Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Prime Time: Tokyo Videos Of Horror AKA Hitokowa (2012)

An anthology horror movie, clocking in with a runtime of just under an hour, Hitokowa is a film full of potential. It's also a film with very little information available about it online, so I'm going to apologise in advance for being so vague. It seems that too few people have discovered it, or perhaps they have and just decided it wasn't worth their time to add any details about it online.

The framing device is simple, there are a number of spooky videos put together. That's it. Some segments in between the main footage show us an interviewer talking to some of the people responsible for filming the footage. I assumed that, like so many others, this was a feature made up on a number of unconnected shorts just spliced together, but I can neither confirm nor deny this, I'm afraid. It certainly feels like that kind of thing, and I'll detail the various segments shortly, but there's only one main director and one other writer credited on IMDb so perhaps this was a main concept that allowed those involved to experiment and have some fun making the scares.

Things starts strong with the tape of a couple who are setting off some fireworks. An apparition is seen, noises are heard, and they make a grisly discovery. The second tale, much shorter, is my favourite. It's a group of people on a trip who find themselves driving by a spooky phantom. Third, a man is given some strangely specific instructions that he follows while everything is caught on film. The fourth tale is mercifully short, but not short enough, as a family play a game and remain oblivious to the appearance of an onlooker. Last, but not least, is a nasty segment about a pregnant woman being severely punished for some apparent transgression.

Directed by Kazuto Kodama, who co-wrote the thing with Kent Ihara, there's a strange disconnect here that stops the experience from being a truly enjoyable one. Although there's a crudity to every story, the opening two "tapes" seem to offer up the promise of a very spooky experience, one that will utilise more basic practical effects to build up some unflashy, subtle scares. That goes out of the window with the third tale, which has moments that wouldn't look out of place in the cheapest, home-made, uploaded-onto-YouTube ghost films. And it just gets worse and worse on the way to the abrupt end. Then you have that last segment, something that feels as if it has accidentally ended up here when it should have been edited in to one of the Guinea Pig movies. It's not an attempt to truly scare viewers, it's just a bit of gross nastiness, standing out as something all the more unpleasant compared to everything that just came beforehand.

The cast members, who I cannot name (sorry), generally do well enough at going about with their business while not realising that they are getting closer and closer to an encounter of the spooky kind. They're helped by the brief runtime, which helps to avoid the repetitive inanity that can often make up so much of the dialogue in "found footage" horror movies, and viewers will be too busy scanning each scene to see where ghosties may be lurking to focus on the more lively central characters.

Easy enough to watch if you have an hour to spare, and want an extra horror title to mark off (e.g. when trying to cram in at least 31 features in October), but this has such a steep drop-off after the first two segments that I can't really recommend it.


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