Mail - Sometimes the Dead Can't Die.
John Truscott | Nottingham, England | 04/05/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Mail - Sometimes the Dead Can't Die."
I enjoyed this DVD as it gave a new & pleasing twist to the traditional "buddy private eyes" type genre. Takamasu Suga is impressive as dedicated, earnest "Psychic Detective" Reiji Akiba in his long black "Matrix" style clothing & his Holy Pistol as he seeks out lost souls troubling people & planet & despatches them safely to the other side. Chiaki Kuriyama (Go Go in Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill", Chigusa in Kenji Fukasaku's "Battle Royale") is excellent as Mikoto, his attractive, spunky, young female sidekick-with-a-sad-secret, who contributes more to resolving cases than she gets credit for. Plot lines are good with six (not nine as it states on the sleeve) TV style stand alone episodes but with a continuing story-arc. Occasionally some elements might seem reminiscent of other J-horror offerings such as "Juon" or "Ringu", but others, such as the haunted public toilet, are entirely novel! However I felt a bit cheated towards the end because as soon as the "buddy" relationship has been attractively set up over the initial two episodes, & builds up intriguingly through two more, than it winds down over the final two, leaving me feeling that they had a format here that offered a lot of possibilities so why end it all so soon. There was the potential for this to be almost a Japanese "X-Files" type series, with the emphasis on spook rather than pseudo-science, especially as Reiji had been given the assignment of "ascending" 100 souls to heaven by his shadowy mentor before his mysteriously suppressed childhood memories can return. This all adds another intriguing layer to the primary story arc of the relationship between Reiji & Mikoto & also underlines the question of the brevity of the series. However I would certainly recommend this DVD to anyone with a liking for this type of sympathetic & entertaining "soft" J-horror genre.
The Japanese CONSTANTINE
Alexander O. Teitz | Denver, Colorado United States | 02/11/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Mail is the Japanese CONSTANTINE. It is done as 5 seperate stories and is low budget. Reji exocises spirits using a golden pistol. Think more James Bond than religious. The special effects are more fitting for a TV series, and watching it, I think it could have been done better as anime. Mikoto, the assistant, is recognizable from Kill Bill 1. The acting is weak, but the story idea is sound. Buy it used or you'll be disappointed."
G. P. Martin | 04/16/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Mail has the look and feel of a television mini-series with five half-hour (actually closer to 20-minute) segments. Most of the movie is in medium shots or close ups, so it feels a little claustrophobic as well. The pacing is slow and the special effects range from rudimentary to just OK. The real problem is that the movie just isn't scary.
The title refers to how the protagonist psychic detective gets requests to exorcise ghosts-- by letter or e-mail. Apparently use of the telephone in Japan has become passé. His method of sending ghosts back to "Hades" is "The Holy Pistol of Kagutsuchi," which betrays the movie's comic book origin.
Actually, I learned a couple of things in watching this movie. First, ghosts aren't scary without a build-up and time spent to develop atmosphere. Because of each segment's short running time, the ghost is just dropped into the frame to go "Boo." Second, a high-tech gimmick of eradication--here the laughable "holy pistol" -- eliminates a sense of danger or suspense. If a ghost can be exorcised by just shooting it like some western bad man, any prospect of supernatural dread is lost.
The best segment is the first, in which the "shock" moment is the girl in the painting slowly opening its eyes. Creepy; but unfortunately, the action is telegraphed when the camera lingers too long on face before the eyes begin to open. The viewer has time to guess exactly what is going to happen. Nothing remotely frightening happens after that, and the story with the school children veers into deep and embarrassing sentimentality-- the ghosts even sing Auld Lang Syne. In fairness, the movie does contain what may be the screen's first haunted women's bathroom.
The DVD lacks an English language track option: the movie can only be watched in Japanese, albeit with easy-to-read English subtitles. Image quality is very good, maybe just a little too dark in some scenes. The movie is mildly letterboxed--much appreciated but here more an affectation than a necessity. Finally, the movie's running time (on DVD) is closer to 110 minutes--not the 150 minutes claimed.
For me, a major disappointment and a lesson that original language and letterboxing do not guarantee quality "Asian Horror."