18 April 2009 | Coventry
I can still recall
our last summer of fear
"Shrill Cries of Summer" is an oddly paced and mysteriously unfolding Japanese thriller/folklore story that is likely to become very successful within now and a couple of years time. The reason for this is that the film is already the umpteenth cash-in of a popular Asian video game with the same name. Following a slow sales rate at the beginning, the game successively got turned into a Magna version and a comic book edition. The basic plot is nowhere near original or shocking, but admittedly this movie does bath in an atmosphere of sheer creepiness and the extremely slow pacing honestly does make the viewer feel very uncomfortable. All this is quite contradictory to the usual and nowadays hugely popular trend of video game adaptations. Customarily these movies are hideously edited, chaotic, imbecilic, boisterous and virtually without concept ("Silent Hill", "House of the Dead", etc
), but "Shrill Cries of Summer" is slow-brooding, convoluted and mentally challenging.
The best way to carefully describe the plot is by saying it's reasonably reminiscent to one of the all-time greatest horror genre milestones "The Wicker Man"; even though I already risk revealing too much by making this comparison. It's an unsettling story combining deliciously old-fashioned folklore horror ingredients such as small town pagan rituals, suspicious hospitality, secluded thematic festivities, dark historical rumors and lusciously willing girls. It feels as if young adolescent Keichi arrived in paradise when he moves from Tokyo to the remote little countryside town of Hinamizawa. The only classroom in school is full of attractive and unceasingly smiling young girls that all volunteer to take Keichi on an extended guide tour and show him the beautifully picturesque region. Keichii also learns that the postcard town nearly got wiped off the maps because of the planned construction of a gigantic dam, but the project abruptly got canceled when the architect's mutilated cadaver was found on the construction site. Since this macabre event, that practically the whole community denies it ever happened, several more vicious and unsolved murders took place in Hinamizawa and the victims all seemed to somehow boycott the town's prosperity
or at least they did in the eyes of the devoted locals. "Shrill Cries of Summer" could have been even better, in my humble opinion, if some of the overlong and irrelevant sub plots were cut a little shorter, but it's nevertheless a deeply impressive and refreshingly different type of Asian horror movie. The suspense steadily builds up towards a masterful – and extremely gruesome – climax and the scenery is indescribably magnificent. The acting performances are particularly exceptional in this film and I think I've hardly ever encountered such likable teenage characters in a horror movie before. Airi Matsuyama (as Rena) and Rin Asuka (as Mion) are also undoubtedly the cutest, sexiest and most charismatic Japanese girls I've ever seen, which definitely helps making the movie easier on the eyes. The very stylish and elegant photography as well as the enchanting soundtrack finally also contribute in making "Shrill Cries of Summer" a warmly recommended chiller.