Presented in both 2D and 3D, Shock Labyrinth is an Asian horror film from the writer and director of Ju-on, Takashi Shimizu, an exceptional, effective story of revenge that was spawned sequels, remakes and videogames.
Treading familiar territory, Shock Labyrinth is the story of a group of friends who become haunted by someone they knew from their childhood. This spirit, Yuki, is eager to get vengeance on our group of friends, though none of them seem to know why. Having said that, they do accept the return of their friend after nearly a decade really quite quickly. So, perhaps they’re not the brightest kids in Japan.
Finally, having discussed much of what they remember and taken Yuki to see her sister, the friends decide to take the spirit to a hospital. Except, the hospital is weird and unoccupied, so they wait, and wait, and wait.
It turns out that the hospital isn’t a hospital after all, and it’s all been an elaborate ploy to get the friends back to atone for their sins. Except, this form of atonement is more of a punishment (for the characters and for the viewer), as we see many, many weird moments flashback through memories to the day of the accident, and feel underwhelmed by the extent to which the spirit is willing to go in the name of vengeance. Sure, there’s death, but given what fans of Japanese horror have seen before, the deaths appear to be limp and lifeless (well, as lifeless as death can be.)
It turns out that the friends weren’t very friendly towards young Yuki and she died as a result. Each believes that they killed her and the stories quickly spill out. Playing about with the storytelling, we dance from the present to the past as we discover what really happened to poor Yuki. It’s a really good plot device that focuses on how each character seems to have a different memory of what actually happened.
In the final few minutes, the film makes a last ditch effort to be sympathetic, as we discover the true fate of Yuki, and a final twist that almost makes sense, if it weren’t for the fact that it delivers far too little far too late.
From early in the film, there are weirdly effective, if slightly bizarre, moments. Time is suspended, a girl can see through a door (in an almost Matrix effect), there’s a spiral staircase with a red banister, a bizarre toy bunny and, most effectively, moving mannequins that are woefully underutilised. The sound track is particularly effective at being creepy, presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and making use of all the speakers at various points to deliver disconcerting sound.
Subtitled throughout and benefiting from a script that is hardly taxing, it’s not going to be difficult for those who are unfamiliar with subtitled films to follow. It also helps that you can pause at any point and marvel at the odd, odd dialogue. Let’s just say it’s on the right side of weird, which is also to say it’s not weird enough for fans of this particular subgenre.
In places, the film reminds me of games like The 7th Guest and The 11th Hour. Both games were replete with seemingly nonsensical dialogue, over-the-top full motion video and filled with bad acting. At least those games were compelling. This film is just nonsensical, over-the-top and bad acting!
Most importantly, of course, is the 3D version of the film. So, is this an example of the 3D version being better than the 2D? Will hidden depths be unveiled in the all important third dimension?
Using the familiar red/green anaglyph, Shock Labyrinth in 3D is the same experience as 2D with the weirdness flying out of the screen at you. There’s something quite disconcerting about watching the film in what might as well be two colours, and it does make the film feel quite eerie in places.
However, the effect doesn’t add real depth to the picture, with many scenes seeming far less focused, visually, than in the 2D version of the film.
With the DVD, you have the choice of which version to watch. Watch the 3D version and you’ll be hugely disappointed. At least the 2D version just results in a sense of disappointment.
All in all, as a Japanese horror film, Shock Labyrinth falls short of it’ contemporaries in the world of Japanese horror. It’s a bit too lightweight, far too shallow, low in scares and trying too hard to ride the crest of the 3D wave without anything that makes you sit there and say, “Wow, that’s awesome.”
Despite broadly being in two categories, Interviews and Behind the Scenes, there isn’t a Play All feature for either of the extras.
A series of interviews with the principle cast and crew offer a real insight into the making of the film, far more so than I had initially expected. Far from being the fluff pieces that most films include, we get behind-the-scenes footage and some interesting (if unusually translated) information. It does seem that filming was a quite serious experience, though, with each actor giving their all to their part.
Behind the Scenes is broken down into five sections: The Haunted House and Scary Dummies, The Secret of the Stereoscopic Camera, Cast and Crew Fooling Around and Shooting Last Scenes, Venice Film Festival, and Press Conference and Opening Day. Each is a short exploration of the filmmaking and publicity process, offering (surprisingly) a behind-the-scenes look.
Haunted House and Scary Dummies shows the makeup work that went into the dummies sequence. The extras involved are a funny bunch and the makeup is creepy. It’s a bit disappointing that it’s not really exploited in the final piece (and is, frankly, lost in the 3D version of the film).
The Secret of the Stereoscopic Camera looks at the use of the camera technology in the film. The filmmakers are genuinely enthusiastic about the potential that this type of technology offers. They discuss the challenges of using the larger cameras in the confines of the Labyrinth of Horrors at Fuji-Q Amusement Park and the skill required to make 3D using handheld cameras.
Cast and Crew Fooling Around and Filming Last Scenes is, as the name suggests, the cast being a bit daft and talking about the final day of shooting. It’s not rolling around funny, but it is quite warming to see how sweet, funny and embarrassing the cast can be.
Venice Film Festival is a video made by the director as he visits the festival for the first time. Takashi Shimizu bravely speaks in front of a crowd of journalists and peers in broken English, talks about his film to camera and talks about 3D being seen as a children’s format. He believes it can be used for adult films and I hope that this is a vision that is realised.
Press Conference and Opening Day is, again, another self explanatory featurette, with cast and crew being photographed on location and talking about the film. Nothing in depth here, and the unusually cheery choice of music does seem a bit odd.
The DVD also features the trailer for the film.
Shock Labyrinth 3D is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.
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