Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Where's a Witch When You Need One? - Eko Eko Azarak (1995)

I didn’t know what to expect going into Eko Eko Azarak. What little I knew about it sounded interesting, but early to mid-‘90’s Japanese horror runs quite the gamut in terms of quality; a lot of it low budget, and while this film is no exception, it was decent enough for what it was. The director, Shimako Sato, hasn’t done much else besides Eko Eko Akarak and its sequel, Birth of the Wizard. He did direct Onimusha Tactics and a movie sequence in Resident Evil: Code Veronica, so that’s pretty interesting. Eko Eko Azarak isn’t what I would consider great horror, but it does have some cool sequences of death and dismemberment. I didn’t fall asleep during the movie, so that’s something to check off the list.

Eko Eko Azarak is the first film in a trilogy about Misa Kuroi, a high school girl who’s also a witch. She practices black magic, but how she came about receiving her training, I have no idea. There’s literally no set up of her character. The movie starts out with her having just transferred to a new school, and for one reason or another, evil druids are following her around. Apparently, they want to resurrect Lucifer and use his powers to take over the world. Original, it’s not. Entertaining? So-so. Being the first movie in the trilogy, I would have expected it to tell me something about just what the hell is going on, but I guess that would be too easy. The only thing this movie tells of the back story is that Misa has been fighting evil for a while now – she’s had run-ins with druids and the like at previous high schools – and she seems used to the idea of people being killed by way of magical, bloody shenanigans. Alright, but why is any of this happening? I wish I knew. There’s something about murders being committed around the city, and each murder spot corresponds to a point in a pentagram if you were to connect the dots. And it just so happens that the school Misa transfers to at the beginning of the movie is right smack in the middle of the evil drawing of death. I’m going to chalk that one up to being extremely convenient, since the movie doesn’t give me any real reason for it to be there. It simply is, and Misa transfers there to, in her own words, “protect everyone from evil.” Why would the evil druids need to sacrifice 13 school children? Especially since the first scene involves a seemingly random chick running for her life from the voodoo doll-wielding, hooded bastards. Maybe they just hate women and get their rocks off by beheading them with flying metal beams. To each his own, I guess. The whole plot is hastily put together, and reeks of the filmmakers just needing any old idea that would involve a bunch of kids getting trapped in their school.

Once Misa and her new misfortunate friends get trapped together, the movie actually starts. While it’s true they’re hunted a few at a time by an unseen, magical force, it’s not very suspenseful. I knew who the culprit was pretty much from the beginning, and the “surprise” twist at the end didn’t do much to make me think better of the obviousness of it all. I will say there are a couple good deaths, but a couple out of about a dozen doesn’t really add up to much. One thing that could have been done better was the way everyone was trapped inside the school. I liked the idea – no doors or windows will open, and in the off chance one does, it only leads back into the classroom where it all started. Sadly, this cool scenario wasn’t used nearly as much and to as great effect as it should have been. Oh well, at least there’s still Misa, who’s a practiced witch, right? Well, yes and no. The movie sets her up as someone who’s seen all of this before, but in reality she’s about as useless as everyone else. The only difference between them is that Misa has a little more information on what’s happening. Her powers are being blocked by the evil, so all she can really do is run around, staring indifferently as her mates are being helplessly killed off. You’re doing a bang-up job, seasoned veteran of the occult. Eventually, as these things usually go, it’s down to just her and the evil force behind all the madness and mayhem. They engage in a pretty weak axe fight, and I even predicted the method of the final death blow way before it actually happened. I hate shit like that. Ah, but wait – the evildoer who just got axed wasn’t behind it after all! So another confrontation is set up, and what takes place is, as far as I could discern, wholly nonsensical. I honestly don’t know how Misa survived. Her nemesis made a voodoo doll in her image, and it gets blown away like sand, along with Misa herself. But then some confusing shit happens, and I was left to sit there and say “what the fuck?” to myself while the credits rolled. I won’t say exactly what happens, just in case you decide to give this film a go. I wouldn’t recommend against it, since the film’s sequel looks like it has a lot more promise, and it might even explain some of the back story. Overall, Eko Eko Azarak isn’t a bad movie; it just isn’t very engaging, and the shortcomings of the story sometimes render its events suspenseless and, frankly, rather boring. I’ll hold off recommending the series until I finish up the trilogy, and when I do so, I’ll write up my impressions of it as a whole. Sorry for the lackluster ending to my review, but sometimes life imitates art.

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