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  Publicity Stills of "Forbidden Siren"
(Courtesy from Shaw)

In Japanese with English Subtitles
Director: Yukihiko Tsutsumi
Starring: Yui Ichikawa; Reo Morimoto; Naoki Tanaka; Hiroshi Abe
RunTime: -
Released By: Shaw & InnoForm Media
Rating: PG

Opening Day: 7 September 2006

Synopsis :

As reported in 1976, the inhabitants of a solitary island of Yamajima were once annihilated except for a crazy man who shouted a mysterious warning: “When you hear the siren, never go out.” Thirty years later, Yuki Amamoto goes to the island with her father, a freelance reporter, and her little brother who suffers from neurological disorders. Though they are welcomed by a young doctor, Minamida, who shows them the island, all the islanders look creepy and unfriendly to Yuki.

The house they live in has long been deserted, full of dust and old blood stains. Her neighbour, staying next door, helps her clean the house and gives her the same strange warning: “When you hear the siren, never go out”. It is the beginning of a series of mysterious incidents: A group of dancers in fancy clothes, mysterious scribbles on the walls of a ruined house, a suddenly deserted market, a pretty girl in a red dress standing on the hill…

Gradually, Yuki loses her trust in the people around her. She is determined to protect her brother from the unknown peril that seems to be surrounding them. Then one night, she hears the siren. But her father goes to the forest to take pictures of the nocturnal animals. When he returns, something is very wrong with him, as he seems cold-blooded and behaves like a different man.

As the second siren sounds, Yuki and the doctor goes to a steel tower on the hill which the villagers are scared of, because the siren blares from the top of it. There she finds a notebook of the survivor of the 1976 annihilation of villagers, containing the truth of the incident. It describes how the murders took place, but is cut halfway: “The third siren changed the villagers into…”

At the same time, the siren begins to roar the third time. The severed bits of mystery begin to assemble together to reveal the truth of the 1976 massacre, and it leads to the solution of the mystery of the siren…

Movie Review:

Yukihiko Tsutsumi's "Forbidden Siren” is based on Sony’s Forbidden Siren series for the Playstation2 and was released in Japan to coincide with the launch of its sequel, the eponymic “Siren 2”. The premise closely follows the very footsteps laid by the game without digressing a whole lot. Roughly resembling a disturbing bedtime story to keep rumbustious children in check, it spans a generation of sinister, shadowy events from 1976 to present day Japan. Set entirely in the desolate island-village of Yamajima, it hides a dark and evil history. The inhabitants of the island were terrorised and eradicated, except for a solitary man who was driven to madness, convinced that he has seen evil in its purest form.

Fast forward 30 years later and we see a whole new set of villagers taking up the reins. A writer, Shinichi (Reo Morimoto) hopes a change of surroundings will be beneficial to his family. So he optimistically packs up and relocates his grown daughter, Yuki (Yui Ichikawa), and his young and sickly son, Hideo (Jun Nishiyama) to Yamajima. Yuki, fiercely protective of her brother, does not welcome the change when she finds that her menacing neighbours do not seem pleased with the foreign invasion. Aside from the friendly Dr. Minamida (Naoki Tanaka), the new family does not interact much with the people on the island. The story truly kicks up when a neighbour warns Yuki to never leave her house alone at night, never go up to the tower on the hill and never under any circumstances, leave her house when she hears the siren.

“Forbidden Siren”, perhaps unsurprisingly, has the look and feel of a horror videogame. It depends largely on its ghastly atmospheric qualities, which excels in contrast to the rest of its production values. With its very dark and uninviting environment, it sets the stage to turn this remote island paradise right into hell on earth just as easily as day turning into night. It draws certain parallels with “Silent Hill”, another game-based film translation that had more or less the same team working on both the original Silent Hill game and the first Forbidden Siren game. It combines a fair bit of the recently revived and oft-used horror elements such as its large baroque sets, themes of estrangement and pianissimo hints of foreboding to the heart-pounding screeches of shock. Giving credit to the director, there are some smidgens of flair in its execution to bring across the claustrophobia and xenophobia that could have just as easily been charted with hackneyed chase scenarios that would have been par for the course.

Even with its perfunctory main performers, the film’s detracting aspect would be the ghouls. While understandably working within a budget and given the relative difficulty in interpreting them for the big screen from the animations of a game, they come across as harmless and terribly unthreatening. But they hold the key to the mystery of the island, which the film constantly clues us in on. Save for certain contrivances, the mystery works well within its internal logic that could have you hearing the wails of the siren even after leaving the cinema.

Movie Rating:

(Does not stray far from conventional Asian horror, but it manages to offer up a different variety)

Review by Justin Deimen


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