Blu-ray Review: SHOCK LABYRINTH
Shock Labyrinth is a terrible movie. It's not terrible in the "oh, wow, I gotta see this," kinda way; it's terrible in the worst way, it's fucking boring. At no point during the film did I give a shit about any of the characters. I didn't know or care who was really dead, all I knew was that I wished I was by the time it's excruciating 87 minute runtime was done. Brutally uninteresting, extremely cheap looking, and confusing in a way that only awful j-horror can be. Shock Labyrinth is a complete disaster.
It's not as though I don't like Takashi Shimizu. I have enjoyed several of his films, even though I've never been interested enough to seek out the more obscure stuff. I liked a couple of the Grudge movies, even the first US remake, and I liked Marebito, but this is just unbearable. I bear no grudge against the man, he seems quite charming, and in spite of this terrible misstep, I believe he has genuine talent. It just makes is all the more confusing how he managed to churn out this dreck.
Long ago I was encouraged by my editors to eschew posting straight plot synopses, however, the one I found on IMDB (where the film enjoys a rather generous 3.9 rating, for what it's worth) pretty much sums the film up in the most concise way possible:
A group of teenagers take a sick to a hospital only to find out it is a horrific labyrinth.Yup, that's about it. No, I don't care to elaborate.
The film is amateurish in every regard. The acting is awful and hammy, the production design is incredibly cheap looking, and the plotting is asinine. The one thing that really sunk the film for me was the incredibly poor look of the film. It looks like a cheap Mexican soap opera, not like a movie at all. The color grading is atrociously ugly, it appears to have been shot on video long before HD cameras became adequate for high quality presentation, and the 3D effects (I presume since I don't have access to a 3D TV) are extremely silly and at times very annoying.
Shimizu talks in the bonus material about how he wanted to create a film that used 3D to give the film depth rather than simply shoving things in the viewer's face. Though his idea may echo that of 3D acolyte James Cameron, Avatar, this ain't. His idea of giving the image depth is to constantly have a foreground layer of floating debris such as flying feathers, rain, or dust balls. All completely unnecessary, and all extremely irritating. Where the fuck did all of those feathers come from??
I've stretched this review out further than I had intended. The film deserves no more than what I've written. Honestly, if I never see Shock Labyrinth again, it'll be too soon. It makes me wary of Rabbit Horror 3D, since I'm not sure even Christopher Doyle can save this mess of an idea. Avoid.
Well Go USA, in spite of the film's awfulness, have managed to put together a decent presentation for the most part. I mentioned the film's poor production quality, and I don't think I can fault WGUSA for giving it their all. The film is presented in 2D and 3D on the Blu-ray disc and 2D only on the DVD. I don't have a 3D capable system, so all of my comments pertain to the 2D presentation. The film looks about as good as I expect it was supposed to, but I hate the look. The image goes back and forth from extremely contrasty in the nightmare Labyrinth to a dreamy, soft focus, high key look in the frequent flashback sequences. With all of the jumping around, it's hard to get a handle on what the film was supposed to look like, in the end I didn't really care anymore. The sound is pretty decent, again, my disinterest in the product did make me tune out a little, but I didn't notice any problems.
*Of note: I played Shock Labyrinth on my main Blu-ray player and the last fifteen minutes were plagued by constant stuttering of the image and sound. I have a couple of back up players, however, and on the back-ups I encountered no such problems. The main player is running current firmware, so I'm not sure what the issue was, but I felt it appropriate to share anyway.
Shock Labyrinth includes a few interesting extra features, which were more engaging than the film by a long shot if only to admire the level of denial of everyone involved. Takashi Shimizu seemed to believe that he was a pioneer, breaking new ground and acting as a beacon to Japanese filmmakers with the film. I think he ended up more as a cautionary tale. The actors are equally deluded as to the quality of the film they were making. Films are really crafted in the editing room, so it's hard to fault the guys for their excitement, but in retrospect it sounds really silly.
I'm afraid I can't recommend this film at all. Ugh.
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