New Generation of J-Horror Showcase – Review

IdolOn the evening of April 5th, Philamoca was packed to the gills with an expectant audience. Tetsuki Ijichi, head of newly Philadelphia-based Tidepoint Pictures, introduces his selection of modern J-Horror films, each made by the scrappy and resourceful post-Ringu generation on shoestring budgets. Everything about this evening appealed to me. From the respectful and enthusiastic crowd, the quality ¬†and diversity of the films, the passion of the host, to the ideal length of the program, everything fit well. Philamoca was also a great choice for a screening location. It’s the kind of place where you can loosen up a bit. Though the showcase was only two hours long, I was able to take in three distinct and varied films.

Tetsuki Ijichi is doing his due diligence while breaking into the Philadelphia film scene, which is notoriously challenging but also so desperate for new blood. This past weekend’s showcase was proof that there is an audience for what Tidepoint has to offer. And Philamoca again, proves to be the home of some of the most exciting and unique programming in the city.

Sayonara Distopia (28min, Sawano Noe) This one stole the show for me, and was a fantastic opener for the evening. It takes place in the aftermath of a viral apocalypse. Viral Zombies called Yoru roam the streets. Citizens are quarantined to their homes and receive their food and supplies from weekly rationing stations. Alarms sound at the sight of Yoru. A young woman spends her days filming a journal on her i-phone, and decorating her small apartment with lights, paper chains, ribbons. She is lonely through to the heart. Most of the film is an accrual of implications. The nature of this difficult world is indistinct but slowly comes together. This young woman is working toward something…. or rather toward someone. She is taken to extreme actions in order to reconnect with someone she has lost to the Yoru disease. Sayonara Dystopia is a powerful film, and all the more exciting for having been shot on an i-phone! This one of the potential futures of cinema. The power is in everyone’s hand. Cinema is no longer a privileged medium. I think that independent cinema will be seeing more and more films shot on phones, and we will be more and more shocked at the quality of the results.

Hide and Seek was a nice segue from the intensity of Sayonara Distopia to the irreverence of the final feature Idol Is Dead. Hide and Seek is a short and very classic ghost story. A young girl attends an old estate for her first Koto lesson. A little boy runs round the property in a blue cape. The Koto teacher lives alone, and it becomes clear that she cannot see this little boy playing hide and seek. The boy in fact, is her son, and the great strength of the film lies in this painful reality of a woman cursed to lose her son and to know that all others but her can see his playful ghost. More’s the pity for the young girl taking a lesson with this woman on the verge. The only thing that this film suffers from is how harmless it comes across. The finale is what turns the tone and makes it memorable.

Yukihiro Kato’s Idol Is Dead is unadulterated fun, and it is completely under the authorship of the director who wrote, directed and produced. It is a horror-comedy with a cultural commentary about a group of young girls who dream of becoming pop idols. When they wind up killing a rival group of girls in a brawl, they decide to impersonate them and sneak into a success story. Hilarity ensues as they cannibalize other bands’ dance routines, design homemade costumes, and compete in an underground Idol ring. Group tensions rise, dead girls resurrect for revenge, and a few young girls find a sense of identity and purpose. This was the perfect way to end the showcase. I left on such an easy high note that I didn’t care about how early I had to get up the next morning for work.

Author: Aaron Mannino

Aaron Mannino is a Philadelphia area artist, film enthusiast, and some other things. He has made contributions on film analysis to the publication Korean Quarterly. Visit his blog or his website for writings and art-ings.

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