Nami Kikushima is a talented artist of disturbing images that have been used in some of the most successful video games of the age (or so the story tells us). As played by Megumi Okina, Kikushima is a beautiful and intelligent young woman who has a lot of Gaps in her past. When she inherits an old Mansion from her biological father (who gave her up for adoption twenty odd years ago) she brings along Ex-Boyfriend Kohei (Yoichiro Saito) not just for Moral Support, but to film images for the upcoming video game they are both working on called St. John's Wort!
When they arrive, however, Nami begins to realize that so many of the disturbing images that she's been drawing for all these games and for herself come from actual memories and nightmares of this very place, right down to the surrounding meadow made up of St. John's Wort! Inside the house is a richer tale where Nami discovers so much more about her family some of which is more than a lot horrific. Other surprises involve what might still be in the house! Or is it... who?
The constant feeling of being watched here is interesting. Further the eXistenZ-like smoking of reality for an in-the-game feel is occasionally intriguing and occasionally off-putting. There are a number of digital effects and discolorations on the landscape which make the whole film feel like one long "Cut Scene" from a PS2 Disc. It can be really cool, but it can also be annoying. Also like a video game, the characters seem to solve puzzles to find keys, which lead to more puzzles and more keys. While that's definitely of the Video Game logic, it's sort of irritating to watch such a thing without having control over it. By that same token, this gets to the point where you wonder if you're watching a Horror Film or an 85 minute commercial for the Game this is Based on! While movies like Resident Evil have game tie-in intentions, they feel like actual movies. This really doesn't!
Still, that said, in spite of its flaws St. John's Wort can be a lot of fun to witness. The above-average use of digital technology along with the inter-cutting of the real is almost up there with 28 Days Later.... The supporting cast which includes Koji Ookura and the eye-wateringly beautiful Reiko Matsuo doesn't hurt either, especially when they're in on the Scooby-Gang plot from Wi-Fi remote connections. The Imagery here, when not weighed down by intentional Gamer-symbols, is surprising. Not that this can carry the whole movie, but the juxtaposition of colors, coupled with some surprising moments make for a memorable horrific experience.
In short, it's a good and scary Japanese Video Game time passer, and it sure beats a lot of what Hollywood has to feed us, but it could also have been a leap and a bound better. Watch it for fun, not for enlightenment! Two and One Half Stars out of Five for St. John's Wort (AKA Otogiriso). It's not a pretentious yawner like I, Zombie, nor is it the shameless cash-in that the remake of Dawn of the Dead is, but it's also nowhere near what a Horror Movie can be. For that... see Ringu! I promise that the producer of St. John's Wort won't mind! Sayonara!
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