Director Koji Shiraishi takes a dip into cryptozoology in Senritsu Kaiki File Kowasugi! File 03: Legend of a Human-Eating Kappa (shortened to File 03). In this third installment in the Senritsu Kaiki File series, the eccentric documentary crew composed of the crazed director Kudo Hitoshi, assistant Miho Ichikawa, and the cameraman (played by Koji, himself) investigates a rural area after a couple fishing in a pond captures a strange creature that emerges from the water’s surface.

Shiraishi has previously explored ghosts in his first two installments, but in “File 03“, he delves into the Japanese mythological creature Kappa. For those unfamiliar with Japanese folklore, Kappa is a water-dwelling creature often depicted as a humanoid with a turtle-like shell and a dish-like indentation on its head filled with water.

While investigating another type of anomaly is a new thing to look forward to in this installment, a few new things are worth the mention beforehand. The film provides a nuanced portrayal of Ichikawa, depicting her as a more active participant in the investigation. She takes the lead when Kudo is absent and displays a range of emotions throughout the story. Although Kudo has traditionally been the driving force of the series, it is refreshing to see Ichikawa taking charge. It’s also nice to see Koji Shiraishi get off the handheld camera and get in the frame every once in a while.

Senritsu File 3- ritual

Although we might have been expecting Kudo to display more belligerent behavior in this film as he comes unhinged before his accident in the second film, his outbursts are surprisingly curtailed. This is evident in the scene where Kudo, who has just recovered from a coma, is interviewing the stubborn farmer about the Kappa sighting. He’s much more unagitated than usual, especially when he had a squabble with the victim’s boyfriend. His hostile behavior should’ve clicked in these two heated-up scenarios, but Shiraishi seems to be cognizant of Kudo’s excessive outbursts in File 02, and toning down his behavior proves to be a wise decision.

While we have our beloved characters getting suitable treatment, the same can’t be said of this film’s ability to cover the investigation of the mythological creature. Unfortunately, File 03 fails to replicate the mind-bending twists and turns that made its predecessors so captivating. The movie heavily inclines on lengthy on-site investigations, which lack the adrenaline-inducing excitement that fans have come to expect. Unfortunately, there are no intriguing characters or expert interviews to add any depth to the world-building. The movie pursues the commonly found footage formula, where anticipation consumes most of the runtime, only to deliver a make-or-break revelation at the end. But even the revelation at the end of File 03 falls short of expectations, failing to showcase the same indelible punch as its predecessors.

Nevertheless, one of the most compelling things to not miss in this installment is how it resembles the premise of Shiraishi’s Noroi: The Curse, where the construction of a dam and the flooding of a town played a crucial role in the possession of a demon. In File 03, the construction of the Nagara dam had constricted the pond where innocent and unharmful Kappas lived. People had dismembered and dumped them in the pond, causing the once-peaceful creatures to become aggressive and attack humans. Shiraishi’s found footage films work effectively because he hooks his found footage horror to real-life societal issues to solidify his ambitious attempt at realism.

The premises mirror how Japanese industrialization and postwar reconstruction had an adverse impact on the environment and its occupants, as seen in the construction of the real-life Nibutani Dam. Two Ainu landowners filed a legal case against the Japanese government for illegally seizing their land in 1989 to build the dam. They argued that the expropriation of their land violated their rights as Ainu and would obliterate sacred sites and ritual grounds significant to their cultural heritage.

Although the film’s last ritual was hyped with Kudo ready to give the Kappas a taste of his martial arts, the ambiguous and unsolved ending did not work as effectively as it did in the first two installments. Furthermore, the mystery only raised more questions, reducing their efforts to nothing. It’s sad to see them fail, but hey, failure is part of the process. And maybe we’ll see our heroes learn to pick themselves back up in the following films and save the day like they always do!

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