Everyone is on about 3D. In the cinema, at home with a new flat-screen TV, and most of the time with expensive 3D googles.
But when the decision was made to create the first 3D J Horror, surprisingly the big minds behind the picture weren’t interested in cutting edge technology. Instead they went with the good old fashioned cardboard glasses with one red lense and one blue lens.
Why? I haven’t got a clue, but if nothing else it DID make the viewing process feel very retro cool!
Shock Labyrinth 3D, from the director of Ju-On (The Grudge) and other iconic Asian classics looks to be more of the same old thing. And to some extent it is.
When a group of children break away from their parents at a theme park, they find the most terrifying ride – a horror maze – to be closed.
Keen to see what all of the fuss is about, and somewhat motivated by a desire to impress the ladies, the two boys of the group manage to find a way into the large, delapidated building. The others join them for an after-hours tour.
But things go wrong when the children are scared by something quite real that is in the maze with them. The following events are so shocking that the minds of the kids can’t cope and all of them forget what happened until they meet up again years later, as teenagers.
This is where things get a bit strange.
One of the girls, Yuki, turns up in the rain and no-one seems to be quite sure if (a) she really is who she says she is (b) whether she should be dead or not (c) whether she is quite mad.
To confuse things further Ken, the lead character keeps getting an unexplained pain in his head, and Rin, a blind girl, periodically gets her sight back – although it’s more creepy outlines than blurry shapes which just adds to her – and our – fear.
Yuki falls down some stairs, so the teens take her to the local hospital, but in a curious (and confusing) twist, the hospital turns out to be the horror maze, and they end up having the re-live that terrible day from their youth.
Oh, and there’s a ghostly bunny rucksack that flies through walls.
Shock Labyrinth is very much like a weird dream, for the characters and the viewer. There are constant jumps in both time and location, and what’s supposed to be real is never certain. Plus there are plenty of freaky, unexplained things, like the bunny rucksack and the never-ending hospital/maze.
More troubling are the distorted figures that occupy the labyrinth. These mannequins are part of the theme park attraction, and are always waiting unexpectedly around corners to give everyone a scare.
A few nasty repetitive flashbacks are thrown in to really add to that nightmarish feel.
It could be perceived that the themes of the film are rooted in the atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The mannequins looking very much like those that you see in the grainy nuclear weapons test videos, and the dummies in the labyrinth all show mutations or burns, commonly identified with exposure to radiation.
The director, Takashi Shimizu could well be using shock labyrinth as a wake-up call to the world, who seem to have forgotten (as have the children in the maze) about the horrors of their past.
Shock Labyrinth is odd and hard going at times, but is generally weird and creepy enough to keep your interest.
Plus of course, it is in retro 3D, which has to score it some points. This can however cause a distraction, as it’s hard to resist commenting on which parts of the film work ‘really well’ and which ‘look rubbish’ as you watch with your fellow 3D spectacle wearing buddy.
An average J horror with a nice three dimensional edge, Shock Labyrinth is like a bad dream that won’t end… Except with subtitles!