J-Horror Anthology: Legends (2005)

J-Horror Anthology: Legends (2005)
Six Japanese horror stories: Peony Lamp, She Bear, Yamaba, Nurarilyon, Heartbroken Trip and Lost Souls.
Updated: 02-26-2006

From a distributor called "Genius Entertainment" comes a line of releases branded as "Global Fright Cinema," and "Legends" is one of their very first offerings. Created by Kodakawa, the production house behind Ju-On, Dark Water, and Ringu, this new series looks to be a low-budget collection of Twilight Zone-ish anthologies consisting of some nasty little nuggets. (Other releases in the series include J-Horror Anthology: Underworld, Dark Tales of Japan, and three separate volumes of Kadakowa Mystery & Horror Tales.)

True to the "Legends," moniker, the sextet of mini-stories offered here spring from Japanese myths and superstitions, most of which I knew nothing about before today. Seems that Japan has a whole lot of creepy old myths and legends, which might help explain why they bang out so many horror movies these days. Each story is couched by some amazingly goofy introduction by a gentleman who seems to be shooting for "creepy," but ends up on the other side of "silly." The segments run between 11 and 17 minutes, and here's what's on board:

Peony Lamp -- A young man and his portly alcoholic pal must resist the charms of a beautiful ex-girlfriend from beyond the graaaaave.

She Bear -- Two clueless young ladies are terrorized by an otherworldly bag lady who has an affection for teddy bears and dismembered fingers.

Yamamba -- A pair of disrespectful young reporters venture deep into the forest to discover the truth about an allegedly unpleasant lady-spirit called Yamamba. Needless to say, they discover some truth.

Nurarihyon -- A young kid's family restaurant seems to be inhabited by a poltergeist that may or may not be a fairly friendly ghost, after all.

Heartbroken Trip -- A heartsick young woman heads off for a relaxing visit to a luxurious spa facility, but (wouldn't you know it) ghosts get involved.

Lost Souls -- After enjoying a long car ride, a young couple searches for a place to eat. But they noodle shop at which they stop seems to be frequented by a wet & rotting family from beyond the graaaaave.

All in all, not a terrible little collection of chillers. The acting is often ripe, and the production value indicates that this must be a resoundingly low budget affair, but odds are that one or two of the mini-movies will tickle your fancy. And while the material's not actually all that scary, it's always fun to sit back and hear some campfire tales that are older and a lot more exotic than our American ones are. For me, episodes 2 and 6 are, far and away, the most entertaining of the lot, but the remaining quartet is fairly enjoyable all the same. Plus, if one segment bores you, just wait a few minutes. With six stories wedged into a 90-minute frame, you can at least expect the thing to move along at a brisk pace.

But ghosts just don't do it for me. Next up will be Vol. 2: Underworld, which sounds a lot more like my speed. The DVDs are presented in a fine widescreen presentation, with Dolby 2.0 audio (Japanese), with optional English subtitles. No extras -- plus you have to watch each story separately. No "play all" option here, which seems kinda weird, but only a minor inconvenience, I suppose.

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