While many films from the J-Horror craze have been introduced to the U.S. through lackluster adaptations, “Noroi: The Curse” is a 2005 film that has remained a hidden gem. 

The film itself does not follow the other trends of J-Horror at the time — most notably in its format as a found-footage style documentary. There is an immediate authenticity present that has been lacking since “The Blair Witch Project.”

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The film takes clips from main character Kobayashi’s documentary that has been also composed with other evidence — footage from a television psychic challenge and an actress’ stunt at a local shrine gone awry. The film introduces many disparate threads that initially seem unconnected, but as Kobayashi and those who help him investigate more, they connect.

One of the first scenes is Kobayashi meeting with a mother and her daughter. They’ve been hearing the sound of babies from next door and Kobayashi goes to talk to the neighbor. She’s hostile and her son appears from behind a curtain in the window. The film then cuts to Kobayashi meeting with an expert that has gone over audio recorded that day.

Under all the noises there’s the sound of several babies crying. When Kobayashi returns to the mother, the neighbor has moved — leaving only mail, trash and dead birds. The mother talks about how things have been peaceful now and as she and her daughter say goodbye to Kobayashi and his filmmaker the film freezes and then zooms in on them. Text comes up saying that only five days later they died. 

A characteristic of “Noroi: The Curse” that may appeal to those who are not fans of standard found footage films is its quality as a “mockumentary.”

As this lends credibility to Kobayashi as a character and his world, it feels much easier to watch something that is in the narrative’s universe “filmed by professionals.” This along with the maturity of the cast sets it a part from many found footage films helmed by teenaged characters who don’t know how to hold a camera steady.

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When a film takes itself seriously, it is easy for a viewer to also take the danger and fear it presents in a serious manner as well. 

Kōji Shiraishi, the real director of “Noroi: The Curse,” understands clearly what an audience wants from the horror genre. He’s directed a large number of films, all in varying sub-genres, but “Noroi” stands out for his ability to truly transport the audience into a film that really does feel both real and surreal.

The true first scene of “Noroi” is not the first scene of “Noroi,” but a prologue introducing the film, explaining that it was the director’s last film before he mysteriously disappeared.

This film is available for streaming on Shudder and Sling as well as for rental and purchase through iTunes.