While each of the movies we’re looking at for your home-viewing pleasure this week share a supernatural bent, they have nothing else in common – it’s quite the international cinematic smorgasbord. First up is The Shock Labyrinth 3D, from Japan. Then it’s The Woman in Black from Hammer Films in the U.K. And, finally, an Alaskan production starring Jon Voight as a cop working with a psychic to track down a kidnapped and possibly murdered child in Beyond.
The Shock Labyrinth 3D (Senritsu Meikyû 3D)
Director Takashi Shimizu is kind of a big deal. Especially in Japan, where he rocketed to success with his Ju-On ‘Grudge’ film series. I can appreciate those ghost-girls-with-wet-hair thrillers; they certainly do sum up a singular, if oft-replicated, style. But my favorite Shimizu is his 2004 vampire drama, Marebito. It’s one of the most unusual of the genre I’ve seen. While there’s nothing too innovative about it, I also liked Shock Labyrinth 3D (the 3D looks good on the TV screen, but the disc set contains a 2D version as well).
The story follows a group of young friends who harbor a terrible secret about the disappearance of one of their clique, picking up 10 years after the tragedy. It’s not clear at first whether they recall exactly what happened, but when Yuki (Misako Renbutsu) – is she real, or an apparition? – turns up to remind them, and to send them back and forth in time, memories begin to flood back.
Beautifully shot, Shock Labyrinth doesn’t over-do with the 3D effects; they only serve to enhance the surreal flashbacks (replete with everything from menacing mannequins to bunny rabbits). Most of the twists and turns turn up in the last act of the film, and are worth sticking around for as long as you keep your expectations low (with a name like Shock Labyrinth 3D, you should be!).
The Woman In Black
While I did enjoy The Woman in Black more the second time around, I still prefer the hoary old BBC production based on the novel by Susan Hill (and which is still an actively staged play). Slick, fast-paced and full of razzle-dazzle, the modern Woman in Black is fun enough to keep you awake, but it won’t keep you awake nights.
The period piece follows a young, widowed barrister (Daniel Radcliffe) who is sent from London to the country to settle the estate of a tragic, insane woman who died under mysterious circumstances and is pulled into a netherworld of mystery and heartbreak. (Read my original review here: Woman In Black [theatrical] and note, I do think it plays much better at home.)
DVD and Blu-ray extras include a feature-length commentary from director James Watkins and screenwriter Jane Goldman. I’ve interviewed her before (the Kick-Ass premiere; that’s another movie she wrote) and so I expecting a bit more pizzazz and personality, but the track was pretty subdued and staid. It’s fine enough, but is just standard fare.
Beyond feels more like a tv movie pilot for a series that’s a cross between The Mentalist and The Killing than it does a theatrical release, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a well-acted, serviceable thriller with some decent paranormal activity. Jon Voigt, as the detective on the trailer of a kidnapper, always delivers; and Julian Morris, as the psychic working with the police, steps nicely out of kiddie mode from Cry_Wolf and Sorority Row. (Plus, there is a séance. A séance scene is always welcome.)
Sprinkle in a couple more vaguely familiar actors (Teri Polo, Dermot Mulroney), add a dash of harsh elements with snow, storms, a few freezing red herrings, and you’ve got an hour and a half or so of solid sofa-sitting entertainment.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson