Gregory Horror Show: The Guest from Hell Review
A woman on her way back from a friend's wedding in a taxi suddenly finds herself outside of Gregory House, with no recollection of how she got there. After entering, Gregory introduces himself and shows her to room 205 - a familiar sight indeed...
Continuing on in the same format as before of twenty-five 3-minute episodes, Gregory Horror Show eases into its second volume to bring us more of its uniquely quirky characters and words of wisdom, this time seeing the protagonist as a woman who has a troubled past. Gregory tells her that the hotel doesn’t see many female visitors, though he's certainly not going to treat her any differently.
When Volume 1 had ended we'd seen some strange things that looked like they were beginning to work toward something greater and as the second volume will testify that work is evident. While there isn't a great deal of difference in each episode there is a story arc forming here that is most sinister and with the more involved presence of Gregory's mother and the newly introduced nephew, James, things are about to get a whole lot more depressing. We learn that Gregory's mother has a penchant for collecting guest's souls in an effort to make herself younger - she does this by consuming them as if they were any normal beverage and keeps them in jars on her shelves, which sets up character motivations and begins to answer some questions that were left behind previously. In addition to this are several dedicated episodes to its family ties, which sees moments of backstabbing between Gregory and his mother. Now we begin to see the series take some direction as we try to fathom the purpose of Gregory House.
In between the happenings of this arc is you, the viewer once again, only this time you're a different person and as such your problems are also greatly different. Before, Gregory had often handed words of advice or told you certain truths and here it is no different but your struggle to keep hold of your own sanity is the driving force. As the character progresses she gradually reveals several truths about her past relationship and how it ties in with the wedding that she had recently attended. To save spoilers I shall say no more but it makes for a decent central character theme as she tries to drown her sorrows at Gregory's bar or constantly smoke, which is another running theme which later becomes more involved. Gregory tells you this time that the hotel is free for you to do whatever you like, there are no smoking restrictions though this is amusing as everyone is still afraid of fire, for different reasons and by the end of this volume we'll see a major related occurrence. Best of all though is Hell's Chef's take on the matter as he hunts you down crying "Cigarettes are the enemies of cuisine!", before skulking off hand in hand with Gregory.
Again it's the characters that make up much of the series' charm and with a new protagonist comes several new guests, the most obvious appearance being that of James, the troublesome little nephew of Gregory who goes out of his way to see that you have an uncomfortable stay, and annoying he is too. But then the series gets more creative and we're introduced to the likes of Bonsai Kabuki - a stage actor with three eyes and a plant on his head, Unbaba the dancing fool and later on the cult leader, Mono Eye Wizard who loves to torture and is greatly feared. These add a further enjoyable quality to the show, however brief their appearance and the series is kept fresh enough thanks to Iwata's designs.
Much of what makes this series has been discussed previously so it leaves me to say that this time round things are far darker than they were before. There are many set ups for our lead character that are constantly designed to terrify and although they fail to cause a big reaction some of them are a tad scarier, at least to a degree that children perhaps shouldn't watch it, though it is tailored toward ages 13 plus. Some of these episodes stray entirely from the story arc but serve some purpose to the lead. This volume also contrasts the previous one in that it ends on an entirely different note. While last time you managed to free yourself from the hotel, this time you’re faced with a whole different scenario as characters go up against each other and you're left in a stressful predicament. Again I'll avoid spoiling anything but Gregory Horror Show continues to at least surprise in some areas, proving that it can end on a downer as well as it can on a chirpy note.
Geneon's second volume is packaged much like the first, this time seeing Neko Zombie grace the sleeve, with a single page insert of chapter stops inside. The menu design is suitable but the chapter stops are a little disappointing as they're simply labelled 1, 2, 3, 4 etc, with no pictures of the episodes, so choosing your favourite ones can be difficult.
Gregory Horror Show is again presented as intended, in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The main problems are slight compression and banding issues, along with some muddy blacks. Detail is fine however and many of the colours are otherwise better suited as being drab. The trouble with a show like this is that it's practically impossible to do it full justice on DVD, adding to the fact it's entirely computer rendered and makes use of dark surroundings. We've seen much brighter series in the past suffer from similar problems but Gregory Horror Show shows some of the largely unavoidable hazards as a result of this technology.
Like last time we have a 2.0 English track only, so we know what to expect voice wise. Here the cast do a good job with their roles but the main problem is that certain characters lose their personality as a result of being typically Japanese. For example Bonsai Kabuki now has an eccentric sounding English voice, a kind of overblown stage actor. I can imagine exactly how he'd sound in Japanese and there isn't many ways to get around this when dubbing so I suppose the choice to do it this way is acceptable enough and it keeps some authenticity with relation to Kabuki. Later on in "The Bloody Karte" we have a skeletal samurai known as Musha Dokuro whose voice is amusing and fitting and the other characters are fine as usual, with James becoming a little tiresome as time goes on. It's still a shame that the Japanese track was not made available as it undoubtedly would have offered some fine performances.
This time the sound itself is deeper. Some of the scarier moments are a lot more effective and the front speakers handle the surrounds extremely well, most notably with the attacking vines early on - a combination of creepy voice work and whooshing sound effects. As the volume approaches its end there are some very nice fire effects and crashing sequences that are given plenty of life.
It looks as if Geneon has not included subtitles as a result of this, which will upset some folk I'm sure. There's no reason why we shouldn't have subtitles just because the Japanese track is missing.
The Bloody Karte
Here we have cases 5-8 in the short spin-off series set at Dr. Fritz's hospital. The episodes here continue to offer more humour than in Gregory Horror Show, while keeping a dark tone. Some enjoyable new characters make their debut here and Catherine continues to be a pest while Gregory walks around with an unknown ailment.
Gregory Horror Show Action Figures
This is presented exactly as before only with an additional toy, that of James.
Trailers for Stellvia, Star Ocean EX and Tokyo Underground.
Although Gregory Horror Show has begun to pick up the pace and bring us a more involving story it remains pretty much the same in terms of content. It's not a huge step up from the first volume so if that didn't convert anyone neither will this but it still manages to offer some interesting bits and pieces. With only one volume to go I can't guess where it's heading so it'll be interesting to see.