Facing goodbyes and graduation, Naomi Nakashima, her childhood friend Satoshi Mochida, and their classmates, are clearing up after their last ever cultural festival, when horror buff class representative Ayumi Shinozaki decides to perform Sachiko Ever After so they will stay friends forever. Instead, they were whisked away to a haunted graduation ceremony for Heavenly Host Elementary School, forced to close after a series of gruesome murders. What fate awaits Naomi and her friends at the cursed school…?
When you see a title like Corpse Party you form certain expectations. Something that ludicrous can surely only originate from Hong Kong horror’s heydays, when black magic ruled, and corpses were misused in all sort of ungodly ways? Sadly, this is not the case. Not only is the film from Japan, rather than Hong Kong, it is a much more recent affair and bears no resemblance to any 1980’s exploitation, be it HK or Japanese. Instead it is a film adaptation of an eponymous survival horror game, originally designed for PC-9800 in 1996 and later released on Microsoft Windows and Playstation Portable. The game follows a group of school kids trying to find their way out of a haunted school building by interacting with their surroundings, other characters and avoiding the ghosts that lurk around them: fairly basic survival horror stuff that should offer plenty of material for a semi decent horror film. Yet somehow, it does not. What you get is shambles of a film that is much more likely to put you to sleep than scare you.
The film naturally also follows a bunch of students, getting ready for graduation and saying goodbye to their friends. Before parting ways, this group of nine, including a teacher and one of the student’s little sister, decide to perform a ceremony called “Sachiko Ever After”. Instead of getting eternal friendship as promised, the ritual transports the group into an alternate dimension of Tenjin Elementary School: an abandoned school that was forced to shut down after series of brutal murders took place there. Only way to get out of this hellhole is to lift the curse placed on it and reverse the “Sachiko Ever After”-ritual.
Videogames have been adapted to film for decades. Some have been more successful than others but the key to the success always seems to be the same: It needs to not only appeal to the fans of the game but also work as a stand-alone project for those who have never played it. Otherwise you are in serious danger of losing a huge part of your potential audience and the film will only be left as a niche fan product that only a hand full of people bother to watch. Not having played the Corpse Party game, I cannot with good conscious comment how well this adaptation compares to its original material, but what I can say is that it does not work if you have no previous knowledge of the game. It is painfully obvious that the film is based on something else than a mere script from the get-go. I first thought it might be another manga or anime adaptation (side note: Corpse Party has also been adapted in both of these formats), but finding out it was in fact a game, made much more sense.
I can only imagine that the chaotic nature of the storytelling is result of trying to emulate the various chapters of the game, all of which follow a different character, but unfortunately this has only resulted in a hotchpotch execution where the characters run around seemingly aimlessly and the plot moves in every direction possible with a speed that is hard to keep up with, making for a very unpleasant viewing experience. This never-ending running around is on occasions intersected by some surprisingly gory violence, but ultimately this only serves as a slight shock effect to keep you interested for a few minutes until the film once again descends into complete disarray. The acting is incredibly cheesy and none of the characters inspire any kind of sympathy from the viewer. The gorier special effects are admittedly semi decent, but any ghostly GCI is painful to watch.
I had to watch Corpse Party in two parts as my first attempt merely resulted in my husband having to turn the film off as I merrily snored the night away. Second time I was fully awake and sitting up in a well-lit room, yet still I found myself yawning within the first five minutes and then repeatedly glancing at the clock to see how much of this I still must suffer through. So no, I would not recommend Corpse Party. Even if you are a fan of the game, you will probably be more entertained returning to the original material, rather than trying to sit through this abomination.