Ghost Theater Review
Ever since my teens and my discovery of horror films, one particular country’s offerings have become very close to my heart; Japan. I would never claim to be an expert, but I adore the atmosphere and dread of Japanese horror films and find that their attitude towards ghosts and scares reminds me of the best classic horror literature. However there hasn’t been one to really impress me for some time, could Ghost Theater be the one to change that?
Sara (Haruka Shimazaki) is a young actress working hard and struggling to make her big break. When she gets a part in a huge stage production of the story of Elizabeth Bathory it seems that she’s finally getting her chance. However a sinister prop in the play’s production seems to have a life of its own, and what it wants is the life of all the actresses in the play, including Sara.
Director Hideo Nakata is probably best known for directing 1998’s modern classic chiller, and one of my favourite horror movies, Ring. Ghost Theater is nowhere near the level of that or of 2002’s brilliantly creepy Dark Water, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things to like. We start with a very over the top opening sequence where we are introduced to the haunted object for the film; a very realistic life-sized doll. The lack of real build-up surprised me and I almost thought that this was part of some kind of movie within the movie. However once I got over my initial confusion I ended up enjoying Ghost Theater as a very tongue in cheek and playful horror film. It manages a few moments of genuine subtle dread with the doll in the first half of the film, and if you have a particular fear of dolls then I’m sure it will get to you. Mostly though the film is a little roller-coaster that drags you along for a ride with clichéd characters and slightly dodgy effects.
The only thing about the film that genuinely annoyed me was that the main character Sara was very sweet and likeable initially, by the end, she’s pretty much just a screaming mess. She’s a character that things happen to rather than who makes things happen, and the only reason she even finds out the history of the haunted doll is because someone else was going to check it out and happened to invite her along.
If you’re after a Japanese horror that’ll really creep you out that isn’t one of the more well known ones, track down Noroi, a folklore-centred faux documentary. Ghost Theater, on the other hand, is low on scares but still watchable for how ridiculous is gets. I definitely enjoyed it more than some mainstream American horror from the last few years.