Gurozuka Review (2005)

Gurozuka Review (2005)

English Title Gurozuka
Japanese Title Gurozuka
Kana Title グロヅカ
Director Yoichi Nishiyama
Release Date 2005
Distributor Synapse Films

When you think Japanese horror, it isn’t really slasher films that come to mind. Despite the glut of films released during the genre’s heyday of the eighties, outside of a few examples Japan never really got involved. There are a few examples, Evil Dead Trap and The Guard from the Underground for example, but very little else. So for better or worse, along comes Gurozuka to fill the void.

Rumor has it, years ago, an independent film shoot at a remote cabin left one girl insane and another dead. The newly revived film club decide to return to the cabin in order to make a film about the events, or better yet, to discover whether the stories are true. They bring along with them the drama club, unaware of the events that happened previously. That is until the group discover an 8mm film that appears to capture the murder itself. Soon the group’s food and film equipment begins to go missing as it seems someone out in the woods is looking to recreate the 8mm film.

Gurozuka is a film I’ve had in my sights since Synapse chose to release it a few years ago. Featuring a fantastic looking killer and being one of the few Japanese slasher films, whilst the trailer didn’t sell me on the film, it at least created some interest. Unfortunately, my curiosity was unwarranted. Whilst I give the film some leeway due to its low budget, Gurozuka doesn’t do much to appeal to Japanese horror or slasher fans.

To start, Gurozuka has one of the most distractingly bad scores I’ve heard in some time. The main ‘suspense theme’ is little more than a descending chromatic scale. In other words, someone going down the keyboard one key at a time thinking it’s spooky. It’s incredibly silly. Then there’s the other highlight, the ‘randomly bashing cymbals action theme’. My initial assumption was that it has been composed and performed by a non-musician, but upon researching further found the composer had other credits to their name.

The performances don’t fare much better. With a cast almost exclusively consisting of models you’re not exactly getting quality acting here. You have the permanently bitchy girl, the girl incapable of sticking up for herself, the devoted girl, etc, etc. To be fair, the acting isn’t much worse than what you’d find in most mainstream Japanese films these days, but with how blandly the film is shot the actresses are pretty much hung out to dry.

The biggest problem with Gurozuka however is just how blandly the film is shot. The direction is strictly perfunctory which doesn’t do much to create any kind of mood. Similarly, the lighting outside of one night time scene towards the end is incredibly flat, which only manages to emphasise the lack of a budget. Being set mostly in the woods the filmmakers typically make use of natural light, but to no real effect.

It’s also a slasher film that chooses to show none of its kills. You’re simply told a character is dead, or only see the aftermath. It makes it awfully hard to keep up with who is still alive and what the character relationships are. More than anything though, it’s just boring. There are very few elements to get right in order to make for an entertaining slasher film, and Gurozuka delivers on none of them.

It’s a struggle to understand why Synapse eyed this one for a Western release. Was it in hopes of selling a few copies of the film based on the admittedly interesting looking killer on the cover? The film was acquisitioned in 2012, a good seven years after its release. It’s a wonder how they looked back through all of the Japanese horror films released in the J horror boom and decided this was the one. Gurozuka is a film only recommended for slasher completionists.

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Craig Hatch
Craig Hatch 41 posts

<p>Horror Japan is Craig Hatch, a Brit currently living in Tokyo, Japan. Horror Japan is a project that aims to review and collate media from all aspects of Japanese horror culture.</p>

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Rating
1.5/5

1.5

Poor
1.5
Summary

It’s a struggle to understand why Synapse eyed this one for a Western release. Was it in hopes of selling a few copies of the film based on the admittedly interesting looking killer on the cover? The film was acquisitioned in 2012, a good seven years after its release. It’s a wonder how they looked back through all of the Japanese horror films released in the J horror boom and decided this was the one. Gurozuka is a film only recommended for slasher completionists.