howling village | takashi shimizu | daisuke hosaka | ayaka miyoshi | ryota bando | tsuyoshi furukawa | mystery | thriller | ghost | ghosts | haunted | curse | werewolf | werewolves | japan | renji ishibashi | takamasa suga | hina miyano | megumi okina | reiko takashima
Film: Howling Village (Inunaki mura)
Director: Takashi Shimizu
Writers: Daisuke Hosaka and Takashi Shimizu
Starring: Ayaka Miyoshi, Ryôta Bandô and Tsuyoshi Furukawa
This is movie that I discovered thanks to my friend on social media of Tim. He posted his Letterboxd of 2021 watches and this was high up there. I decided to give it a go when I saw that it was co-written and directed by Takashi Shimizu. I’ve seen a good handful of his movies and liked most of them. That is about the extent of what I knew, so the synopsis here is after her brother goes missing, a young psychologist visits an infamous haunted and cursed location known as ‘Howling Village’ to investigate his disappearance and uncover her family’s dark history.
We start this movie off with a couple waiting at a phonebooth at 2 AM. This portion is found footage. The urban legend that brought them here states that this cursed red phone will ring at this time and tell you how to get to the Howling Tunnel, which leads to a missing village. It is delayed, but the phone rings and our young lady of Akina Nishida (Rinka Ôtani) answers it. With her is Yuma Morita (Ryôta Bandô). They follow the directions and record their trek to this cursed village. Their night ends when they’re attacked by unknown people. They do make it out alive.
From here we meet Kanata (Ayaka Miyoshi). She is the psychologist from the synopsis and she works in a hospital. Currently it is with Ryotaro (Akira Sasamoto). He is having bad dreams. It turns out that he is like his doctor. They both have a special ability that allows them to see things. There are secrets within the family that could explain it. The father doesn’t want his wife to know though.
We then learn that Kanata is the sister to Yuma. They also have a younger brother of Kota. He is fascinated with the lore behind the Howling Village. It is revealed that Yuma went there. Just hearing the name upsets their father of Akira (Masanobu Takashima). He is also a hard man who comes down on his son along with their mother of Ayano (Reiko Takashima). What brought Kanata home was Yuma called to have her check on Akina. She has been acting strange since their trip to the village. This culminates in the young woman killing herself.
Dark family secrets come to the forefront here. Akira knows more than he is letting on but won’t tell. There is a doctor he is friends with and who works with Kanata that seems to know as well. Him not revealing the truth results in his two sons disappearing when they go looking again for the Howling Village. This forces Kanata to find the truth. As I said, there are dark family secrets that need to come to light and the sins of the father are being visited upon the children to break this curse.
That is where I’m going to leave my recap for this movie as that expands on the synopsis without going into spoilers. Where I want to start is that I love the concept we are getting here. We are dealing with an urban legend about this village. Not a lot of people know about it, but there are steps that need to be taken to get there. This feels like something that my friends and I would talk about and even potentially look for. The adults know more than what they’re letting on, but they want the kids to let sleeping dogs lie. As deaths start to happen though, the adults can either burying their heads or come to terms what happened previously.
It is interesting that Shimizu did this movie since he’s the one behind Ju-on. This movie has a curse that was placed on the Howling Village. By going there, it follows you back. I was originally having problems with this as it didn’t seem to be affecting Yuma. This does get explained as the movie goes on so I can be forgiving there. The village itself is an interesting one as well. I recently watched The Deep House and this movie would make a solid double feature there. Both are dealing with a dam being put in and flooding an area. There are now villages underneath the water and in both cases, ghosts as well.
This idea of the dam going in and flooding the area is where I want to go to next. I don’t want to spoil here, but we are getting an intriguing commentary on capitalism. Howling Village was a small community. They hunted wild dogs as their way of surviving. Some industrialists come in and change everything. What I like with this is that what happens starts the curse. I picked up early on some reveals once the character of Kenji Narimiya (Tsuyoshi Furukawa) is introduced. It explores some interesting ideas but doesn’t work as well for me as it could.
There is another reveal in this movie that I don’t think we need. A rumor is started regarding the women of this village. This rumor gets a reveal with something in the movie as we go on and it didn’t feel like it fit. For me, it feels like they forced this part in for a reveal at the end of the movie. It did explain some things for me, but not sure that we necessarily need it.
That should be enough for the story, so I’ll move over to the acting. I thought that Miyoshi was good as our lead. I like that she works in a hospital as a doctor, but she is faced with supernatural elements. We get to learn from her brother and grandfather that she has special abilities since she was a child, much like her grandmother had. I like when we can take someone with a background in science and have them deal with the supernatural. Bandô and Ôtani are good as the catalysts to get the events started. Aside from that, I’d say that the rest of the cast rounded this out to push our characters to where they need to in the end.
All that is left would be the effects, cinematography and the soundtrack. For the former, we get some creepy practical effects at times. There is something about these Japanese ghost stories that just get under my skin. We get some creepy stuff there. They lean into the folklore from Japan as well which works. I like the idea of this haunted village. We do get CGI with the ghosts as well that doesn’t always look great. It doesn’t ruin the movie, but I didn’t love it either. I would say that the cinematography is well done. It does that unnerving thing where a ghost will be behind characters, just out of sight. We can see them and it is something that spooks me. Other than, I thought the soundtrack and design of the movie fit for what was needed. That helps build the atmosphere.
So then in conclusion, this is a movie that I’m glad I checked out. We have some interesting aspects with these people going to a cursed village and needing to figure it out before it is too late. There is even some good commentary with capitalism that led to the village being in the state that it is. The acting is good as well. Kanata is our star as she tries to get to bottom of what happened and how her family is a part of it. The rest of the cast pushes her to where she needs to go. The practical effects are good while I have issues with the CGI. The cinematography, soundtrack and design of the movie are good with building the atmosphere. I did have my issues with some parts of the story though that I don’t know if we need. Regardless, I found this to be an above average movie and one that I’m glad I checked out. I would recommend this if you’re into these Japanese ghost stories for sure.
My Rating: 7 out of 10