Ever heard of Howling Village? Or rather, Inunaki Tunnel or Inunaki Village?
I consider myself a dark tourist. I have a bucket list of creepy/forbidden places that I would LOVE to go to…but my wife wouldn’t let me. Sadly, I’m too chicken to go alone. I’m curious, not crazy.
The Inunaki Tunnel is definitely there on my list.
It doesn’t take much guessing then why I went to watch Howling Village, does it?
So…is Howling Village a good horror film?
Find out ahead.
What is Howling Village?
The tunnel itself is real, as is the murder that happened there. It’s also the site of various paranormal activity, with records of disembodied voices, feelings of dread and sightings of apparitions.
The urban legend parts comes later.
Supposedly, at the end of the tunnel, there exists a hidden village (Inunaki Village), where the constitution of Japan doesn’t hold sway. That basically means anything goes in that location, a no man’s land. There are a ton of different urban legends regarding this, some paranormal in nature, some just plain creepy.
Nobody really knows why the tunnel leading to the abandoned village was sealed up, and there are also conflicting reports on why the village was abandoned in the first place.
Ok, so now that bit of exposition is out of the way, let’s get on to the movie itself.
What about the Howling Village?
It’s directed by Takashi Shimizu, who also did the Ju-on movies. Say what you may of the latter movies, but the original is still one of the creepiest movies I’ve ever seen.
The movie’s official running time is 108 mins, which isn’t that bad (but isn’t that long either). Howling Village’s just started its run today, 5th March.
It has Ayaka Miyoshi in the starring role as Kanae Morita, who plays a psychologist with the ability to see spirits.
The movie deals with her brothers’ (Yuma and Kota) fascination with the Inunaki Tunnel (and the village beyond) and also with the mysterious deaths that are starting to occur again. Kanae’s family seems to be connected to both…but how and why?
I’d hoped that Shimizu’s gotten his mojo back for Howling Village. It’s one of the reasons I went to see the movie. It’s also one of the major disappointments for me, as while the movie is at times creepy as hell, most of it is rather boring and slow.
I don’t mind horror movies with a slow burn (Alien is my favourite movie of all time) but there’s too little payoff with Howling Village. The beginning is horrifying enticing; two youths brave the Inunaki Tunnel to journey to Inunaki village.
Here, Shimizu’s teasing works to great effect. Split second blink-and-you-will-miss-it appearances of the spirits tease about what’s in store for the couple as they make their way deeper into the village.
Some of the buildup that the movie does for the scares are amazing, though most are pretty generic J-horror tropes. They’re not bad, but I wish the movie had more to offer than rehashed scares.
However, the tension and brilliant teasing simply fizzles out after awhile, leaving a barely noteworthy story in its place. Yes, there are awesome moments in the movie (the spirit murder in the phone booth for one) but the flick is padded by scenes that do nothing to further the plot along.
How about more about the Howling Village instead?
Do we really need the subplot about the kid and his deceased mama? Sure, there’s a tie that connects him to Inunaki Village but it’s unnecessary. I’d have loved more time spent on building up the tunnel and village instead of all the minutes wasted on that boring subplot.
If that’s all that was wrong with the movie, I’d have not much problem with it. Unfortunately, the whole final act is so illogical that it completely takes you out of the movie.
How jarring? It somehow involves a friendly ghost and time travel.
Note that before the final act there was never any mention of either. They’re both shoved into your face at the final third of the movie and you’re left to deal with it.
It completely destroys all the hype and creepiness the movie has built up to that point. The decision to brave Inunaki Village by protagonist Kanae isn’t well thought out nor is it interest. She goes simply because it’s in the script, not because of the plot.
Even worse is the trek through the village. You’d expect scares galore and non-stop chills seeing as how the whole movie has built up how creepy and scary the spirits from the village are. This is where the movie should pull out all the stops right?
Nope. No scares, no chills, nothing even remotely scary.
In fact, the whole climax in the end (not going to say what because of spoilers), is so laughably mishandled that it completely ruins the movie for me. The visual effects are pretty bad too, especially for Maya (you’ll know who I’m talking about when you watch it).
Her transformation isn’t scary at all, and comes off as awkward instead of horrifying. The visual effects for the spirits aren’t so hot either but they’re passable and scary enough when it matters.
Since it’s a Japanese movie, I got through it by reading the subtitles.
They’re adequate to make you understand the plot. They not so wooden as if you’re reading from a book, but there are times when the translation’s a bit stilted. I don’t know whether it’s the line they translating that’s weird but some lines do come across as weird and unnatural.
The bottom line.
Howling Village had me going for two thirds of the movie, I’m not going to lie. There were unnecessarily slow parts, but all in all, it had me interested.
Unfortunately, it sharply veered away from being creepy and scary to stupid and nonsensical for the last third of the movie, which destroys all the build up achieved, leading to an incredibly lame and unsatisfying ending.
Good movie for the first hour or so with decent scares and creepy happenings. It’s ruined by a lacking final act that eschews logic established by the rest of the movie, for its nonsensical ending.
- Very creepy in some parts.
- Doesn’t depend on jump scares.
- Interesting source material.
- The whole third act sucks.
- Needs more exposition and buildup.
- Some parts tend to drag on.