An anthology film in the guise of a late night TV show investigating the occult “Tokyo Videos of Horror” takes some segments from the direct to DVD film series and presents them together in one package. Each short follows the found footage/POV horror film tropes that have been well established at this point and offers up short stories aimed to capture the eerie, grotesque and bizarre incidents taking place throughout Tokyo.
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Before going into a review of the film, it feels important to preface it with noting this is the Halloween season and this film did speak to a lot of aspects in cinema I consider to be “guilty pleasures” as well as trigger some nostalgia for the early days of hunting down oddities from around the world before there was much in the way of a support system outside of peers to track down weird gems.
To indulge in the guilty pleasure of the production, I have long favored the “POV/Found Footage” horror film and have seen countless of films within this genre. Although the genre has become popularized through numerous productions, it is the ones that fly under the radar that always drew my attention. The appeal of a lower budget allows (for better or worse) many filmmakers to experiment with making a feature length horror production. However, the major appeal for myself always came from those uncomfortable moments, with staring at grainy or aged footage, eyes rapidly scanning, looking for the scare before it comes. Or, listening to muffled audio, hoping to pick up on a haunted voice or off distance scream to help solve the puzzle of what exactly is going on. It has always been a very visceral feeling for me, and although good films using these techniques are hard to find, I never found myself disappointed or disengaging from the format. Although I do love the format, it exists as a guilty pleasure in the awareness that these films often offer up cheap scares, shoddy effects and cookie cutter plots.
The horror anthology does feel slightly cathartic as well as it ties in closely with my first foray into Asian Horror Cinema. However, I can’t say I romanticize this era of film distribution, as I much prefer having so many titles readily available for purchase. There was at one point great difficulty in finding some Japanese films outside of peer circles and people willing to share their collection, which would sometimes come in the form of a film recorded to the point of losing quality, and often void of subtitles. Although “Tokyo Videos of Horror” is available through one of the mainstream sellers on Amazon, outside of that information is sparse, with none of the entries in the series appearing on IMDB, and only a few of them on other movie databases. This added to the devious feeling I had as a youth in finding things that were not yet meant to be watched, the quality of the productions being purposely degraded also fed into the notion of watching an old bootleg
Nostalgia and indulgence aside, “Tokyo Videos of Horror” presents a pretty ideal set of short films within the shaky camera format. With each short being loosely tied together under the guise of a late night investigative TV series, the investigative aspects adds some additional intrigue. It is important to note that each utilizes different techniques, such as varying aspect ratio and overall film quality. This ensures that each segment feels unique in certain regards. The production also applies an intriguing gimmick before the more disturbing moments. This comes in the form of a text warning that the material about to be seen will “Scar those of a sensitive disposition” (paraphrasing). A ten count is then presented with a sharp ping that gets progressively louder. It succeeds in drawing the viewer in, preparing them to be shocked, and subsequently following up with some graphic imagery that shows the filmmakers were serious.
Where the production deviates a bit from other found footage horror films focused around the supernatural, is that it does add some very grotesque imagery, which really caught me off guard. Given in my youth, I had gone through all the “Video Nasties”, infamous “Cat III”, and plenty extreme Japanese low budget film, I have gotten to the point where shock value is something I no longer actively seek out. However, I do have to tip my hat to any production which can make my stomach churn, with a final segment that was challenging to get through. There is definitely an extreme element which needs to be overcome to enjoy the end product.
Overall, “Tokyo Videos of Horror” scratched my Halloween itch this year. It provides some great scares through an appealing format that ensures constant suspense. Although the films subject matter can be very disturbing, hindering the overall enjoyment, I plan to slowly make my way through the entire series (currently over 40 entries). Hopefully, some of my reflections on the past will resonate with others who will be just as inclined to check out this macabre gem.