[Review] "Howling Village" from Writer/Director of "The Grudge" & "The Grudge 2" Takashi Shimizu
The latest film from Ju-On series writer & director, based on a Japanese urban legend.
Ayaka Miyoshi in Howling Village courtesy of Dread
Howling Village opens with teenage Akina (Rinka Otani) examining her cell phone in the dark. "It's 2AM. It's not ringing" she tells her boyfriend Yuma (Ryota Bando) with a slightly mischievous, slightly terrified grin. Akina leads Yuma through "Howling Tunnel" Blair Witch-style, telling her boyfriend and the camera about the village they're heading to - "Never go there, they say. You won't come back alive, they say." The pair emerges from the haunted tunnel, stumbling across a downed sign that reads "The Constitution of Japan does not apply" an indication they're in the right place: cursed and abandoned Howling Village. Back in the city, a young psychologist Kanade (Ayaka Miyoshi) must travel to the infamous village in search of her missing brother Yuma, uncovering her family's dark history along the way.
Rinka Otani & Ryota Bando in Howling Village courtesy of Dread
Howling Village is one of those horror films you can't take too seriously but that does not stand in the way of it being absolutely terrifying. In fact, this is the scariest film I've seen all year. At times it felt like a parody and at other times I could have sworn I was watching a soap opera, with many plot points that simply do not add up and little intricacies that do not make very much sense. Still, none of that detracted from Howling Village being the scariest 108 minutes I've seen all year and for that reason, I highly recommend it.
Masanobu Takashima, Ayaka Miyoshi & Reiko Takashima in Howling Village courtesy of Dread
Urban Legend Behind "Howling Village"
Howling Village was originally titled Inunaki Mura after one of Japan’s most famous urban legends, that of Inunaki Village in Mt. Inunaki, an abandoned community that once housed an elite group of villagers during the Edo Period. Fearful of mixing with outsiders from a lower class than they, Inunaki villagers segregated themselves and attacked anyone who neared the tunnel that separated their little forest community from the outside world. Those brave enough to venture through Inunaki Tunnel and into its now-abandoned village might hear screams of the many who tried to enter the village only to be killed on-site. They might also find their electronic devices suddenly acting up.
Ruins of Inunakidani Village, under present-day Inunaki Dam
Does a Real "Howling Village" Exist?
According to Japanese Folklore Research Center, instead of an Inunaki Village, records indicate the existence of a village called Inunakidani Village, located in the Inunaki Pass under present-day Inunaki Dam. Inunakidani Village was purposely flooded in 1970 so that Inunaki Water Dam could be constructed above it. In reality, Inunakidani villagers were not a violent, elitist bunch who murdered anyone that dared enter their insular community. In the 18th & 19th centuries, Inunakidani Village was an important religious site for Japanese Zen Buddhists and villagers were known for producing and exporting ceramic and steel products. A mining site was established in 1854 followed by an inn in 1865 - an indication they had no problem hosting "outsiders" who travelled to their remote mountainside. So where do the terrifying rumors behind Japan's own Howling Village come from? In 1988 a gang from Fukuchi Town was convicted of kidnapping a factory worker, taking him to the tunnel beneath Inunaki Dam and burning him alive. Due to the remote nature of the Inunaki Dam, it has also become a popular place for dumping dead bodies.
You can check out the trailer for Howling Village below:
Howling Village is in select theaters August 17, 2021 & on VOD September 14, 2021.