Two “Ghost at School” Stories
“Shadow of the Wraith” (Japanese title “Ikisudama,” or “Living Ghost”) is an entry in the popular gakko no kaidan (ghosts at school)genre, aimed squarely at high school aged kids and younger. These kinds of low-budget spook fests are pretty typical in Japan, and get cranked out during the summer when kids are eager for a scary story. The director, Ikeda Toshiharu, is most famous for his film Evil Dead Trap although he has been cranking out this kind of low-budget work in recent years.
“Shadow of the Wraith” has the extra hook of staring two pop-star brothers, Koji and Yuichi Matsuo from the band “Doggy Bag,” and two “Teen Scream Queen” sisters, Hitomi and Asumi Miwa (Uzumaki, Ju-On: The Curse, Eko Eko Azarak) who are familiar faces to any fan of modern Japanese horror. Think of “Shadow of the Wraith” as the Jonas Brothers appearing on an episode of Goosebumps.
“Shadow of the Wraith” is split into two stories, each staring one Matsuo brother and one Miwa sister. The stories are very loosely linked by the brothers, who play brothers in a band.
The first story,” Shadow of the Wraith,” is a typical story of jealousy. Popular boy loves popular girl. Strange girl in the corner is jealous and projects psychic doppelganger to clear a bloody path to popular boy’s affections. You know the story. Or maybe you don’t. “Shadow of the Wraith” is about a creature from Japanese folklore, called an Ikiryo, or “living ghost.” The mythology is very old,dating back to the The Tale of Genji, and I have never seen an ikiryo story on film before. So that was kind of cool. Unfortunately, novelty is all the story really had going for it, and “Shadow of the Wraith” is otherwise by-the-numbers.”
The next story, “The Hollow Stone” starts off pretty good as a classic haunted apartment scenario. A new girl moves into down, and finds out that she is living in a cursed apartment. A charming neighbor, still reeling from the death of his brother, falls for the new girl and tries to help her survive where others have died. I am a sucker for a good haunted apartment story, and I would have enjoyed “The Hollow Stone” quite a bit if it weren’t for some unfortunately bad special effects. The director forgot that less is more where ghosts are concerned, and shook some fake props at us that look like they could have been bought at the
local Halloween store. The ending to “The Hollow Stone” was also terrible. It made no sense, and completely broke the rules of Japanese ghosts for no particular reason.
“Shadow of the Wraith” is not a bad DVD. The stories neither rise above nor sink below the level of the genre. They are exactly the kind of show you would see in Japan flicking the tv channels in the summer. It’s too bad that director Ikeda didn’t try a little harder to bring some life into these stories, as they had some potential, but everyone involved seemed to be pretty content to produce something mediocre.