Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Scary True Stories (Hontoni Kowai Hanashi)

Good morning!

I hope everybody had a great long weekend for the Labor Day holiday. I had to work Sunday but spent most of yesterday-day lounging, watching a self-created Hulu marathon of Hotel Hell, the new Gordon Ramsay reality show, and not updating my blog (apologies! By the time I thought about doing it, it was really kind of too late to post anyway). However! When I ran out of Gordon and decided to take advantage of Matthew's Xbox's Youtube-streaming capabilities to watch a scary-movie playlist I made especially for the no-work holiday occasion, I was BLOWN AWAY by Scary True Stories. Halloween is coming! And if you're in the mood to set the ghoul-gauge to FULL, you need to seek this Japanese horror anthology out.

The "true" claim of the title seems a little spurious, but the "scary" more than makes up for it

The video was titled "13 Real Asian Horror Stories", and owing to the thousand times Youtube has led me astray with a promisingly labelled horror video, I wasn't expecting much. After the breakout success of Asian horror movies like The Ring, Grudge, Shutter, The Eye, and Pulse, there was a year or two where any scary movie made in Asia could boast either a missed-the-point English language remake or an original language dvd release, regardless of quality. I was so sick at one point of being tricked into watching D-grade Korean suspense thrillers, when I'd signed up for something entirely different upon reading the synopsis and buying the dvd, that I'd altogether given up trying to find a good, scary Asian movie I hadn't already seen. Then along comes this mess!

I still don't get this one, but I'm now staunchly anti-children-in-wet-raincoats.
Originally airing in the late nineties', and continuing to produced to I think the present day (most of the production information I could find online is spotty and/or in Japanese), Scary True Stories is a little Unsolved Mysteries, a little traditional Japanese horror or urban legends, and a LOT unnerving. While eight or so of the entries in this thirteen-strong compilation of episodes are "oh, ok...I think I get that...so it was the ghost the whole time...", the remaining five are COMPLETELY TERRIFYING. I was laying in bed, in the dark, last night after watching, thinking about blacked-out-faces with staring white eyes probably hovering somewhere near the foot of my bed, waiting for a bare millimeter of flesh to peek out from my covers. I don't know if a lot of the strength of impact in these stories came from my utter lack of expectations, but I just loved the whole idea and execution of the series. And also am now afraid to sleep at night. I was going to try to summarize my favorite of the gruesome baker's dozen, but as each story draws a lot of its power from its unexpectedness. Just know from when you watch it, that it's the one where the girl who's home sick from school, and that this is a still from that segment:

It ain't ketchup, folks...
Runner up? The music box episode. Because of the limited amount of time sectioned out for each short segment, there's an old-time-radio-series sense of dramatic efficiency and immediacy. Without the luxury of set-up and backstory and dilly-dallying with plot devices-- the plot itself is plopped down in the first minute or so, and the remaining ten minutes revolve around amping up the horror as high as it'll go in that time frame. The music box one in particular reminds me of an old Arch Oboler episode of Lights Out Everybody called "The Dark"...the premise is immediate and unexplained, but you're too busy scaring yourself witless conjecturing as to what's going on, filling in the blanks with your imagination, to have time to question why whatever horrible thing is happening. Same with the segment called "Sleepyhead". "Why" something is happening is not as important as the idea that is happening. And that's freakin' scary!!

No more children's raincoats, no more music boxes...lemme just update that aversions checklist...
While I hunt down more episodes of this show (and struggle through search results with a language barrier), turn down the lights, turn up the sound, and watch the video below! For further reading, you can also check out this great blog post on one of the archetypes of J-horror films, the Long Haired Female Ghost, or this Cracked.com list of Japanese urban legends (funny, terrifying, AND informative-- an unbeatable combination). Back to non-terrifying, stateside vintage stuff tomorrow. See you then!



  1. Completely fun and addictive! Worlds Collide!

  2. I can explain(:
    blue raincoat: the boy was a warning that the hot guy at her house she was tutoring was actually there to sleep with her (kid knowing she traced a heart on the desk, 'wet raincoat = .... condom' metaphor), so she figured it out and took off horrified. As if guys are mind-readers, or even good at picking up on hints, for that matter.

    dark woman: the little girl's mum died burnt to death, plus she's not using too much energy to manifest, so obviously she'd going to be black.. it's just her mum watching over her, which is totally sweet(:

    sleepy eyes: girl keeps reliving the last moments of her life (and is there several times at once and overlapping because time doesn't actually exist), because she either doesn't want to accept she died and/or won't let go of it and move on..

    the rest:
    three people are coming:
    girl got stuck in the lift on the way out of school so the voice on the help thingy said three people are coming, but the voice meant three spirits to kill you (one from behind, one from the left side and one from below)

    copy machine:
    their friend's face was blanked out on every photo because she was trying to tell them she died (the blanked out) but she's fine (the fact it's white)
    but they didn't get the hint, then she called one of them but they had already left, so she went to where they are and showed them what happened

    animal odour:
    girl has an ability to smell the odour that her friend's husband had killed those animals as a child and I think her friend could too (all those air freshners)

    I actually don't know, but I do know the fact she was ill weakened her to get 'chosen' by the blood lady

    a snapshot:
    it's explained at the end

    the ghost of ohatsutenjin:
    a succubus that comes to boys and repeatedly rapes them once they hit puberty until they get old(er)

    based on folklore, about foxes that can shapeshift into human form.

    the music box:
    evil spirit attached to that music box

    house of restless spirits:
    self-explanatory too, the title as well as the lady. They didn't like anyone appropriating themselves the house/the lot they died in. So they don't care about killing them but this family got a heads up.

    1. A lot of stories in general are based on folklore, as are all these.. I can tell you which yokai if you want..
      look up tales of terror from tokyo and ghost stories from japan, a lot more like that..
      I can explain those too if you want(:



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