On toy boys, girl ghosts battling it out and a terrifying new trend
In a mashup of terrifying vs terrible, an April Fools’ viral is set to become reality with ’90s J-horror hair-off Sadako Vs Kayako. The movie, pitting the vengeful girl-ghosts of Ringu and The Grudge against each other, is set for a June 2016 release in Japan. It’ll be directed by Koji Shiraishi, who made 2009’s grim sex-pest-fest Grotesque, which is banned in the UK. All of which points to this being rubbish. But I can’t deny the teaser clip, with Kayako’s hand reaching over Sadako’s well gave me chills. I’m trying to neutralise my nerves by imagining little Toshio from The Grudge as a “Ring Girl” carrying the numbers of upcoming rounds while Sadako and Kayako mope in the corners in nighties and boxing gloves.
trees of life
A more promising Japan-set horror is The Forest, out 26 February starring Natalie Dormer. It’s set in the real-life Aokigahara forest at the base of Mount Fuji, a place notorious as a suicide venue and reputedly the home of dark spirits. Dormer plays an American woman in search of her missing twin sister, who ventures into the forest and ill-advisedly ignores warnings not to stray from the path. Bizarrely, this is the first of two suicide forest horrors slated for 2016 – the second, from Portugal, is A Floresta Das Almas Perdidas (The Forest Of The Lost Souls), also set in a notorious suicide venue, this time about two people who’ve apparently lost the will to live who meet in the forest. It’s a coming-ofager which devolves into a ’70s slasher – definitely straying off the path.
Also out in February, The Boy, where a nanny is employed to babysit a child which turns out to be a life-sized doll. Furnished with a set of rules (do not cover his face, do not forget to feed him, do not leave him alone) which she flagrantly ignores, before you can say “FFS Gremlins!!!” everything goes a bit Child’s Play. Directed by William Brent Bell, who made 2012’s The Devil Inside, it has a tantalising trailer but I fear the film will be disappointing.
The Devil Inside made $102m off a $1m budget The Boy done bad, we’re guessing. even though no one liked it – watch this space for an influx of doll movies. Meanwhile, if you have Netflix, why not check out Lucky McKee’s May, a slow-burn, creepy indie about a young woman with a lazy eye who has a doll in a glass box for a best friend. It stars Angela Bettis, who years later would have her face bitten off in McKee’s The Woman, and Scary Movie’s Anna Faris as a veterinarian’s receptionist.
into the dark
The annual Sundance film festival is about to land and with it the Midnight selection, an armful of genre world premieres that in previous years have included the best horrors of the year. The Babadook, What We Do In The Shadows and next year’s The Witch all launched there. This year nine movies have been announced, including Rob Zombie’s latest 31, Kevin Smith’s latest Yoga Hosers, a new one by Excision director Richard Bates Jr called Trash Fire, and a Brit/Iranian Farsi-language political horror called Under The Shadow. Then there’s The Blackout Experiments by a director called Rich Fox. Unclear if it’s part documentary, this is an exploration of an underground trend called Blackout. These are elite haunted houses in the US that are less a bloke in a mask waving a leaf blower (which I adore) and more rape-simulation, suffocation and sticking your hand in a bog full of fake vom. This is extreme, experiential stuff which forces you to question your own reaction to real-ish horror. Keep your eyes out for screening reactions late January, and approach Blackout itself with caution.
In need of a hand? Try Sadako Vs Kayako. Don’t go down to The Forest today…