4 out of 5
Directed by: Kōji Shiraishi
As, essentially, a found footage film, Noroi: The Curse definitely cheats a bit. It’s incidental music could be excused as edits later made for presenting this to us viewers – it’s of the “we’re showing this to you after the fact” kind of setup – but there are also several places where multiple camera angles are employed, when there’s only supposed to be one main cameraman (our POV) most of the time, and once we start to build up to some of the more intense scenes toward the end, there’s the inevitable “why are you filming…?” question.
But, on the whole, Noroi solves this quibbles quite simply: they’re in service of the movie. The angles and the score enhance the experience, and actually assist with the immersion, as if – heavens forfend! – someone making a found footage flick considered the movie more important than the genre. And as to those ending scenes, director and scripter Kōji Shiraishi and co-scripter Naoyuki Yokota earn our attention by that point through a tense slow build to visual payoffs, meaning it’s easy to be distracted from technicalities by the intensity of what we’re seeing.
At nearly two hours – though it ends up making good use of that time – Noroi does start out very scattered, allowing the worry to crop up that we’re just going to be watching random vignettes about kooky psychics and potential hauntings. But then connections crop up: that ‘psychic’, Mitsuo Hori (Satoru Jitsunashi) starts appearing more often, and there are similarities between the hauntings. The “host” of what we’re viewing, paranormal investigator Masafumi Kobayashi (Jin Muraki) is tracking loosely linked events, bopping from interview to clips, following what we come to realize is a thread of related things, with nighttime possessions and dead birds and imagery of circles, while edits occasionally point out weird things that are in the images we’ve seen. And then people start disappearing; people start dying. And Noroi hooks you with this: indirectly the supernatural undercurrent, but also the detective-ing of following clues just as Kobayashi is doing. So when we new connections occur, they’re just as satisfying and surprising to us as they are to Kobayashi, and as the story deepens and gets darker, it has a similarly rewarding effect.
While a money shot toward the end is maybe disappointingly computer tweaked, it’s an “off” enough image that I think it works, and any dismay is swept away by the roll of zingers that close the flick out.
Coming in the midst of the utter glut of found footage movies that cropped up in the mid 00s, Noroi: The Curse emerges as one of the best by sacrificing some rules of the genre for the sake of being a better movie; as a result, the film stands on its own – outside of a subgenre – as a pretty great horror flick.