We take a break from our coverage of the “Halloween” series to return briefly to our first love, the SyFy Channel original movie. Well, “original” is pushing it a bit. Link this film has to the “halloween” in its title – zero.
Maiko is a student at an international university in Japan. She’s been living in California with her adoptive family since she was 4, but is the daughter of a Japanese woman (father never mentioned) who committed suicide at some unspecified point in the past. She gets a box containing some of her mum’s things in the post and decides to go to the forest where her mother, and so many others, have committed suicide, to find her body and perform a ritual to send her spirit to the other side. Accompanying her are some of her friends, who are filming a documentary about her for their class.
So the film is a “people wander round the woods” classic, but at least this one has an interesting look to it. The story of what happened to Maiko’s birth family is not so much gradually revealed as dropped on us ten minutes before the end, and her friends plus three douchebags who follow them there to play practical jokes on them provide the cannon fodder.
The “making a documentary” line should trigger a warning – yes, this film stands in the tradition of “The Blair Witch Project”. But it’s sort of a half-assed version, as it’s not a found footage film and it just appears they wanted an easy and cheap exposition dump. Mix in the ghosts of “The Ring” and you’ve got yourself a movie.
It’s not so much that this film is rotten, but that I can’t figure it out. Maiko (who does not look Japanese at all) says at one point “I have to do the ceremony tonight or her soul will be trapped forever” – when did they tell us this? She received a box of her mum’s effects, but who from? They weren’t taken from her body, because that’s never been found. Although events later in the film indicate that it has. It’s repeated that you’re not supposed to take things from the dead, and someone gets punished for this – okay, so far so good. But then people who just happened to be near the asshole who took a dead person’s things are targeted for death, too. Isn’t a documentary about finding an actual dead body going to get them into legal difficulties? Why was the “guide” they found in the forest helping who he was helping? (no spoilers)
The only people I liked in this film were the three douchebags, who looked like they were having fun with their limited time onscreen. Everyone else is either terrible (the Western actors) or confusingly used (the Japanese ones). Kaitlyn Leeb (Maiko) is as charisma-free a leading actress as I’ve seen in quite a while, sadly. The whole film is a mess of half-thought-out ideas and plot threads that seem to emerge from nowhere, or go nowhere, or both. A good looking film in need of better actors and writers.
Rating: thumbs down