Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Ouija Japan: Kokkuri-san Kills

They have something like Ouija boards in Japan too, but traditionally they invoke trickster animal spirits, sort of like Coyote in the American Southwest. It is still a bad idea to mess around with one, especially if you have offended the local fox spirit. Somehow, a group of women on retreat manage to do exactly that in Masaya Kato’s Ouija Japan, which releases today on BluRay.

Karen Fujimoto is the expat wife of a Japanese businessman, who has trouble fitting in with the neighborhood women. Akiyo Yoshihara, her “queen bee” boss at the community center is always on her case, which sets the tone for the rest of the women on staff. Her only friend is the caustic Satsuki Murakami, who works from home (pre-pandemic) and is openly contemptuous of the other cliquey gossips. Much to Fujimoto’s relief, Murakami also agrees to attend the center’s retreat, even though it is hard to imagine her singing kumbaya or trusting anyone to catch her if she falls backward. Fortunately, it turns out they will have activities she is much better suited for.

Bizarrely, Yoshihara uses a coin from the local shrine’s collection box for her game of Kokkuri-san (or Ouija). This angers the already ticked off kitsune, who magically installs a killer app on their phones that plunges them into a
Battle Royale-style game of kill or be killed. Like Highlander, there can be only one at the end and if the deaths to not come with sufficient frequency, the Fox Spirit will select someone at random. Inevitably, Fujimoto and Murakami team up to take on the other alliances, even though they will eventually have to turn on each other, if they survive that long.

Ouija Japan is the weirdest conglomeration of genre elements that really don’t belong together, obviously including Ouija movies, Battle Royale, and cell-phone horror from the likes of Countdown. It manages to cram them into a relatively economical 78-minutes, so at least that’s something. This is definitely a cheap looking film with badly dubbed English dialogue that often sounds like it was delivered phonetically. Yet, its grunginess almost becomes a source of charm.

Despite Murakami’s awkward-sounding, disembodied voice, Miharu Chiba is oddly entertaining to watch snarking and slashing her way through the picture. Somehow, she manages to be just deranged enough to be fun. Eigi Kodaka is appropriately nasty, in a prim, ever-so-respectable way as Yoshihara, but Ariel Sekiya’s Fujimoto really is dull as dishwater.

None of this Ouija-fox-spirit-app business really makes much sense, but it all certainly provides a clear road map for where the action is headed. This is not a picture to recommend to anyone, but we’ve all seen scores of films that were way more boring. For some serious cinematic schlock,
Ouija Japan releases today (10/19) on BluRay.