Sagori possesses spiritual powers which enable her to converse with the dead. After she dies at the age of sixteen, her mother attempts to bring her back from the dead. Sagori?s friends decide to investigate the history o... more »f Shikoku Island which is also known as The Kingdom of the Dead. Will Sagori?s friends be able to stop the awakening of Sagori from the dead?« less
"The island of Shikoku is one of Japan's most rural provinces, with few large cities and scores of small villages scattered amongst the high mountains. The name translates as "Four Countries," but an alternate spelling can be read "The Land of the Dead." This film makes use of both aspects of Shikoku, both the semi-archaic, rural lifestyle of a Shikoku mountain village and the ghosts that haunt there.
The story of "Shikoku" is of three childhood friends, two girls Sayori and Hinako and a boy Fumiya. Sayori (the lovely Kuriyama Chiaki, familiar as Takako Chigusa in "Battle Royal" and Gogo Yubari in "Kill Bill Vol. 1" ) has a hidden secret; Her mother, a Shinto shamaness, uses Sayori as a medium for contacting the dead. From this isolated village Hinako and her parents move to far-off Tokyo on the island of Honshu, breaking the trio of friends. Flash-forward to the present, and a grown and sophisticated Hinako returns to her hometown, seeking her old companions. She is shocked to meet a grown Fumiya, and to learn that Sayori died at age 16, drowned. Sayori's father is hospitalized, and her shamaness mother is gone on a pilgrimage, the great 88 Temple Pilgrimage of Kobo Daishi, found across the island of Shikoku. Inevitably, as it is a ghost story, Fumiya and Hinako find themselves thrown together when they encounter a spectral and haunting Sayori. Along with the risen Sayori, other departed are wandering the village, as if someone has thrown open the gates to the Land of the Dead.
While "Shikoku" is a ghost story, it isn't really proper to call it a horror movie. Although there are some creepy moments and it might cause a sleepless night or two, the goal of the film is not really to frighten, but rather to tell a somewhat sad and somewhat romantic story of death and life and love. Comparisons to Japanese horror films such as "Ringu" and "Ju-on" do "Shikoku" a disservice, as they are not the same intent. It is, however, a wholly enjoyable film with ghostly atmosphere, fine imagery and an interesting story.
Japanese religion plays an important role in "Shikoku," and some familiarity with Japanese religious traditions and death legends would probably broaden appreciation. For instance, in Japan people are usually buried in white kimonos, a symbol of purity, and Japanese ghosts almost always appear in this costume. It is, in fact, a uniform for Japanese ghosts, and as much a part of the tradition as blood is to vampires. Water is the realm of the dead, and rivers are meant to be passages to the underworld. Collecting paper "amulets" from sacred sites, such as the 88 Temple Pilgrimage of Kobo Daishi, is also a Japanese religious rite. The film is enjoyable without this information, but it adds to "Shikoku" in the way that knowledge of Catholic practices woutd add to "The Exorcist."
The DVD for "Shikoku" includes a few special features, including interviews with Nagasaki Shunichi, the director, and the two main female cast members Kuriyama Chiaki and Natsukawa Yui, as well as a short "Making of " featurette."
Shikoku a good scary movie
joe larkin | 05/29/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A story of friendship and about how Hinako finds herself sexually attracted to Fumiya. They're both startled when Sayori's spirit a gateway to a path of darkness a myserious ride of hell this film is dark and forboding and a rollercoaster ride ,it will scareyou that what its about work the story Sayori (Chiaki Kuriyama), the daughter of the village's spiritual leader, died in a mysterious drowning accident with leads to downward spiral to get to the meat of the story a scarefest and enjoyable movie highly recommend it."
I agree more with Zack's review
Callaway | florida | 03/29/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This film, while definitely not action packed, is still definitely worth watching if you research the film a little first to understand some of the symbolism. I agree that at times this movie is drawn out and slow, but the twist with Fumiya at the end made the movie worthwhile for me. I think Sayori's hate inspiring jealousy could of been more developed in the story line, but i thought the ending wrapped everything up nicely. This is not a movie I personally would recommend to someone who wasn't a die-hard Japanese cinema fan, although I did enjoy it."
Pretty good movie
Brian J. Kohler | Japan | 01/20/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I though shikoku was pretty decent, it's not that scary, but there are some creepy scenes and it does invoke fright. If your a big Japanese horror film fan then this movie is worth buying, but if not I wouldn't recommend it to you."
A sad and beautiful Japanese ghost story
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 07/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I thought this movie was wonderful. The Japanese make the best horror films in the world, but many of those films, especially ghost stories such as Shikoku, operate on a different spiritual plane than Western horror. The fact that Shikoku is hyped as a product of the studio that produced the Ringu series will have many viewers expecting chills and frights that just aren't to be found here. When it comes to J-Horror, you can't expect the movie to conform to your expectations; instead, you have to embrace what you are given. Shikoku is about love and loss and sadness, not horror per se. It has its creepy moments, but I would describe Shikoku as a spiritual horror movie, operating at a wavelength that those of us in the West have to learn to appreciate. If you can do that, you'll fall in love with movies such as this one.
I found the first few scenes somewhat confusing, as we see three children enjoying themselves and then watch one of them, Sayori (Chiaki Kuriyama) take part in a strange, voodoo-like ceremony. Then one of the friends, Hinako, moves to Tokyo with her family. As we later find out, this greatly upset Sayori, for she was the one who had long dreamed of the day she could leave the rural and isolated village on Shikoku. Time passes, and then an adult Hinako (Yui Natsukawa) returns to the village, only to find out that Sayori had drowned sixteen years ago. Fumiya (Michitaka Tsutsui), their mutual friend, is still there, however, and he and Hinako begin spending time together. There's a level of discomfort to it all, though, as Fumiya always seems to act as if he fears someone is watching them. At the same time, strange and troubling things begin happening in the village, including the desecration of some holy statues outside of town. Some of the villagers seem to fear that Hinako's presence has somehow provided the means for the dead to return.
Truths emerge slowly as the story develops. Sayori's absent mother, who is a priestess of some sort, has been taking annual pilgrimages to all 88 temples on the island of Shikoku. It turns out, however, that she has been visiting each temple in reverse order, as her secret intention is to tear down the veil between the physical and spiritual worlds in order to reclaim her daughter. We also learn of the depth of Fumiya's relationship with Sayori, which adds a great deal of emotion and feeling to the ending of the film. You just don't find this kind of poignancy in Western ghost stories.
An understanding of Japanese culture and language would add much to the viewer's experience of Shikoku, but it is not necessary. The two possible meanings of the word Shikoku, for example, are made pretty clear in the context of the film. I also have to say that Chiaki Kuriyama is mesmerizing as Sayori. I believe this was her first true film role, but you wouldn't know it as it's impossible to take your eyes off of her whenever she is on the screen.
Shikoku does come with a few special features. The behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the movie is really just that, a narration-free look at the preparation and filming of several of the film's later scenes. You also get interviews with director Shunichi Nagasaki and both leading actresses - and, fortunately, all of these special features are accompanied by English subtitles. It's always interesting to get some insight into the atmosphere of Japanese movie sets, as there always seems to be a relaxed professionalism between cast and crew that provides a refreshing contrast to the almost-constant turmoil to be found on most American film sets.
Just know that this is not a frightening movie; it's suspenseful, and it does have some creepy moments, but it's not a horror movie in the Western sense of the term. There is no strict dichotomy between good and evil established, as the ghost ends up being the most pitiable and plaintive character in the whole film. Perhaps, more than anything else, Shikoku is a tragic love story - and quite a beautiful one, in my opinion."