Prolific "J-horror" machine Takashi Shimizu presents (yes, another) collection of creepy kids, contorted creeps and convoluted chaos with Unholy Women (aka Kowai onna), a three-part horror anthology that (thankfully) is just entertaining enough to make us forgive the general air of familiarity that permeates two of the three stories. The best thing about these anthologies (and believe me, there are a lot of 'em) is that if one section doesn't blow you away, you won't have to wait very long for it to be over. Taken on a segment-by-segment basis, Unholy Women is A) not bad, B) very amusingly bizarre, and C) snail-slow and uneventful.
Story one is Keita Amemiya's Rattle Rattle, and it's an enjoyably simple story about a young woman who gets dropped off by her boyfriend one night, only to spend the next several hours being chased by a really freaky (and amazingly persistent) poltergeist of some sort. The tale moves quickly enough and offers a double-twist ending that doesn't make a whole lot of sense ... but at least it's interesting. The spooky effects are the highlight in this section, although they're nothing an astute J-fan hasn't seen before.
The snoozer of the batch is the third one: Keisuke Toyoshima's The Inheritance, which covers the story of a divorced woman's return home to an (all together now) entirely haunted domicile. The woman's young son keeps poking around the place, forever stumbling across vaguely creepy clues regarding a long-ago tragedy and yadda yadda. It's a dry and listless little story, one that's capped off with an annoyingly flat ending.
But story number two, Takuji Suzuki's Hagane, is truly something worth checking out. It's the story of an average guy whose boss has a sister. The boss pairs the two up, sends 'em out for a night on the town, and ... let's just say the kids don't exactly get along. The girl, you see, is a horrific creature called Hagane. From the waist down she has a perfectly normal pair of human (and definitely female) legs, but whatever is above Hagane's torso lies hidden beneath a bulging burlap sack. (Yeah, it's even weirder onscreen.) Obviously Hagane is the highlight of the anthology, packed as it is with strangely disconcerting moments and a strong sense of absurd humor. Plus it's just great to see one of these stories that doesn't deal with dripping faucets and pale-skinned children with hair in their face.
Connected (loosely) by stories of three "unholy women," the anthology feels like little more than three episodes of a scary Japanese TV series. If that were the case, then episode one would be enough to keep you coming back, episode two would get you very excited for the rest of the series, and episode three would put you right to sleep. Production value is adequate, although nothing extraordinary. Ditto the actors, the stories, and the overall pace of the piece. Two out of three is not a terrible batting average, as anthology pieces go, and if you've got a soft spot for the J-horror material, then Unholy Women is probably worthy of a rental once it hits Region 1 DVD. (Honestly, it's worth seeing for the second story alone.)