The members of an all-female film club unleash a bloodthirsty evil when they uncover a rumor of a former club member disappearing. The group is determined to figure out what happened, and use it as inspiration for a school project.
Gurozuka is an attempt on the slasher genre by the director Yoichi Nishiyama. I use the word “attempt”, as the horror elements of the films never really get the chance to get going and rather than actual slasher, the viewer is left with a lukewarm teen drama with some elements of the slasher genre thrown in the mix.
Members of newly revived all-girl film club are taking a trip to a secluded cabin to film their latest project. The clubs leading members, Maki and Ai, wish to reshoot an infamous film shot by the previous club members, one that saw one member disappear and another one go insane. In their infinite wisdom Maki and Ai have chosen the very same location to shoot in, a fact that not all the other club members are entirely comfortable with, but go along with the project anyway. Soon strange things start to happen, such as the car not starting and all the food and cell phones from the cabin get stolen, leaving the girls stranded in the wilderness with a potential killer on the loose.
With this very classic setting for a slasher film, it is kind of baffling how the film never really lives up to it’s full potential. All the elements are there, but instead of building on them filmmakers have decided to waste over half of the film to teenage drama that goes nowhere. At first glance one could assume that explaining the relationships and possible tensions between the different characters is there to set up the plot and maybe to give you some red herrings towards who the killer is, and maybe that is what the idea was. However, what has manifested on the screen in an incredibly dull drama with no clear direction. It is quite literally just a bunch of teenagers bickering amongst themselves about the most mundane of things. Even when the film finally gets going a little bit, the majority of the films remaining running time is still mostly dedicated to the characters running around like headless chickens and acting irrationally in every conceivable way. It isn’t until the very end when some of the characters will actually starts dying, and believe me when I tell you, it is too little, too late.
What’s incredibly frustrating is that the killer and her background story are both quite intriguing. She appears on the original film club film wearing a kimono and a fabulously creepy Noh mask, making her a great add to the slasher canon. The fact that she also appears to be killing someone in what is assumed to be a snuff film, just adds an extra bit of eeriness to the whole package and creates a lovely bit of background mythology that every great slasher killer needs. There is also potentially supernatural element to all of this as the original film is based an old legend about a demon woman who murdered a group of monks after they found the room full of corpses she was hiding in her house. Maybe the killer was possessed by the very same demon? Who knows. It doesn’t matter though, as none of this fantastic source material is ever really utilised. The killer with the Noh mask only gets a miniscule amount of screen time and motivation behind the killings and killer identity itself, are as boring and unoriginal as the rest of the film.
Neither the soundtrack or cinematography do Gurozuka any favours either. The film actually starts with the most horrendous piece of noise you could possibly imagine. It’s like someone violating musical instruments in the most sinister manner. Ironically it just might be the scariest bit about the whole film. It definitely made me want to get as far away from this film as humanly possible. The cinematography is not quite as bad, but is also nothing to rave about. The bleak winter time forest with it’s low afternoon light definitely offers a wonderful setting for the story, but the camera work and the use of said light is so uninspired that instead it’s just a humdrum backdrop for the whole farce.
To sum up, fans of slashers stay away. And the same goes for fans of horror and pretty much anyone who enjoys a well-crafted film. Gurozuka is not worth your time.