Takashi ShimizuThe GrudgeTakako FujiHoka Kinoshita
Gakkou no Kaidan G
Also known as: School Ghost Stories G, Haunted School G
Medium: TV, film
Year: 1998
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Tetsu Maeda, Takashi Shimizu
Writer: Chiaki Konaka, Hiroshi Kogure, Hiroshi Takahashi, Hiroyuki Kakudo, Naruho Amino, Takashi Shimizu, Tetsu Maeda
Actor: Medaka Ikeno, Aki Maeda, Shungiku Uchida, Hoka Kinoshita, Toru Suehiro, Ayako Omura, Takako Fuji, Koen Okumura
Keywords: Gakkou no Kaidan, ghost, horror
Series: The Grudge >>
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 71 minutes
Url: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0330312/
Website category: J-horror
Review date: 17 June 2024
Gakkou no Kaidan G
Despite appearances, Gakkou no Kaidan didn't take a break in 1998. It produced this oddity, as part of a long-running TV thing. It started with a Gakko no Kaidan live-action TV series (1994, eleven episodes) that was itself the conclusion of something called "Hankyu Drama Series". It was an anthology series with a host/storyteller, played by Medaka Ikeno (who also appears in that role here). There were then lots of specials:
1996: Gakkou no Kaidan R
1997: Gakkou no Kaidan F
1998: Gakkou no Kaidan G, which is the only one of this series that I've managed to find. It's the least obscure of them because it includes two micro-shorts by Takashi Shimizu that are a prequel to his twenty-year Ju-on horror series, one of the two most famous J-horror franchises alongside Ringu. They're called "Katasumi" and "4444444444".
1999: Gakkou no Kaidan Haru no Tatari (which means "School Ghost Story: Spring Haunting Special")
2000: Gakkou no Kaidan Haru no Noroi
2001: Gakkou no Kaidan Mononoke
2020: maybe something called Monster Share House (or Youkai Sharehouse?) but I'm not convinced they're linked. The show looks amusing, though, and I might watch it anyway.
Anyway, back to Gakkou no Kaidan G. It's Japanese TV, but also capable of looking and sounding like home video. Sometimes I'd be surprised just to hear incidental music. Some of the child actors are painfully wooden, while other bits I'm pretty sure are just non-fiction interviews with random members of the public and their spooky stories. (A schoolboy mentions Teketeke.) There are even wackily animated micro-segments, including a visual idea that's probably too odd for live-action.
As usual with this franchise and doubly so on TV, there's negligible gore and no on-screen killing. That doesn't mean everyone survives, though, and I don't think there's any doubt about the fate of, say, that boy who got dragged through a door by his feet. We didn't see what happened next, but it won't have been good.
The first and worst-acted segment ("Shokki") is about a girl (Ayumi) making birthday cookies for a boy she likes (Shouta). It's all innocent. They're far too young for romance. We then learn that a girl was found floating in the school swimming pool and that she had health or allergy issues that meant she couldn't eat certain foods. Does that mean her ghost is starving? Shouta drinks some soup he shouldn't and is soon eating school stationery supplies and the contents of garbage bags. When Ayumi tries to talk to him about it, he tries to bite her.
This one's strange and directed at times like a dream sequence. It's also the only segment without a famous horror director. I liked its ending, though, which is nice.
"Katasumi" (aka. "In the Corner") and "4444444444" introduce Kayako and Toshio from Ju-on. Kayako's a fairly generic crawling J-horror killer ghost woman, but she's still clearly bad news and correctly played by Takako Fuji. As for Toshio... well, he's unmistakeable. These segments are both only three minutes long. One of them has explicit death and undeath, but the other's just weird. Toshio meows. These two segments are also the best-acted in the special, although that isn't saying much. Incidentally, Shimizu called these two segments "the foundations of Ju-on" and "almost like the true prequel of the story", with what he made after that being a sequel, not a remake.
Last is Kiyoshi Kurosawa's "Kodama". I had no idea what was happening until I realised that five teenagers were doing a psychic experiment. One of them says she can sense the others even if they're not in the room. This gets creepy when the number of participants starts varying (both rising and falling) and we see a black blob travelling around the children's home-made map. There's also a shot where I hadn't spotted a door opening even though I thought I'd been watching everything in the background like a hawk. I don't understand the tree at the end, but I don't think I'm meant to.
Incidentally, this segment convinced me that ghosts might be worse than vampires. You're converted more quickly. Death equals ghost. Vampires have more complicated rules, although there are films where it's almost instantaneous.
Overall, it's nothing like the Gakkou no Kaidan feature films. It's not for children. It's proper horror, despite being gore-free TV, and it tempted me to rewatch the first two Ju-on films to remind myself of how they continued. Googling that, I see there's since been a fourth American J-on film (2019, not particularly tempted to hunt it down) and a 2020 Japanese Ju-on TV series (which I probably will). This TV film was more interesting than I'd expected.