The found footage horror is a genre medium that at times feels like it has been rung dry. With a parlour trick of wobbly camera angles and pretence of reality, these titles sell by the bucket loads. Lately it seems we are at the point of saturation, as every young horror filmmaker seems to be recording their home in the hopes of making the next Paranormal Activity in the vein hope of capturing the zeitgeist of international audiences. Sadly as the genre is bursting at the seams, some would argue that the found footage flick is destined to join the same pile as torture porn.
Meanwhile, in Japan…
Koji Shiraishi is a filmmaker determined to not be pigeonholed. Whilst the young director has fully immersed himself in the world of horror, Koji has a portfolio of titles as divisive and scattershot as their IMDB ratings would suggest. Making a splash stateside with 2009’s Grotesque, Koji Shiraishi was deemed as nothing more than a hack filmmaker looking to make a cheap buck. Perhaps floored by this sudden notoriety Koji Shiraishi set out to make another film, this time taking cues from the 2005 horror Noroi: The Curse.
After hearing about a freak occurrence at a national park on the outskirts of Tokyo, Koji Shiraishi (as himself) begins a mission to track down the surviving witnesses of the event after rumours of cult like messages begin springing up throughout the country. Eventually he is drawn to one individual; a reclusive man that sleeps in Manga Cafe’s and is said to possess otherworldly powers. Koji quickly tracks down this individual and together they set off to discover the true origin of this strange power. Eventually the two decide to take matters in their own hands facing this greater power head on.
Lasting just over an hour and shot on location across Japan, Occult sports the kind of aesthetic seen in the likes of Thomas Vinterberg or Lars Von Trier. Whilst Occult stays strict to its found footage heritage Koji is not afraid to mix up the formula framing scenes in a kind of serene dreamlike haze. In its closing Occult delivers a Pile-driver of an ending that essentially rips apart the found footage sub-genre from the inside out.
And boy howdy, what an ending..
Whilst some viewers have argued that Occult simply wears its indie pride on its sleeve, Occult seems to have grander ambitions in store for its final twenty minutes. Koji is present for every frame and before he knows it unwittingly becomes a part of the narrative before the film reaches a climax that is both confounding and darkly humorous. If Occult eventually gains the kind of exposure it truly deserves, this is an ending that will be discussed for years to come. Taking a page out of Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, Koji Shiraishi uses Occult to examine the relationship between participation and voyeurism. Some readers may notice the lack of detail on said scenes suffice it to say Occult is both chilling in it’s delivery and astounding in what it achieves. To put it another way, when Occult’s final line of dialogue screams “Shiraishi, Help Me!” we know we are truly on our own.