May 9, 2012

Blu-ray Review: Shock Labyrinth 3D

It is not often that I have trouble getting through a movie. With Shock Labyrinth it took me four attempts to make it all the way through. It is not because it is shocking, oh no. I had trouble watching this entire movie because it is so utterly and completely boring. Seriously, this is a good cure for insomnia. I wish I could report differently, I mean, it was only ten years ago that writer/director Takashi Shimizu joined the likes of Hideo Nakata (Ringu) as a top flight voice on the Japanese horror scene with the Ju-on films. Shock Labyrinth finds the creator shuffling with a tale that feels less than fresh and needlessly convoluted.

The movie, like the Pirates of the Caribbean series, is based on a popular amusement park attraction. The inspiration came from the Haunted Hospital at the Fuji-Q Amusement Park. I do not have a frame of reference for the ride, but I think it is safe to say it did not translate to the screen nearly as well as the Disney films (the first one, anyway).

The movie tells the story of a group of kids who go into the haunted house after hours. Their exploration ends with the mysterious disappearance of their friend, Yuki, seemingly dragged away into the darkness. It is an event that will haunt them for years to come.

We shift ahead ten years and pick up with the friends as they are getting together for a visit. Things are going fine until a woman shows up at the door and claims to be their long missing friend. This, of course, brings up questions about her true identity and where has she been all this time. Before they get any answers, she falls Into a comatose state. They drive to the hospital and then the real fun begins.

The group arrives at the hospital and find it oddly barren. There are no signs of any doctors nor of any patients. As they explore the empty halls, they soon recognize the fact they are not actually in a hospital, but the haunted attraction from their youth. They walk around, confused and frightened about just what is going on.

The longer they walk around, the more they remember bits and pieces of that fateful day from their youth. What happened? What happened to Yuki? Well, it seems there was more going on that day than just a friend going missing and this odd return to the location of the tragedy starts stirring the guilt that is burning inside each of them.

Essentially, Shock Labyrinth is tale of ghostly revenge. Each member of this group has their own reason for guilt, their own level of involvement in the events of the day and this is making them finally deal with them.

Regardless of how interesting their guilt trips may be, very thing is revealed in such a convoluted fashion that I really didn't care. This movie is boring, boring, boring, with a side of dull. All the major revelations are in the last twenty minutes or so, but they are a bit too little, too late. The most interesting bit in the movie is when the mangled, tortured looking mannequins start coming to life. That is the one creepy moment and it looked to have been borrowed from Silent Hill.

This was the first live action 3D movie produced in Japan. This Blu-ray has both versions, but I am not yet 3D capable and have only viewed the flat version. I have to say that I did not like it. The present was shot with high contrast, flashbacks were soft and hazy, and there were a lot of scenes with a layer of stuff in the foreground for the 3D effects, floating feathers, dust, and rain filling the frame.

Audio/Video. The movie is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is not all that great of a transfer. Actually, I am not so sure it is a bad transfer so much as it is a cheap production. Seriously, this movie looks and feels very cheap. The look alternates between the soft and hazy and high contrast, none of it is very impressive. This is not really a good example of the high definition format.

Audio is presented in both original Japanese and English dub with DTS-HD 5.1 tracks. They are always clear, but they sound vey flat. It does nothing to draw you in an actually contributes to the sleep inducing atmosphere of the movie. Nothing special to be found here.

  • Interviews. This runs for nearly half an hour and features interviews with director Takashi Shimizu as well as some of the cast members. Some of this is actual pretty interesting as they talk about making the film and what they want to accomplish. Too bad the movie is so bad.
  • Behind the Scenes. This runs about ten-minutes and features lots of footage from the set.
  • Press Conference. This is just a few minutes but covers the the film's opening.
  • Original Trailer. The US marketing trailer.
Bottomline. Shock Labyrinth is ugly, sloppy, and boring. It features cheap production values, poor acting, an uninvolving story, and is a really dull affair. This movie is best avoided by everybody.

Not Recommended.

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Shock Labyrinth 3D on Blogcritics.


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