Cursed (2004)

Starring Kyoko Akiba, Takaaki Iwao, Osamu Takahashi, Etsuyo Hirayama, Susumu Terashima

Directed by Yoshihiro Hoshino

No relation to the Wes Craven hairball of the same name, this J-horror import further proves that sometimes the title is an accurate reflection of the movie itself. The massive sucktitude stemming from this one doesn’t involve pouty lycanthropes batting for supremacy in the Hollywood singles scene, instead, this Cursed thrusts its focus on a malevolent mini-mart where the ball-shriveling frights don’t come from an overprice six-pack of brew but some pissed off poltergeists who have a tendency to follow the customers home. When they get there, or when they’re hanging around the mini-mart like some spectral Jay and Silent Bob wannabes, there’s little inventiveness to their fatal hauntings. Same goes for Yoshihiro Hoshino’s flaccid execution and paper thin concept (conceived with co-writer Hirotoshi Kobayashi) which lack the support needed to wade through the ever-widening pool of astounding Asian horror.

Mitsuya Mart is the corrupted convenience store in need of a thorough exorcism. Here the ghastly, puke-colored staff uniforms are only paralleled in weirdness by its owners who unflinchingly gaze at the security monitors. They only break their trance to freak out on their staff or to find utter glee in washing dead crows that have flown into the mart’s facade, from the sidewalk. Witnessing these bizarre acts is Ryouko who has been sent by a competing chain store to begin takeover proceedings. There she meets Nao, a fresh faced newbie, and together they slowly experience the supernatural oddities of Mitsuya Mart. But, as I’ve said, the freakish force doesn’t only linger between the store’s aisles and backrooms. Taking its cue from Ju-On, the curse bleeds outward from its point of origin haunting customers and employees alike, and damn if the spooky occurrences don’t feel like a massive déjà vu-inspired headache: a bug-eyed, raven haired girl crawls out from an open refrigerator; a young man’s face is distorted after an eerie encounter with a hooded customer; and a woman flees from a sledgehammer-wielding, bandaged maniac (Cursed‘s only effective moment).

That’s not all; the pieced together, recycled drivel that make up Hoshino’s weak equation crib from all the best. The Exorcist‘s grating attic noises are lifted as are The Amityville Horror‘s threatening voices from the beyond. Want a sinister bouncing ball, ala The Changling? You got it, baby. And believe it or not, there’s a single shot of the aforementioned sledgehammer killer that calls to mind a few frames from Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evil. (I think the fact that I recognized the shot is scary in and of itself.) Let’s not go without mentioning splatterific Final Destination opening minutes either. With so little creativity, you can’t help but see Cursed as an instant cash-in. One that feels awfully made-for-television in nature. The acting as an ensemble is passable at best, save for actress Hiroko Sato whose nuances have all of the subtlety of a piping hot metal rod up the ass, and the CG effects are sub-par, namely a particular scene where one Mart employee’s eye is distorted to absurd proportions like something out of a Junji Ito book.

Cursed scrapes around the horror barrel looking for some place to fit in. There’s not nearly enough going on, though, to allow this to happen. The movie just doesn’t amount to much and by the time the film wraps up and Ryouko says, “I should say there’s no reason for whatever’s happening”, you can’t help but say aloud, “No shit, lady.”

1 ½ out of 5

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