Fantaspoa 2022 review: ‘OX-HEAD VILLAGE’ is a frightful folktale.

OX-HEAD VILLAGE

PLOT: Having launched a social media prank about a haunted building, three girls suddenly vanish. Rumors circulate that they were victims of The Ox-Head Village curse, triggering an investigation by two of their friends, desperate to find the truth about what has happened


Sick cinematography and a killer opening bring Fantaspoa 2022 audiences into the intensely scary world of Ox-Head Village. Finding out that this is director Takashi Shimizu‘s final film in his “Village Trilogy” makes me want to seek out Howling Village and Suicide Forest Village immediately. Japanese folklore surrounding a family curse brings this horror mystery to life. Kanon seeks answers as to why she resembles a missing girl from a failed prank video. As clues slowly come to light, Kanon must confront her family’s past mistakes to make way for her future. Loaded with haunting imagery, flashbacks, and macabre superstition, Ox-Head Village becomes the consequence of trying to outwit the curse. Performances across the board are solid. The colors are lush and the kills are brutal and disturbing. Elements akin to Ringu are unmissable. But, Ox-Head Village is undoubtedly unique. Make sure you don’t move once the credits begin to roll.


 OX-HEAD VILLAGE screened as part of Fantaspoa 2022.

For more information on the festival, please visit www.fantaspoa.com.

CAST: Kôki, Riku Hagiwara, Keiko Horiuchi, Haruka Imô, Akaji Maro, Satoru Matsuo, Riko, Fumiya Takahashi, Naoki Tanaka, Rinka Ôtani

DIRECTOR: Takashi Shimizu


SXSW 2022 short film review: ‘THE VOICE ACTRESS’ is an elegant ode to the unseen legends.

Kingyo, a veteran voice actress working in Tokyo, possesses a unique ability to see the soul in all things, living and inanimate. The voice acting world is changing and she must find a way to reconcile her way of living with the modern industry. As Kingyo prepares for an upcoming audition, she seeks inspiration from the world around her and from her pet goldfish, Asatte. In the face of professional and personal adversity, Kingyo looks decidedly inward for strength through empathy and kindness.

Urara Takano plays Kingyo, a voice actress whose passion for her work is clear to the audience from the very beginning. In 15 minutes we get an emotional journey worth every second of screen time. Competing with a new generation proficient in self-promotion, how does a dedicated veteran compete? The Voice Actress gives us a peek behind the curtain that is the boys club of entertainment, while simultaneously putting us inside the mind of an accomplished performer. Writer-director Anna J. Takayama gives Takano space to bloom. I would happily watch a feature on this character. There is a purposeful beauty to the costumes, especially the use of the color red. The undeniable quirkiness from Takano makes you fall in love with her. It’s no wonder the short garnered SXSW22’s Mailchimp Support the Shorts Award.


 

Review: ‘AIR DOLL’ is filled with complexity and enchantment.

AIR DOLL

In AIR DOLL, the Galatea myth is transported to present day Tokyo, when an inflatable sex doll named Nozomi (Doona) finds that she has grown consciousness and a heart.


Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters) 2009 film Air Doll is finally available for US audiences. Overflowing with whimsey, the film is based on the manga series Kuuki Ningyo by Yoshiie Gōda. Underneath the lightheartedness is an engrossing study in grief and the complexities of humanity. Air Doll is a genre-bending wonder.

The relationship with coworker Junichi (a brilliant Arata Iura) sums up the film best. His suspension of disbelief and/or the immediate acceptance of Nozomi’s reality puts the audience into a whirl of complicated emotions. Their journey will mystify you. Bae Doona is so enchanting. If you weren’t already a fan of her work on Sense8 or The Host, you’ll fall in love with her in Air Doll. Her performance is like watching a meta character study. Doona’s toddler-like wonder fills every beat with joy. But, it’s the underlying sadness that takes Air Doll to the next level. The longing for genuine connection while navigating social graces and newfound emotions is nothing short of fascinating.

Is it fair to categorize Air Doll as an unusual coming-of-age story? Perhaps, a story of enlightened consciousness would be better suited. Air Doll is yet another perfectly thoughtful addition to Dekanalog‘s collection of films. It begs larger questions of existence and life, exploring the meaning of happiness on a grander scale. The film’s evolution is endlessly surprising. You won’t be able to look away. Air Doll is truly something special.


AIR DOLL, from director Hirokazu Kore-eda, hits U.S. cinemas and VOD on February 4th!