Based on a story by Yumeaki Hirayama (Tokyo Psycho), Nao Niigaki (j-idol Hiroko Sato) works part-time at Mitsuya Mart, a store that has some weird things going on. Odd customers, disturbing owners, and strange events keep occurring. Ryouko Kagami (Kyoko Akiba) of the large Cosmos Mart convienence-store-chain has arrived to oversee adding the small Mitsuya Mart run by the Kitaura family, yet even her first moments in the store are met with odd happenings. The owners look almost like corpses and the wall clock reveals that she’s already two hours late to her appointment with the Kitaura family, despite Nao being able to see that the clock really says Kagami is on-time. Tokyo Shock brings Yoshihiro Hoshino’s vision of Hirayama’s original story with Cursed (‘Cho’ Kowai Hanashi A: Yami no Karasu). 

DVD: Cursed
Release Date: 4/26/2005
Release Studio: Media Blasters / Tokyo Shock

MSRP: $29.95
Audio: Japanese 2.0 DD
Subtitles: English
Episodes: 1
Runtime: 80mins
Extras: Trailer, Previews

Notes: Review is based on a Retail purchased copy of the final product.

Two schoolgirls get off a city bus and start to head towards their destination. Along the way, the pair decide to go to a convinence store. However, one of them senses that there is something wrong with this place. She starts to back up and her friend begins to ask what’s the matter. Yet the girl continues to back up in sheer terror of the mini-mart. Not paying attention to where she’s going, the frightened schoolgirl backs up into the street and is run over instantly by an eighteen wheeler speeding down the road. Her friend stands there in shock while blood splatters across her face.

Moving on, Kagami of the Cosmos Mart chain arrives to overlook the company’s newest acquisition: Mitsuya Mart. A small, family-owned store, Kagami hopes to pick up talks with the owners after the previous Cosmos employee brokering the deal was seriously injured in an accident. However, even her first footsteps into the store are met with odd occurrences after being greeted by Nao. Kagami has come for a two o’clock appointment, but the husband and wife are already complaining about how rude and late Kagami is. Looking at the wall clock, Kagami can clearly see that it’s now four o’clock. In the back room, Kagami explains what happened to the previous employee and how he will not be able to run the store for the two owners while Mitsuya Mart is updated for the Cosmos chain. Mr. Kitaura (Etsuyo Mitani; Death Trance) seems to be really interested in hearing the details of the injury while the wife watches the security cam TV set like a hawk to catch their part-timer Nao doing anything wrong. Mrs. Kitaura (Etsuyo Mitani) is certain that Nao has been stealing money. Growing uneasy, Kagami begins to ask about the store’s inventory when the owners insist that she do the work since originally the previous Cosmos employee said he would. Begrudgingly, Kagami walks back into the main store to join Nao, who has been keeping an eye on a customer at the magazine rack. Kagami properly introduces herself to Nao and finds out that the young girl has only worked at the mart part-time for a month. Nao is excited to hear that the gloomy, creepy store is going to get a nice facelift and a larger company backing them to start bringing in customers.

Kagami begins to inventory the stock behind the store when there’s a loud ringing and a whisper of a voice begins to say something. The only thing Kagami can do is fall to the ground in pain. Inside the store, Nao walks over to the customer still reading at the magazine rack. She tries to greet the visitor and peer into his hood, but there is no face to be seen. Another customer comes in and picks up some collectible boxed-figures. Nao returns to the counter and rings up the total as 666 yen. The customer pays and comments on how no one comes to this store, so he’s lucky to find this out-of-print series. Nao smiles and the customer leaves for home. Walking down the street, a white ball begins to bounce in his direction from a hallway inside a creepy apartment building. Slowly, the ball approaches him and he stands there (like a fool) watching it come in his direction. The ball lands at his feet and the guy hears an odd child-like voice asking for the ball back. He decides to pick up the ball and walks inside to offer the toy back to the child. Wandering through a dark, rundown hallway he decides to enter one room to return the ball. However, the only thing to leave the darkness is that same white ball bouncing back to the street to find its next victim.

The next day, cheery Nao passes by the undead-looking owners and into the backroom where she greets Kagami still working on inventory. Kagami asks if Nao has felt the negative energy coming from the store. She has, and so have all the other part-timers who used to work at Mitsuya Mart. Of them, only Nao and the night shift employee, Komori, still work at the shop. Kagami assures her that things will be better after the remodeling is done. While inventorying food, Kagami discovers some noodles that expired… three years ago (and I thought some of my mini-marts were bad). Kagami brings this to the attention of the owners, but is quickly accused of being insane and trying to steal. Kagami tries to calm them down when she hears a thud and Nao scream from the main store. Nao is shocked at what she just witnessed. A crow purposefully slammed itself into the front window, killing itself. As Kagami and Nao stand in shock looking down at the dead bird bleeding on the ground, another crow sweeps in and slams into the front window. Kagami calms Nao’s fears of the store being evil and sends her back inside. Moving quickly to clean up the mess, Kagami goes into the back room, passes by the two store owners, grabs some towels, and returns to the front where suddenly the two owners have appeared. They’re more than a bit over-cheerful at getting to wash away the crow blood and dance around while spraying water across the sidewalk.

Komori (Takaaki Iwao) arrives early to relieve Nao and even bought her some groceries so she can eat something that evening. Nao thanks him and heads home while Komori begins to deal with the night customers. One woman’s total at the store comes to 999 yen (these guys are trying too hard). As she walks home, a mysterious stranger starts to follow her while dragging a sledge hammer behind him. (Remember folks, a knife or a gun would be too obvious.) As she gets her mail, the woman can hear the strange noise behind her. Turning towards the parking lot, she can see a creepy guy with a bandaged face dragging a sledge hammer. (Perfectly normal, I see these kind of people every day.) She hops into the elevator in time to see the doors close and the stranger staring (I think he’s staring; can you stare when both eyes are covered?) through the glass as the elevator begins to rise. The elevator moves slowly and she panics while hitting the buttons. Up the stairs follows the lumbering sociopath (but I’m sure a swell guy once you get to know him) as he climbs eight flights to reach her floor. The woman arrives first and races down the hallway hoping to get into her apartment. She fiddles with her keys when she notices that the apartment-door key is missing (oh no!). It has fallen off and is lying on the ground halfway back down the hall while at the far end is the (sweet-natured) guy with the sledgehammer and bandages. She races back to the keys and… oh hell, even a gradeschooler knows where this one is going.

Cursed is cheese with an extra helping of lame to make a very poorly done ‘scary’ horror film. The film features some low-budget special effects, way too many horror movie cliches, and some poor cinematography. Shot with a digicam, the movie suffers from looking like (or possibly is) a student filmmaker’s midterm project who just happen to get sexy j-idol Hiroko Sato to come co-star in the film. The script presents very basic dialogue and flow as we drag through the terrible things that happen at the mart and to its customers. Kagami and Nao realize what is going on with the store and take their own approaches on what to do. Nao, having grown fond of Komori, decides to rescue the night clerk on her own from the cursed convenience store. The film does come full circle to wrap up the few thinly-introduced storylines, but it comes off as very lame when you realize it. Kyoko Akiba stands out fairly well as she tries to play off of the poorly-directed creepy-characters around her. Hiroko Sato also proves she has some talent behind her pretty smile as she pulls off being the average-schoolgirl-with-a-job. Supporting characters, sadly, become a dreadful mess of overacting in this nightmarish tale.

Cursed lives up to its name as being a film I’ve been cursed to have actually seen. The poor plot, cheesy cliches, and lack of something actually scary makes this a title to avoid at all costs. Even in the bargain bin, I would probably lean on ditching this title rather than handing over real money for it. On the bright side, I did get to see sexy Hiroko Sato do something more than just model a swimsuit. (It’s the only bright side and I’m hanging onto it for dear life to justify keeping this in my collection.) The video is clean and the subtitles present no noticeable problems. The are no DVD extras aside from the original Japanese trailer included in the preview trailers section. The cover art with Hiroko Sato and the crows flying by the thousands has a scary feel, like Hitchcock’s film The Birds, but you are going to be disappointed when you find out it’s just those two crows slamming into the front window. Cursed is something to be used for drinking games, MST3K gatherings, or to give someone you know is a horror fan a terrible movie as a gag gift. If you watch it for anything else, you’re going to be quite disappointed.