ghostNaoto TakenakaArisa KomiyaNana Asakawa
Toshimaen: Haunted Park (2019)
Also known as: Eiga: Toshimaen
Medium: film
Year: 2019
Writer/director: Hiroshi Takahashi
Actor: Rie Kitahara, Fujiko Kojima, Nana Asakawa, Ruka Matsuda, Nari Saito, Arisa Komiya, Naoki Kunishima, Seina Suzuki, Young Dais, Hiroko Nakajima, Shun Nakayama, Naoto Takenaka
Keywords: horror, ghost
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 81 minutes
Website category: J-horror
Review date: 21 June 2024
I disliked it, but that's partly because I'm not Japanese. I reject the film's basic assumption, i.e. ghosts are inherently scary and evil, so their existence is in itself a story resolution with no work required from the scriptwriter. Most of the film's okay and I was watching happily enough... until the non-ending. The film just stops. The credits rolled and I gaped in disbelief. There's a good 10-15 minutes that I think the film needed, but the filmmakers disagreed.
There's a post-credits sequence, but it adds nothing significant. I could talk you through the necessary extra material. I could even write the script myself. A girl called Saki was caught between two groups of friends, you see. There's a gaggle of five loud girls (including Saki herself) but there's also a mouse-like girl called Yuka who used to be Saki's best friend. They swore to be together forever. They were very young, yes, but it's still important to Yuka. No one should have to choose between friends, but sometimes it happens... and Saki messed up. She tried to force everyone into a group of six, then made bad choices when it didn't work.
Three years ago, someone died. Now, it's happening again. This film's ultimately about the Saki-Yuka relationship that went wrong... and now Yuka's back. They have another chance. Saki has a chance to apologise.
...but Yuka's a ghost. Saki screams on sight and never tries talking to her like a human being. The film ends with the two of them together and you're begging for Saki to pull her head out of her arse... but no. The credits roll. End of film. I howled in rage. Perhaps, though, a Japanese audience might have more sympathy for Saki's knee-jerk screaming and might even think Yuka's smiling face is good enough for a Bad Horror Ending?
Eurgh. I can't be bothered. Avoid this film.
One oddity is that this film's set at a real amusement park in Nerima, Tokyo. It's famous. It even still has its own wikipedia page, even though it closed in 2020 and got redeveloped by Warner Bros into The Making of Harry Potter. It's called Toshimaen and I'm amazed that they gave the okay for this horror film. The film even claims that there's a "Toshimaen curse". 1. Don't knock on the door of the old mansion. 2. Don't respond in the haunted house. 3. Don't look into the secret mirror. If you break any of these rules, you'll be taken away to a secret place. The only way out from there is to ride on the merry-go-round.
Incidentally, that merry-go-round (the "Eldorado" carousel) is famous and the oldest one in Japan. This film mentions its history.
Memorise those rules. All three of them get broken in this film and every rule-breaker will regret it. We start with three idiots doing something crass and livestreaming it on the internet. They all die. Good. (Incidentally, the girl among them isn't Saki's friend Yuka, although she's about to be just as dead.) We then meet Saki's friends, who are lively, fun and a bit insensitive. See their behaviour around Yuka's bereaved parents, for instance. They're good horror movie victims, though, and I was happy to watch them be silly, argue and try to stay alive.
If the filmmakers reunited and shot those missing 10-15 minutes, I'd like this film. I like the timeslip stuff. I like the focus on phones, etc. which is overt enough to feel like part of the theme. (Saki and her friends needed to communicate more. Even the ones who never shut up aren't great at saying anything that matters, or at listening to each other.) Yuka' parents give the film gravity during their short appearance. Even so, though... no, it's not for me.