Shadow of the Wraith (2001)

Shadow of the Wraith (2001)
Director: Toshiharu Ikeda - Writers: Nanaeko Sasaya (manga), Masaya Ozaki, & Setsu Yamaguchi - Starring: Hyoei Enoki, Asumi Miwa, Hitomi Miwa, & Yuichi Matsuo.
Updated: 02-26-2006

You know how sometimes an entire movie will be centered around making a pop-music star into an actor? They're usually painfully wretched pieces of filmmaking, but if you don't believe me, feel free to rent the movies starring Rick Springfield (Hard to Hold), The Spice Girls (Spice World), Vanilla Ice (Cool as Ice), Mariah Carey (Glitter), Britney Spears (Crossroads), or, god help you, From Justin to Kelly. (A scarier motion picture than anything John Carpenter or Wes Craven ever came up with!) My point is an obvious one: Films tailor-made for pop-stars are, with very few exceptions, steaming piles of dung.

And the trend certainly isn't limited to the English-speaking countries. A few years back someone in Japan decided to give Koji & Yuichi Matsuo (aka pop-band "Doggy Bag") their shot at acting stardom, and the result was Shadow of the Wraith (aka Ikisudama), a movie of two distinct halves, and an appreciable amount of holes.

Sort of a two-part anthology movie in which both sections briefly touch upon the other, Shadow starts out with a dry yet entirely watchable story: A high school girl harbors an unrequited crush for a big man on campus, and woe is the cheerleader who stands between she and her intended lover. Bodies drop here and there, but nobody suspects that the quiet girl in the third row is actually a hypertelekinetic magic-psycho chick, and just when things start to get good, we switch to story B.

B focuses on your amazingly standard "Asian haunted house" schpiel, only with none of the style and slickness found in flicks like Ju-On and Ringu. The connective tissue between the two stories is that the two heroic dreamboat boys ... are the "Doggy Bag" boys playing "Look ma, we're in our own movie!"

So while the first half of the flick builds up some solid tension and a few creepy kills, Shadow's second section is as dry as dishwater and terminally inert. Those who search this one out hoping for something like director Toshiharu Ikeda's Evil Dead Trap will also walk away fairly disappointed, as Shadow is annoyingly free of the shocking gore and distressingly grim atmosphere found in the earlier film.

Hardcore fans of all things J-Horror could give this one a rental one weekend, and many of 'em will like it more than I did. Shadow of the Wraith isn't among the worst examples of the genre that I've seen ... but it comes fairly close.

The Region 1 DVD comes from Ventura Entertainment and is presented in a very slick anamorphic widescreen format. Audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 (Japanese) with English subtitles. The only extra included is a collection of six trailers.

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