★★★★ out of ★★★★★
A classic in the mockumentary/found footage genre is finally available to a wider audience!
Directed by Kôji Shiraishi
Firstly, I gotta say I’m not a fan of found footage. Yes, The Blair Witch Project blew my mind in 1999 and, yes, Paranormal Activity (2007) added some great things to the genre. I’m not saying there aren’t some rare gems scattered in the pile. I’m just saying when it’s done poorly (and it’s often done poorly), found footage is annoying. Mockumentaries on the other hand…
Sure they’ve usually got some found footage elements to them, but mockumentaries like to mix things up. Throw in an interview with a survivor here, splice in footage of a news broadcast there, and the story takes on a whole new sense of depth. Bringing something as mundane as a news report into a story about the supernaturally horrific anchors that horror in our familiar reality. It’s when you start blurring that line — “they did just make this up, right?” — that things get really interesting. And this is where Noroi (2005) shines.
Noroi (also known as Noroi: The Curse) was given a limited release in its home country of Japan back in 2005. It wasn’t until 2017 that it found its way to North America, after being picked up by Shudder for a Canadian streaming release. Finally, in March 2020, Shudder was able to secure the rights to stream it in the United States.
The movie is set up as a film about a documentary entitled “Noroi”. Natch. “Noroi” the documentary was put together by paranormal researcher, Masafumi Kobayashi [Jin Muraki; Retribution (2006)], in the early 2000s before his mysterious disappearance. In fact, shortly after finishing the documentary, Kobayashi’s house burned down leaving the charred remains of his wife, Keiko, in the ruins. Kobayashi himself was nowhere to be found.
During Noroi the movie we get to watch the entirety of “Noroi” the documentary and it’s wonder to behold. This is definitely not an action movie, but if you love a good mystery — backed with mythology and its own creative history — just bear with it.
The structure of the narrative isn’t super complicated, but it does seem like a random collection of footage in the beginning. News reports, Japanese variety shows, interviews, and research that eventually combine to present a cohesive story. Director Shiraishi carefully crafts his movie through the use of excellent pacing and some great editing.
The acting in Noroi is top notch., especially for a low budget film. Jin Muraki brings the documentarian, Kobayashi, to life with an earnest truth-seeker style and actor Marika Matsumoto [The Sacrament (2017)] does a stellar job playing a fictionalized version of herself. Without being specific, I will say one of the other main characters was a bit over the top for my liking, but that may have been a cultural preference rather than a bad performance.
Psychics, demons, ancient rituals, deaths, disappearances. In spite of the subject matter, Noroi is one of those movies that people seem to either love or hate. You either love it for weaving its tale into the fabric of reality and making it easy for the viewer to suspend their disbelief or you find the characters dull and the lack of eviscerations boring.
However you see it, Noroi remains a classic example of its genre and a noteworthy slice of Japanese horror.
Review by Robert Zilbauer.