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Dark Sky Films presents
Scary True Stories: Ten Haunting Tales from the Japanese Underground (1991-1992)

"Do you feel as though something is watching you right now? From behind you?"
- opening narration

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: November 20, 2005

Stars: Junko Asanuma, Mai Moriguchi, Yumi Goto, Emi Terada, Akane Alzawa, Hitomi Yamanaka
Other Stars: Hiromi Hisano, Shinobu Ishikawa, Yuki Haruhara, Sawako Nakajima, Reiko Shiraishi
Director: Norio Tsuruta

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (suspense and some violence)
Run Time: 02h:18m:21s
Release Date: November 22, 2005
UPC: 030306773995
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C+C+B- D+

DVD Review

The recent Western success of Japanese horror films (or J-horror, if you're trendy) has led to a flood of DVD titles desperate to cling to the coattails of directors like Takashi Shimizu and Hideo Nakata. This 1991/1992 made-for-Japanese television series actually predates the success of films like Ju-On and Ringu, and what makes this more than just a casual curiosity is that this anthology set of ten supernatural tales were all directed by Norio Tsuruta, who would go on to helm the prequel Ringu O in 2000.

Scary True Stories was originally a three-part series from fledgling director Tsuruta and screenwriter Chiaki Konaka (Marebito) theoretically based on actual paranormal events, something we are reminded of during the opening credit sequence, where we get the usual "names were changed to protect the innocent" rap. All three installments are collected on this disc (Scary True Stories, Scary True Stories: Night Two, All New Scary True Stories: The Realm of the Spectors), with each containing three to five short stories.

Most of these stories work best when characters are simply talking about or looking for scary things, rather than seeing them, because the production values are a little on the low end of things, making the spooky payoffs always so... not spooky (and in some case unintentionally funny). In The Lonely Girl, a fleeting shot of a ghostly hand disappearing beneath a locker room door is admittedly creepy the first time, but repeated long shots show it as a hand with bad crusty makeup effects, and somehow much less frightening. As expected, there are a lot of young girls in moderate peril from things in the dark, usually in some type of haunted location, whether it be a girl's locker room, a hospital, or an old house. Case in point with House of Restless Spirits, probably the signature piece of this collection, as it is the strongest example of Tsuruta showing the developing J-horror chops that must have caught the attention of Takashi Shimizu.

In fact, a backcover quote from Ju-On director Shimizu calls Scary True Stories, "the true genesis of Ringu and The Grudge", and while that may be indelible high praise and is probably true to some extent, it doesn't necessarily make every segment of this set of ghost stories consistently terrifying. As an historical collection, one that seemingly inspired the new movement of J-horror, I suppose something like Scary True Stories merits its props. The reality is that the production values are spotty, and some of the effects are just plain bad, which is unfortunate, because the stories themselves are rich with potential scares.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: All episodes are presented in their original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33:1 fullframe. Colors have a soft look to them, and while the transfer doesn't have any glaring physical flaws aside from grain, image detail is equally lacking in definition. To make matters worse, some scenes have a moderate blurring in spots. A lackluster and unremarkable treatment of a low-budget Japanese television series.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japaneseno

Audio Transfer Review: No major complaints with the 2.0 stereo Japanese language track. Voice quality is distortion-free, and the mood enhancing score adds what it can to build suspense and provide the required jump scares. The only issue is a fluctuation in the overall volume level from episode to episode.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Scanavo
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Extras are rather thin, consisting only of storyboards from House of Restless Spirits and a television trailer (with subtitles) for the series. The disc is cut into 17 chapters, and features optional English subtitles.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Never especially scary, there are still a few salvageable moments of creepiness here, but there aren't enough to spread over two hours. Production values are low-rent, and the effects are rather cheesy, diminishing any ability to sell the scary.

A rental for diehard Japanese horror fans eager to see early work by Norio Tsuruta.


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