As far as faux documentary horror goes, this one's at the head of the pack.
NOROI follows a documentary filmmaker, Masafumi Kobayashi, as he slowly uncovers something mysterious and evil that's leaving a trail of dead bodies in its wake. After interviewing a woman who claims to hear loud baby's cries coming from the house next door (where there is no baby), Kobayashi heads over to talk to the neighbor. He's greeted with hostility by the unhinged, disheveled woman (Maria Takagi) who answers the door (and promptly slams it in his face) and gets a peek at her 6-year-old son through a window. Strangely, both the woman and her son disappear just days after his visit (leaving behind a pile of dead pigeons on their back porch), and the woman who first complained about the noises, as well as her daughter, are both killed in a mysterious accident not long after that. This piques Kobayashi's interest and he sets out on a quest to find out what's going on. He soon uncovers that those with psychic abilities and extra-sensory perception seem to be tuning into something sinister, unexplainable and possibly even apocalyptic. Well-known 10-year-old clairvoyant, and TV celebrity, Kana (Rio Kanno) seems to think we may all be doomed, but she mysteriously disappears before she can be of much help. Another female psychic/actress (Marika Matsumoto) becomes involved, as does Mr. Nori, a mentally unstable kook/psychic who wears a hat and jacket made of aluminum foil and thinks people are being eaten by what he refers to "ectoplasmic worms." Clues eventually lead back to the site of a small village that's now covered by a lake, and the legend of an ancient demon known as Kagutaba...
Unlike many other hand-held horror flicks, this one depends just as much on the plot as it does reactionary first-person scares. Thankfully there's something of a storyline here, a very interesting and intricate one at that, so it doesn't rely on glimpses of horrific things through spastic camera-work every once in awhile to keep your interest. The way Masafumi travels around following leads in search of the truth - with well placed jolts along the way - reminded me somewhat of THE OMEN in its pacing. The film also doesn't entirely consist of footage shot by the documentarian, but weaves in news reports and television variety shows as if what we're watching is an already completed documentary. That helps to break up some of the monotony usually associated with films shot in this particular style. The performances are good enough not to harm any of the realism of the 'actual' footage either. Overall, it's a well-made horror film, with lots of plot shifts, some suspense and quite a few genuinely creepy moments, that's well worth checking out. My only real gripe is that it could have used a little trimming here and there and seems to go on a bit too long. Otherwise, pretty good stuff.
Reviewed by iamstyx10 / 10
One of the best horror movies I've seen yet...
Never posted anything here before, but after watching Noroi I just felt that I had to write down my thoughts about it.
Firstly do not compare this to Blair Witch, this movie deserves far better than that! Simply put, Noroi is (probably) one of the best horror movies I have ever seen (and I have seen a lot!).
I really liked how the movie presents itself not as a standard horror flick, but as a documentary filmed by a reporter (i think?) named Kobayashi and his cameraman. Without spoiling to much about the plot, I can say it that it starts with Kobayashi doing research on a series of seemingly unrelated events, that turns out to be connected to something far more darker and sinister.
While the story might not be that original in itself, what really hooked me with Noroi was the incredibly eerie atmosphere. If you're looking for cheap scares and seat-jumping scenes this movie might not be for you. This movie is all about the mood it presents, with haunting images and a general feeling of foreboding suspense. The documentary style filming just makes it farm more believable.
This is also helped a lot by the acting which is superb, although not perfect for the general part of the movie! Far better than in most other movies in this type of genre.
Well enough ranting from me, I highly recommend Noroi to everyone, it is suspenseful, creepy, well acted and the first movie that has scared me in ages.
Reviewed by ebossert10 / 10
The Scariest Film I've Ever Seen, and I've Seen A Lot
Note: Check me out as the "Asian Movie Enthusiast" on YouTube, where I review tons of Asian movies.
Anyone familiar with horror films knows that most of them are not scary at all. Some people enjoy gorefests with subpar story lines and character development. I personally enjoy horror films that focus on atmosphere and interesting concepts (e.g., A Tale of Two Sisters, Kairo, etc.). Whatever the type of horror film one personally likes, there are only a select few that really scare you. Noroi is one of them.
This is a documentary-style movie, which means that the entire film is a compilation of video clips that are linked by the legend of a demonic entity named Kagutaba. The premise is that a journalist filmed his own footage by interviewing people associated with the demonic rituals associated with Kagutaba, then compiled footage from other sources that link with his research. What results is a relentlessly chilling experience that feels very real and very disturbing, despite the fact that the story itself is fake.
Some have compared Noroi with The Blair Witch Project, but the only similarity is the documentary style. One obvious difference between the films is that Noroi scares the viewer by linking events to one another using different sources. For example, the journalist records the exterior of a house that he is researching and sees something strange on the porch. Later in the film, a clip from another character's home video introduces that very same strange occurrence. The viewer's memory links the two incidents and chills start running down their spine. Another example involves a television show with a child psychic who answers every single question correctly except for one. In fact, her answer is so wrong that the viewer may wonder what the filmmakers were thinking. Later on, however, that wrong answer turns out to be linked to an extremely disturbing event. This is intelligent film-making indeed.
Another difference between Noroi and Blair Witch is that Noroi provides not one, but two very long finales, the second of which is placed a minute after the credits start to roll and is the single greatest scare scene in the history of horror cinema. I do not say such things lightly. It totally wrecked me in a wonderous way.
Other aspects of film-making are well done. The legend and ritualistic background of Kagutaba are very interesting and most of the actors did a good job. The only over-the-top performance comes from a guy who's supposed to be crazy anyway, so that's expected. The cinematography is intentionally gritty because all of the footage is supposed to represent videos shot on camcorders. Japanese films are not known for their special effects, but the effects used here were awesome. In some cases they create an other-worldly feel (e.g., the static interference or the first finale) but in other cases they are alarmingly realistic (e.g., the second finale).
When all is said and done, Noroi goes down as the scariest film I've ever seen. I would go so far as to say that there is no film in existence that provides such sheer terror from beginning to end like Noroi does. See it now.