Director: Kei Horie
Starring: Asami Mizukawa, Tomohisa Yuge, Maki Horikita, Shuji Kashiwabara
After meeting for a camping trip, a group of friends return to Shibuya to retrieve their belongings at a discreet coin-operated locker station. An urban legend exists within the area; that if someone confesses their love in front of these lockers, it will come to fruition. However, the lockers have a darker and lesser known history; that of babies being abandoned within the lockers to die. As the friends begin to see and hear the presence of babies around them, they are drawn to madness and it is up to the survivors to break the curse and save their lives.
Released in 2004, at the resurgence of modern Japanese horror cinema, The Locker is solid V-cinema-level fare. It moves a brisk pace; at only 71 minutes, the lore and story are quickly told with the performances capturing the spirit of urban horror. While the performances of young actors tend to vary wildly in most V-Cinema productions, the majority on display here is more than passable and helps to keep the film believably on course. The ostensible lead Rieka, played by Asami Mizukawa, tends to maintain believability throughout the film and keeps a strong presence with the other characters, particularly with that of her young student Ayano (Maki Horikita). Her choices are natural and don’t really come to a head until faced with the prospect of death, but by these points in the film, it feels earned despite going dangerously close to over the top. Her co-stars vary in quality but only the aforementioned role played by Horikita is worth even mentioning for quality. That isn’t to say that everyone is bad, but there is surely too little material for their characters to ever make enough of an impact within the context and running time of the film.
Production is actually pretty good; digitally shot, I’m certain that production must have been lean but good camerawork within public places help to keep the film grounded in its less supernatural elements. The urban setting does lend itself to a number of location shootings which provide an odd sense of loneliness as the body count begins to rise. Not so clean alleys, litter in the streets, and predatory salarymen is at odds with the pristine image of Tokyo that seems to reside in the magazines and the hearts of Japan-o-philes the world over. Music is minimal, but gets the job done with appropriate timing and mood-setting, it will be very familiar to those with experience with the Japanese cinema in regards to ghostly horror. The limited bits of digital VFX are decent but like most early 2000s releases, tend to not hold up as well in the years since.
The Locker is hardly must see horror cinema but it does provide a nice and quick horror tale with a few interesting kills and a sequel, which will be reviewed shortly, should you wish to revisit the Shibuya Lockers’ Curse. While the film simply tends to rely on conventions of more well-known Japanese horror cinema like Ju-on and Ringu, its straightforward approach of the three-act story is actually welcome considering the disjointed narrative structure and uninspired attempts at originality that would send the genre to a relative dark age in the coming years.