Monthly Archives: March 2012

Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales

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Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales

This is cruel, Iemon-dono!

Ayakashi is a beautiful anime series containing 3 classic Japanese ghost stories. The art is wonderfully done, sometimes you can actually see pain on a person’s face, and the voicing is equally good.

The first is a classic ghost story, Yotsuya Kaidan, and the strongest of the three. This is also a famous play. It follows 2 ronin and their wives. The ronin Iemon and his beautiful wife Oiwa are the more interesting group so I won’t really talk about the others. They are very poor and Oiwa has just given birth to their first son and she is ill. Iemon is very unhappy with her, their son, their poverty and life in general. The very spoiled granddaughter of a wealthy noble takes a liking to Iemon and the girl decides that she wants to marry him – Oiwa notwithstanding. The wealthy man summons Iemon and tells him that his granddaughter wants to marry him. With Iemon’s implied consent (silence), the wealthy man and the girl send poison to Oiwa, disguising it as medicine for her recovery from childbirth. The medicine actually hideously disfigures Oiwa and she is horrified. Iemon comes home, flush from his coming good fortune and rejects Oiwa and tells her they are divorcing because he has basically found something better than she could ever be. Iemon hatches a scheme with a servant to rape and murder Oiwa and frame her as an adulteress. It doesn’t work. The servant, in love with Oiwa, can’t do it and confesses the plan to her. The emotionally destroyed Oiwa decides to commit suicide to come back as a vengeful spirit. Iemon kills a debtor and decides to put out the story that Oiwa and the debtor were having an affair and ran off together. He nails their bodies to a door and has them thrown in the river. Great huh? Now he gets to go whistling off to his new teenage bride, free from his past. Except, having thrown the body of the suicide Oiwa into the river, she comes back as a vengeful spirit (the classic Asian female ghost in the white robe with the long black hair) with the power over water. What follows is her vengeance. Oiwa is terrifying as the spirit. She has two spirit aspects, one as the beautiful Oiwa and the other as the hideously disfigured Oiwa. It looks like half of her face is burned and black. She cries out how cruel her fate is and curses Iemon and his new in laws. The pain in her face and voice is just chilling.

The second, Tenshu Monogatari, is the weakest story of the three. It’s about a demon goddess who falls in love with a human boy. Except, her love weakens her powers and those of her handmaidens, leaving them prey to human warriors and weapons.

The third story is Bake Neko. I admit, this was heart wrenching and I cried. A young bride is preparing to repair her family’s fortune with her wedding, but she is killed by an unseen force. A wandering medicine peddler, who is some kind of demon hunter and a pretty awesome character, happens to be in the house and deduces that the killer is some kind of cat demon, a bakeneko. He sets up wards in the house to stop the demon and tries to figure out why this demon, extremely strong and vengeful, is targeting the family. The family turns out to be a bunch of dicks and you fully agree with the cat demon and why he is killing them all one by one. The story of how the cat demon was formed and who he is taking vengeance for made me cry, it was very sad and calls out to the crazy cat lady in me.  The demon hunter, Kayo, is just a really cool character. I was left wanting to see him in his own adventures!

I loved this series and I’ve seen it quite a few times. It’s all in Japanese but you can find it with English subtitles (I hate dubbing).

6 chocolate brownie sundaes out of 5!

The Darkest Hour

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The Darkest Hour

I just wish we didn’t have a plan that came from some take out menu!

The Darkest Hour is an interesting take on the alien invasion story. Sean (Emile Hirsh) and Ben are two software guys trying to sell their app to some Russian investors in Moscow, only to find out that a former partner has stolen all of their stuff and sold it to the investors  as his own idea before the guys could get there. The guys try to drown their sorrows in a Russian nightclub and run into two girls, Natalie and Anne (who was also in Transformers). That night, all of Moscow sees these beautiful swirls of amber light come down from the sky. Everyone is outside of the club admiring the light when one of the swirls vaporizes a cop. Cue massive panic! The 2 main guys and girls, along with their former thieving partner, manage to hole up in the club’s basement until they decide to emerge and get to the American Embassy in hopes of making it home.

It’s… Interesting. I do like that the main characters are out of their familiar element (being tourists in Moscow instead of battling aliens on their home ground) and they can’t speak Russian either which makes everything doubly difficult. I don’t like that the main characters are disasters, and everywhere they go, they screw up and get other perfectly nice and formerly safe people killed. Also, when they’re hiding in the basement, supposedly for a few days, there’s also a dead body in there with them. Er, health risk??? Roll him out the door at least!

I like the aliens. They’re invisible, except when near electricity (i.e. cars or light bulbs), when they cause electrical devices to go crazy. I really like how the characters used light bulbs as detectors, and especially when they threw cell phones around to create a perimeter. I have heard some online criticism that the powers of the aliens seem to change with every scene, i.e. first you have to touch them to get vaporized, then the aliens have to pull you in with light tendrils, etc, but I see this in a similar guise to Predator: at first, there is a glut of prey and you can kill them easy. Then, there is less prey, so you have to make it more sporting by not just killing them quickly. You need to make it challenging.

I liked The Darkest Hour. Maybe not enough to watch it again and again, but enough to watch it once more. It’s just a fun brainless movie. Also, since I’m a crazy cat lady, there’s a massive orange cat in it with his very own Faraday Cage!

3 chocolate sundaes out of 5

Zombie Apocalypse

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Zombie Apocalpyse

There was a zombie. I killed it.

The Zombie Apocalypse is a SyFy movie… Which probably tells you a whole lot about it right there. It’s the classic survivor group has to make it to a safe zone scenario. I didn’t even really bother to learn the names of the characters. There’s Ving Rhames (who is ALWAYS just Ving Rhames), Whiny Chick, Katana Girl, Poet Boy, Crab Man (the guy from My Name is Earl) and Other Guy. Whiny Chick and Crab Man are picked up by the others at the beginning of the movie and everyone is now headed towards what they hear is a zombie free area on Catalina Island off of the Los Angeles coast.

I am seriously surprised any of them lived that long to make it to the movie. Supposedly, the movie is set 6 months or so after the initial breakout, but I’m amazed these people lasted longer than 6 minutes, Whiny Chick in particular. If your ‘best friend’ has just been taken down and partially eaten by zombies, dies in your arms, then REANIMATES in your arms, gets killed a second time by Katana Girl, and there are more zombies closing in on your position (due to your crying and screaming) then for Cthulhu’s sake, THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO WHINE ABOUT BURYING YOUR FRIEND!!! There is not going to be any one to bury YOU in a second if you keep freaking out. It’s okay to ‘just leave him there.’ It’s a zombie apocalypse. Also, why the hell are you telling people that ‘Yeah, you should have gone back for him!’ if they just said Crab Man was taken down by a horde? That just gets everyone killed!

The makeup is awful. Some of the zombies are wearing what looks an awful lot like the Halloween masks you see in dollar stores, or clown masks with painted on gore. Some have fake prosthetics glued on that is very obvious and peeling off so you can see the healthy skin underneath.

The special effects are, of course, cheap. There a lots of shots of the people poking at something just off screen, which cuts to the thing off screen which is heavily pixilated. You’ll see them, go ‘WHOA!’ and duck and weave and stab at something invisible.

I admit, there were a couple of surprising bits, (*SPOILER* Zombie tigers? Never thought of that before…) but not enough to justify watching it.

½ cupcake out of 5. I enjoyed the tigers.