"If the phone rings, let it. If someone knocks on the door, let them think you're not home. If you have to pee, hold it in or wear a diaper. This movie is simply unpauseable."

- Numskull

Kakashi (2001)

Literally: Scarecrow

Director: Norio Tsuruta

Producer: Youichiro Onishi

Writer: Ryuta Mitaku, Osamu Murakami, Satoru Tamaki, Norio Tsuruta (based on the manga by Junji Ito)

Cast: Maho Nonami, Kou Shibasaki, Yoshiki Arizono, Mizuho Igarashi, Grace Ip, Shunsuke Matsuoka

Running Time: 86 min.

Plot: Kaoru Yoshikawa's search for her missing brother leads her to the tiny, remote village of Kozukata, where the power of the Kakashi (scarecrow) is held in great awe...and not, as she discovers, without justification.

Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com


NUMSKULL'S  REVIEW: I think most, if not all of us here are smart enough to realize that commercial crap like "Scream" and its multitude of knock-offs give horror movies (if they even qualify as such, and in my opinion they don't) a bad name, and that the real gems of the genre rely on well-told stories and sustained atmosphere rather than butcher knives and scantily-clad teenage girls. Well folks, break out the jewelry polish because what we have here is not just a gem, it's a fucking treasure trove.

Kaoru Yoshikawa is looking for her brother. Through his correspondence with a girl named Izumi, she follows his tracks to a remote village called Kozukata, where the people are taciturn, outsiders are treated in a manner that would chill an Eskimo, and every stone, tree, and blade of grass seems to vibrate with mystery, menace, or both. If you're a fan of H.P. Lovecraft you will no doubt be reminded of stories like "The Dunwich Horror", "The Festival", and my personal favorite, "The Shadow Over Innsmouth." Kozukata has an obsession with scarecrows, the reason for which provides the potatoes of the story (Kaoru's search for her bro being the meat).

The story is beautiful in its simplicity. I'm not saying there's nothing going on beneath the surface, but the film is very easy to follow and the script's use of a number of well-worn horror movie plot devices does nothing to lessen its quality. Kakashi is a quiet film, in which dialogue is sparse, the music is unintrusive, and every sound effect has significance. The events unfold in a series of perfectly framed shots (including quite a few of Maho Nonami's oh-so photogenic face) so clearly and beautifully that with a few minor adjustments, this could have been a silent film, and a damned good one at that.

I won't give individual character descriptions...that would almost be cheating...but I will mention two supporting actresses of note: Kou Shibasaki, whom you may recognize as the cunning, cold-blooded Mitsuko from "Battle Royale", and Grace Ip, who appeared in "Gen X Cops", "A Man Called Hero", and loaned her voice to the Disney film "A Bug's Life" (yeah, that surprised me, too). Norio Tsuruta (director of "Ring 0") has a great sense of how much or how little to show the audience, and his use of sound and music is excellent. (It is worth noting that Brian Tyler's score for "Frailty" is strongly reminiscent of Kakashi's music.)

Needless to say, this is highly recommended viewing. You will sit in hushed anticipation through even the mundane scenes (of which there are very few) and your eyes will constantly dart to the edges and corners of the screen in search of some hideous surprise. If the phone rings, let it. If someone knocks on the door, let them think you're not home. If you have to pee, hold it in or wear a diaper. This movie is simply unpauseable. It reminds me, to some extent, of a horror movie (not just one, but in a general sense) made in the '70s, before Jason and Freddy came along and turned the genre into the easy prey for parody it is now. If your imagination and ability to suspend your disbelief have not been ruined by such fare, I am quite confident that you will enjoy Kakashi immensely.