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Sagori possesses spiritual powers which enable her to converse with the dead. After she dies at the age of sixteen, her mother attempts to bring her back from the dead. Sagoris friends decide to investigate the history of Shikoku Island which is also known as The Kingdom of the Dead. Will Sagoris friends be able to stop the awakening of Sagori from the dead?
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But I doubt Hollywood will be rushing to remake "Shikoku," a creepy and pretty movie with too much shakycam. While the star Chiaki Kuriyama does a solid job, the movie is too vague, blurry and full of loose ends that never really get tied up. It feels like they were making up the movie as they went along.
Hinako, Sayori and their mutual crush Fumiya were inseparable as children, until Hinako moved away. Now ten years have passed, and Hinako (Yui Natsukawa) returns to the old hometown -- but she finds that Sayori (Chiaki Kuriyama) drowned some years before, and Fumiya (Michitaka Tsutsui) is still haunted by her presence.
But ghosts are rising around the town, and a muttering old priestess is making her rounds, reversing the seals on temples -- and breaking down the barrier between life and death. As Fumiya and Hinako start to fall in love, Hinako begins seeing Sayori's apparition -- and finds that Sayori's mother is determined to bring her daughter back to life.
"Shikoku" is a play on words -- the kanji logogram means both "four countries" and "land of the dead," which sounds promising for a horror movie. But don't expect it to ever be fully played out to its full promise.
It starts off promisingly -- ghosts are rising, a vengeful dead girl, a corrupted friendship, and a cave leading to the next life. Then Shunichi Nagasaki just seems to lose interest in the plot. Half the subplots are dropped, so don't expect any "land of the dead" stuff. And what is retained of the plot never really gets fleshed out.
The whole last act is a rush job, with few explanations, and all the character conflict between Hinako and Sayori left up in the air -- apparently Hinako just forgets how Sayori loathed her. But it is very beautifully filmed, once you get past the nauseating shakycam shots -- lots of misty forests, mountains, forests full of light, and mossy old shrines. As a visual experience, it's absolutely lovely.
Kuriyama gives a solid performance as Sayori, and she's very creepy and amoral. The only problem is that we're expected to feel sorry for Sayori, and frankly she's too whiny and vicious for that to ever happen. Natsukawa gives a decent performance, but her character is too passive and emotionless.
"Shikoku" had the seeds of a good supernatural thriller, but the end result is rushed and full of dropped subplots. It could have been great, but became a lame ghost story instead.
Many years later Hinako returns to her hometown. She is unaware that her childhood friend Sayori drowned at the age of 16. However, she discovers this from one of the locals. Further, she reconnects with Fumiya, who has come back to Shikoku too. He was once in love with Sayori, and still harbors feelings for her, even though she has died. But there are very creepy and subtly sinister events happening in this small village where Hinako has come back to. Sayori's mother is a Shinto shameness, and she is attempting to resurrect Sayori. In order for her mother to do this, she must traverse the islands 88 temples in reverse order. There is a lot of symbolism in this film, especially some of the ones that the reviewer Zack mentioned.
I especially liked the way that water is used in the film, in which the purification and ritual prayers are utilized. For example, there is a gated entry to a cave, where local legend has it that no one goes near. Caves and caverns have long been associated in ancient cultures as the entrance to the underworld, and that is no exception in this film. At the entrance of this particular cave, there is an obelisk shaped stone, with great religious importance, surrounded by water: As water purification is important in Japanese religion, and especially during the semiannual ceremonies of purification at Shinto shrines. And although some of the mythological allusions are difficult to grasp, the image of the obelisk in the water is not lost on the viewer as a purifying image. And more importantly, an entranceway. But to where?
This formal ritual of purification is a main theme in Japanese religion. In fact, traditionally, all Shinto shrines provided water for their worshipers. Maybe I have read to much into the film, but for me at least I really enjoyed watching this extremely nuanced and atmospheric ghost story. And as some reviewers have written, it is about 'ATMOSPHERE', not blood and gore. As the films narrative continues, Hinako and Fumiya must find a way to stop Sayori's shamaness mother from resurrecting her, because not only will she be resurrected but ALL of the dead on the island. Will they both succeed? Or will the island become the 'Land of the Dead'? This is a very good, and much overlooked film. I highly recommend this film to those who like their horror nuanced and atmospheric, as opposed to violent and gory. "Shikoku," is a great creepy ghost story, with great acting and beautiful cinematography. Highly recommended.
I think Sayori's hate inspiring jealousy could of been more developed in the story line, but i thought the ending wrapped everything up nicely.
This is not a movie I personally would recommend to someone who wasn't a die-hard Japanese cinema fan, although I did enjoy it.
The grainy look also made it look cheap. Wish I could throw this one back to the sharks. What a waste of money!