Naoyuki TomomatsuJapanese
The Little Match Murder Girl
Also known as: Match-uri no Satsujin Shoujo
Medium: film
Year: 2014
Director: Naoyuki Tomomatsu
Keywords: boobs, horror, rubbish
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Actor: Rin Ogawa
Format: 80 minutes
Website category: J-sleaze
Review date: 16 February 2019
There's very little information about this film online. I know it's directed by Naoyuki Tomomatsu, though, whose other films include Stacy: Attack of the Schoolgirl Zombies (which I like), Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl (which I love), Scissorpenis (trash title of the year?) and the Rape Zombie: Lust of the Dead series.
You might be getting the impression of trash. You wouldn't be wrong. This film is bad horror and bad softcore porn. I'm not surprised that there's so little information out there about it, because it's so weak that even the few people who've seen it won't care or remember it. I had to look it up on Japanese Amazon to find out that its main actress is called Rin Ogawa, for instance. (She's a hardcore porn star, of course.)
Theoretically, it's a straightforward J-horror. Low-budget, but not amateurish. A TV show's investigating an urban legend reminiscent of the Little Match Girl, as per Hans Christian Andersen. The twist, of course, is that anyone who sees her will get burned to death. So far, so Ringu. Delayed action killer ghost. The TV crew enter a tunnel, find things that don't show up on the camera footage (sort of) and find that they might have acquired a supernatural stalker. This is predictable, but the writing isn't actually that bad. It's solid, conventionally structured J-horror. The plot's perfectly good, the cast all have meaningful characterisation and the ghost's dark secret is pretty nasty. That sequence worked. It's also worth pointing out that the ghost herself isn't a Sadako clone, being fairly normal-looking despite being a Japanese female killer ghost with long hair.
The film's not afraid to be cliched. The music can be heavy-handed and Ogawa wakes up twice from a dream. There's also a revelation at the end that you'd have had to be asleep not to see coming. None of that is the problem, though, which is...
THE SPECIAL EFFECTS.
I rarely care about special effects, but here I hit my limit. The Match Girl will burn you to death, you see. (The film had so many easier choices available. She could have killed you with a little spot of make-up, or some sound effects, or a frog hopping past your bed... but no. It had to be fire. It's effectively in the film's title.) Flames used to be a special effects bugbear, because they don't work with scale models. The only way to make fire look realistic was to actually set fire to something, ideally of the right size.
Today, though, we have CGI. You can do anything in CGI. Or, to be precise, you can superimpose some unconvincing flames over a scene where even blind people could see that nothing's burning really. The fire isn't casting firelight convincingly, for a start. Words cannot express how terrible this looks. It's laughable. It kills the film, shattering even the very very low expectations you hadn't realised you still had. Then, after a few seconds of CGI "burning" a completely healthy actor, the next shot will be of a burning skeleton.
So that's the horror. The film's ultimate threat is fire, which looks as convincing as sweet wrappers being dangled on strings. What about the porn, then?
Answer: that doesn't work either. The film's basically just J-horror. There's a bit of nudity towards the end, but nothing to get worked up about... except for the twelve-minute porn scene that's been dropped in like a hand grenade in a swimming pool. (I'm not complimenting it. The effect is basically to send everything scattering and destroy everything that had been achieved until then.) It comes out of nowhere at the five minute mark, gives the audience some underwhelming wank material and then (eventually) disappears again. It does introduce a couple of plot points, but a good half of its running time is just Ogawa shagging her producer with no dialogue and no plot. There's seven minutes of softcore sex, then a five-minute topless conversation. After that, it's offscreen blow job time.
The sad thing is that the film's fundamentals are actually okay. Plot, fine. Characterisation, decent. (Ogawa's startlingly abusive towards her assistant, who's taking this case way more seriously than everyone else. There's an elderly, lovable cameraman and the Shagging Producer who doesn't want Ogawa to get pregnant because she wouldn't be sexy any more. That wouldn't have anything to do with him having a wife and children, then.) The film's also making efforts to give itself a real-world basis, so for instance it goes through the historical evidence for spontaneous human combustion and gives some historical background like the Asama-Sansou incident when telling its ghost's backstory. I like Naoyuki Tomomatsu and I'm a fan of some of his work, but unfortunately here he's blown off his foot with a shotgun. That CGI is so, so bad. It's the kind of CGI that'll elicit comedy rants even from people who never notice CGI. The softcore content is also damaging, although it's possible that that was contractually mandated. ("Make me a pink film. Put whatever you like in it, just so long as there's at least twelve minutes of pink.")
There are good things here. The childbirth scene was effective, with the mother's bloody mouth. There was definitely potential here, but it got anti-realised.