. They even named his act of violence as the Kudo technique. If this will be a recurrent theme in the film, at least tone it down to preserve its selling point as a legitimate documentary.

To think that Shiraishi’s aware of how casual viewers of the found footage genre often get fatigued from seeing the same formula frequently. While it seems too early for something offbeat, File 02 demonstrates his capability to surprise and exceed expectations. In Cult (2013), his unusual and ambiguous worldbuilding will resurface again, but with a more comic touch. Now, we know the Senritsu Kaiki File series shouldn’t be taken lightly.

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