Hey American friends, let's all jump on the Chiaki Kuriyama bandwagon! Japanese friends, take heed - this is what happens when Quentin Tarantino gets a hold of you for a role in one of his films - every bad piece of acting you've ever done surfaces like a fart in a bathtub. Shikoku is said fart, and christ did it stink!
To date, Adness has released a couple of Japanese films into the American market, Shikoku and Crazy Lips, both duds in my book. Both films are complete contrasts to each other, where Crazy Lips fell short in a strong plot, Shikoku succeeded. However, Shikoku emerges the clear winner in the "I have no action to speak of" category, delivering a solid 90 minutes of empty promises of ghosts and the undead.
In the small town of Shikoku, a "Hairu" priestess resides with her family, dutifully sealing the land off from the gate of the undead. The priestess' daughter and heir to the house title, Sayori (Chiaki), dreams one day of leaving the town for bigger and better things. Her closest friends in the world, Hanako(Natsukawa) and Fumiya follow her every whim and rely on her for comfort and stability. One day, Hanako's father takes a job in Tokyo, forcing the family to relocate from the isolated town to the big city, leaving their heritage behind. Sayori is reluctant to let go of her best friend Hanako, and ultimately resents her for leaving the town. Many years later, Hanako returns to Shikoku to care for her father's house that is left standing in the small town.
Upon her return, Hanako discovers that not much has changed in the landscape, however, the townsfolk express a deep hatred towards her and treat her as an outcast. On top of that, Hanako learns that her former best friend, Sayori died at the age of sixteen, drowning in the river that she once rescued Hanako from suffering the same fate. However, there are some disturbing circumstances surrounding Sayori's death, as Hanako soon learns from Fumiya, who was Sayori's boyfriend at her time of passing. As Sayori's ghost makes some unexpected visits to both Hanako and Fumiya, the duo begin to suspect that something is awry in the town and shortly thereafter notice strange occurances at religious sites within Shikoku's boundaries. Townsfolk speaking of seeing dead loved ones wandering around, the heads cut off of Buddha statues and the looting of a site reserved for the souls of the damned are evidence enough that someone is trying to open the gate and permit the spirits of the dead to walk again in Shikoku.
The storyline of Shikoku is quite excellent and would have certainly provided for an even greater viewing experience if it was executed properly. The fact that the story focused primarily on Sayori's resurrection and the bearing on her friends detracted from the greater cause of the dead walking the Earth. I will be the last person to pipe up and claim we need another zombie movie, but the mood and setting of the isolated town would have proved to have been the perfect circumstances for an undead onslaught. But alas, like a puppy on a leash, the viewer gets dragged through the storyline with no payoff for a perfect set up. Rather than a fleash feast, we get treated to 2 (yes 2!) "affectionate" deaths, where the victims are crushed by a forceful hug from the resurrected Sayori. What a fucking sham!
Speaking of Sayori, it's a good thing that Chiaki has done some recent work to push this acting disaster off her resume. Her performance in Shikoku would have viewer's scratching their heads as to if this were the smae girl we saw in Battle Royale.
Adness makes a valiant effort to save this displeasurable viewing experience by providing a decent offering of extras, including interviews with director Nagasaki, Chiaki and Yui Natsukawa, a behind the scenes featurette and some trailers for future Adness releases including ISOLA and Shadow of the Wraith. I think I was more enamored by the ISOLA trailer than the actual movie I forked over $15 for!
Unfortunately, Adness is 0 for 2 with their latest offering of Shikoku. This is a very uninspiring film that was most likely released due to Chiaki's rising level of fame in the US, but should have stayed buried in the archives, saving both her credentials and my money the trouble. Funny that the movie's tagline is "Some things are better left dead", huh?