Director Toshiharu Ikeda (of Evil Dead Trap and Angel Guts fame) takes a shot at the "psychological" horror game with a two part series film in Shadow of the Wraith. Already familiar with Ikeda's previous works (and it's a long fucking list), I was expecting the usual bloodshed, rape and abuse that the director uses as calling cards. However, someone must have slipped me a Mickey during the pre-show warm-ups, because this flick seemed to be as dull and pointless as a Presidential news conference regarding, well, anything Bush has to say nowadays. Continuously filled with the same crap offered up by every other Kaidan film, Shadow of the Wraith is possibly the most generic ghost film on the Asian market to date.
I guess the draw for the film, if any, is the use of the two main characters, Ryoji and Kazuhiko, from the Japanese pop group Doggy Bag. Seemingly ripped out of a Yu-Gi-Oh tournament, these two real life brothers and performers must bleed "cool" to all the Japanese teenage girls, but just looked silly to me, the heterosexual middle classed white man. What made matters even worse was that the supporting cast in both stories of the film were about as convincing as a Republican handing out condolences at Mid-West abortion clinic. The first installment of the film revolved around brother Ryoji, who is seemingly haunted in his dreams by a strange girl in his class named Asaji. Apparently, Asaji is a recognized Wraith, or a person who can separate their soul from their tangent body when desired. Visiting Ryoji at night, Asaji torments him with genuine affection and wet dreams that warrant a thorough underwear scrubbing in the morning. Not keen to Asaji's sudden fondness, Ryoji's girlfriend Mariko becomes wary of her presence and begins to resent the girl.
Soon though, Mariko meets an untimely demise as she is tormented on a bike ride home by Asaji's spirit, causing an anticlimactic crash of incredibly minimal proportions. Learning of his girlfriend's death, Ryoji is sad at first, but in the "spirit" of Doggy Bag, doesn't give up hope. He is, though, convinced that something is afoul regarding Asaji, especially after she causes the death of another girl interested in winning Ryoji's attention. This particular storyline I found quite queer and unappealing, however, the way in which Ikeda shot was not unlike Evil Dead Trap, and added a voyeuristic approach. Ultimately, it was Ikeda's superb camera work and shot effects that won this film the two skull rating, saving it from the Total Shit pile.
The second part of the film focuses on a girl named Naoko, who moves into an apartment complex that is seemingly haunted by a restless spirit. She soon meets up with brother Kazuhiko, who frequently visits the same complex because his older sister lives there. After battling a bout of sever boredom and nigh insanity, I came to the conclusion that this story could have had much more of an impact if it were 45 minutes shorter. Nothing fucking happens! Within the first 10 minutes of the story you learn that the closet is haunted in Naoko's apartment, then it takes Ikeda an hour to lead up to a very disappointing ending. Not a single soul dies in this episode, rather we see some lame ass camera and FX work that seemed like it was shot by a high school student. Is this really the doing of a man whom truly terrified audiences with Evil Dead Trap? A man that conveyed depravity and desperation in Angel Guts: Red Porno. I'm sorry, but Mr. Ikeda, please stick to the exploitation films and leave the folklore to directors who can execute a scare.
As with any Adness release, the extras on the disc are non-existent. Only a still photo gallery and trailers for existing releases are present, offering little to no redeeming value for your $15 purchase. Way to win the fans over!
Overall, unless you are really desperate for an unseen Asian film, or a huge Doggy Bag fan, stay far, far away from Shadow of the Wraith. I wish I had.