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Black House, The 
Written by: on August 2nd, 2008

Theatrical Release Date: Japan, November 19th, 1999
Director: Yoshimitsu Morita
Writers: Yûsuke Kishi, Sumio Omori
Cast: Masaaki Uchino, Shinobu Ootake, Masahiko Nishimura, Misato Tanaka, Kaoru Kobayashi, Renji Ishibashi, Daikichi Sugawara, Katsunobu Ito, Kenichi Katsura, Yasushi Machida, Chikako Yuri, Toshie Kobayashi, Machiko Washio, Asako Kobayashi, Masayoshi Yamazaki

DVD released: August 26th, 2008
Approximate running time: 118 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 & Stereo Japanese
Subtitles: English
DVD Release: Media Blasters/Tokyo Shock
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Mr. Wakatsuki works as a manager at the Showa Life Insurance Company. He accidentally lets his guard down one day when a woman calls asking him if her policy would still be good if suicide was the cause of death. From this moment onward this woman becomes fixated on Mr. Wakatsuki. One day Mr. Wakatsuki is called to this woman’s house on urgent business only to discover that this woman’s son has committed suicide. After a lengthy investigation the Showa Life Insurance Company settle with the woman when it is determined that her son has committed suicide.

(Spoilers) To further complicate matters shortly thereafter her husband is in an accident were his arms are sawn off and she is the only witness to the accident. Seeing her claims as a huge liability the Showa Life Insurance Company decides to cancel all the policies related to this woman. Mr. Wakatsuki investigations into this woman’s past and the Showa Life Insurance Company’s refusal to pay her put’s his life in danger.(End of Spoilers)

The Black House was directed by Yoshimitsu Morita (The Family Game, And Then).The plot for The black House follows that familiar structure employed in countless J Horror films. The core of the plot revolves around insurance scams and an insurance salesman named Mr. Wakatsuki. It becomes quickly apparent what is going on very early on. There are some twists thrown in to shake things up. On the surface this film appears to be a horror film when it is more like a thriller with a psychotic killer. The first half of the film builds up the characters and their back-story. The reminder of the film ventures more into the realm of horror. The last hour of the film is like a runaway train that destroys everything in its path as it hurdles towards its inevitable conclusion.

Visually the film has some creepy moments like the scene where the wife calmly talks to the insurance agents about the money for her husband’s accident. Another creepy moment is when Mr. Wakatsuki searches frantically for his girlfriend who has been kidnapped by the killer. This scene takes place in the darkness of the killers’ home. Unable to find any light switches his only source of light a flash light. The flashback scenes are some of the films strongest moments. The film’s biggest flaw is its pacing. The films near two hour time length stretches the story way beyond its limits. The films two best performances in the film are Masaaki Uchinoas the timid insurance salesman Mr. Wakatsuki and Shinobu Otake as Sachiko Komoda the woman who becomes obsessed with Mr. Wakatsuki. Ultimately The Black House starts off with an interesting premise that quickly falls back on all the J Horror Cliches that have been done time and again.

The DVD:

The Black House is presented in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. The image looks razor Sharpe and black levels look strong throughout.  Flesh tones look accurate and colors are nicely saturated. There are no problems with compression, artifacts or edge enhancement.

This release comes with two audio options a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and a Dolby Digital stereo mix. Both audio mixes are in Japanese and removable English subtitles that are free and easy to follow have been included. Both audio mixes sound clear and robust. There are no audio defects.

This release comes with the following extras a theatrical trailer, T.V. Spot and a special announcement for The Black House. Also included with this release are trailers for other titles currently available from Tokyo Shock. Overall this is another first rate release from Tokyo Shock that comes with a strong audio/video presentation.

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