18 October 2008 | capkronos
As far as faux documentary horror goes, this one's at the head of the pack.
NOROI follows a documentary filmmaker, Masafumi Kobayashi, as he slowly uncovers something mysterious and evil that's leaving a trail of dead bodies in its wake. After interviewing a woman who claims to hear loud baby's cries coming from the house next door (where there is no baby), Kobayashi heads over to talk to the neighbor. He's greeted with hostility by the unhinged, disheveled woman (Maria Takagi) who answers the door (and promptly slams it in his face) and gets a peek at her 6-year-old son through a window. Strangely, both the woman and her son disappear just days after his visit (leaving behind a pile of dead pigeons on their back porch), and the woman who first complained about the noises, as well as her daughter, are both killed in a mysterious accident not long after that. This piques Kobayashi's interest and he sets out on a quest to find out what's going on. He soon uncovers that those with psychic abilities and extra-sensory perception seem to be tuning into something sinister, unexplainable and possibly even apocalyptic. Well-known 10-year-old clairvoyant, and TV celebrity, Kana (Rio Kanno) seems to think we may all be doomed, but she mysteriously disappears before she can be of much help. Another female psychic/actress (Marika Matsumoto) becomes involved, as does Mr. Nori, a mentally unstable kook/psychic who wears a hat and jacket made of aluminum foil and thinks people are being eaten by what he refers to "ectoplasmic worms." Clues eventually lead back to the site of a small village that's now covered by a lake, and the legend of an ancient demon known as Kagutaba...
Unlike many other hand-held horror flicks, this one depends just as much on the plot as it does reactionary first-person scares. Thankfully there's something of a storyline here, a very interesting and intricate one at that, so it doesn't rely on glimpses of horrific things through spastic camera-work every once in awhile to keep your interest. The way Masafumi travels around following leads in search of the truth - with well placed jolts along the way - reminded me somewhat of THE OMEN in its pacing. The film also doesn't entirely consist of footage shot by the documentarian, but weaves in news reports and television variety shows as if what we're watching is an already completed documentary. That helps to break up some of the monotony usually associated with films shot in this particular style. The performances are good enough not to harm any of the realism of the 'actual' footage either. Overall, it's a well-made horror film, with lots of plot shifts, some suspense and quite a few genuinely creepy moments, that's well worth checking out. My only real gripe is that it could have used a little trimming here and there and seems to go on a bit too long. Otherwise, pretty good stuff.