DVD: Gurozuka (2005)

April 2, 2012 | By

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Film: Good/ DVD Transfer: Very Good/ DVD Extras: Good

Label: Synapse Films/ Region: 1 (NTSC) / Released: January 10, 2012

Genre: Horror

Synopsis:  A group of college girls venture to an abandoned lodge for a weekend of filming, and find themselves enmeshed in the cruse of a mad student who kills wearing a chilling deigan mask.

Special Features: Making0of Featurette (23:03) in Japanse with English subtitles / Trailer




Billed as a ScreamThe Ring hybrid, Yôichi Nishiyama’s Gurozuka is anchored around the naïve resuscitation of a school’s film club at an isolated lodge where more than a decade earlier a classmate went bonkers, donned a creepy deigan mask, and macheted her friends, leaving one survivor (albeit mentally kaput).

The new group – a mix of friends with common interests but the usual petty jealousies of youth – are driven to the abandoned lodge by the sister of their loser classmate, and it’s only after they discover a tape copy of the video documenting the first kill that things go awry. One by one, characters disappear or appear to have been massacred, forcing the handful of survivors to lock themselves up in the old lodge only to run wild when the masked killer returns.

Director Nishiyama is great at building tension, managing to stave off the first kill for almost half the film’s running time, and there are some sneaky shocks that has the killer pop in and out of frame, but as often occurs with slashers, the revelation of the insidious killer is absurd, as is the killer’s supposed demise. One stalking sequence in the lodge’s dining room is almost undone by over-lighting the area, and some of the gore makeup just doesn’t work (particularly a ‘burnt’ cadaver that resembles a sullied, sleeping figure).

Also problematic is Ryuji Murayama’s score which may be an attempt to evoke a cheesy eighties American slasher, or just mediocre and oft-repeated synth tracks written with little imagination or sense of variation for differing scenes. There’s also far too many characters allowed to hag around & live to the midpoint, when the group ought to have been whittle down. Most of the girls lack unique personalities, making any internecine conflicts utterly banal.

Nishiyama also under-uses what looks like a great location smack in the middle of nowhere, but the forest scenes and night shots are effectively creepy. Norio Teranuma’s HD cinematography is generally attractive, and whichever actor / actress plays the masked killer does a smart job in physically evoking a teasing, stalking monster who likes to wear down and taunt victims before the final death blow.

Synapse’s DVD includes a lengthy making-of featurette that covers shooting as well as the wrap party, and one gets a sense there was strong camaraderie among the cast & crew who shot their film in record time on a shoestring budget.

Although the camera-shy, soft-spoken Nishiyama had directed a few prior films – Fateful / Unmei ningen (2004), Trouble Maker Lucy (2004) – and wrote Moonlight Whispers / Gekkô no sasayaki (1999), Gurozuka is his most recent work.



© 2012 Mark R. Hasan


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