“きさらぎ駅” – Kisaragi Eki
Japan 2022, Dir. Jiro Nagae
Yuri Tsunematsu – Haruna Tsutsumi
Miyu Honda – Asuka Miyazaki
Eriko Sato – Sumiko Hayama
For the uninitiated, “Kisaragi station” is allegedly a mysterious train station somewhere in the Japanese countryside. It was first heard of in an internet post on the “2chan” forum in 2004. In the post, narrator Harumi describes in real time how she arrives at a strange empty train station, and unsuccessfully tries to find her way back home. Allegedly she was never seen again, and her story became a famous urban legend on the internet.
In the movie, we follow folklore student Haruna during her research of the urban legend. An eyewitness, Sumiko Hayama, recounts her memories of the events at Kisaragi: After getting off the train, her and a group of strangers (a high school student from her school, Asuka; a salaryman; and a bunch of delinquents) find themselves in an empty town, seemingly in another world. While trying to find a way out, there are chased and picked off one after another by an invisible entity. Haruna is determined to follow in Hayama’s footsteps and find the place for herself. Somehow Ms. Hayama made it back alive, but will she too?
Let me get this out of the way: Director Jiro Nagae’s follow-up to 2020’s Samejima Incident is an overall inferior work. While both the simplicity of the story and the concept of showing the action via webcam worked in favor of the latter, the limited budget shows painfully here.
But first things first. Urban legends always make for good horror material, and my curiosity was definitely piqued in the beginning. I completely understand Haruna’s motivation to explore an abandoned village in another world, even if it could cost her her life. Anyway, when Haruna finally arrives at Kisaragi station, the events recounted by Hayama repeat in exactly the way. She even finds the rest of the group just like described by Hayama. That knowledge enables Haruna to predict what’s going to happen. It also means that we sort of have to watch the same events one more time, though from a different viewpoint. After watching to the end, I can’t say that the story, how the whole “spiriting away” thing works, or even the characters’ actions, made complete sense to me. There didn’t seem to be clearly established rules for anything. And why do people explode all of a sudden?
While the story and the characters are enjoyable enough, the whole things just gives off a b-movie vibe, especially during the first person sequences. Let me explain. Just like Samejima Incident was shown entirely through computer screens, the gimmick here is that the action is shown from the character’s (Ms. Hayana’s) perspective for half of the movie. Kind of like a 3D horror game. While I don’t think that’s a bad idea per se, the concept isn’t utilized well and feels like it was only chosen to save production costs. It also doesn’t make us connect with the characters any better, since we can’t see the protagonist for half the time. Actually the idea had lots of potential, think about how scary it is to explore a dark building in 3D, Resident Evil-style. Nothing like that happens here though, and the result falls completely flat in terms of horror. Visually, Kisaragi Station completely lacks atmosphere, it has that typical digital video look and the lighting is way too bright and flat. It doesn’t help that the special effects range from bad to mind-blowingly terrible. And by terrible I mean absolutely Z-grade. If I didn’t have the budget to pull of proper CG I’d just leave it be, instead of doing something like this:
To be fair, I’ve seen my share of low budget horror from Japan, and Kisaragi Station still stands miles above most of that glut. While the story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, it still makes for an enjoyable watch, mostly thanks to the lead actors’ efforts to keep everything believable. I just feel like some potential was wasted here, and my expectations were high after the solid Samejima Incident. All in all I’d say this is slightly above average supernatural J-horror you might enjoy if you’re into urban legends. I wonder what urban legend Jiro Nagae is gonna tackle next.
Based on a famous urban legend; OK characters; Unique concept.
Abysmal CG; Not scary at all.