Part cruel prank, Part social experiment; Shirome takes a perverse pleasure in watching Japanese girls scream for 90 minutes, in this low rent video nasty. Using just about every J–Horror trope its miniscule budget can muster, director Koji Shiraishi builds upon his increasingly bizarre resume by baiting Otaku’s across Japan, using pop idol darlings Momoiro Clover in a faux reality television show. By tricking the group to take part in what they believe to be a popular variety TV show, Koji and crew take the band (made up of girls aged between 12 -17) up into the provinces where an ancient shrine is located in honour of the ancient deity Shirome. According to local legend, it is possible for Shirome to grant a wish but only if the user asks sincerely, those unfaithful face great catastrophes as the deity exacts its revenge. Naturally, the girls wish for their band to achieve international fame but before they know it all manner of spooky happenings occur.
By essentially setting up a haunted house and letting its patrons run wild, Koji has crafted a film where he is unaware of its outcome. This creates a frenetic energy in the proceedings as you can almost see the crew adapt the story to the girl’s reactions. Sadly your mileage with the title may vary; ultimately your enjoyment will be derived from how much you enjoy being in on the gag or even deciphering who in the band knows of the prank. Ultimately though, much screaming occurs as the girls are frequently faced with loud noises, spectral orbs and ancient legend. It all gets a bit tiring by the half way point, as their ear piercing hysterics begin to grate in a way that even disrupts the film’s own exposition.
Shot with a small crew in matter of days and using the crudest of special effects, Shirome won’t be remembered for its high end production value. In the past Koji has wielded the confines of the Found Footage genre to much success. From the multi-layered intrigue of Noroi to the calculated social comment of the provoking Occult, Koji Shiraishi is no stranger to this genre. Unfortunately it would seem that in this case the joke is on us, as viewers not already invested in the band may be at a loss as to why anyone would want to watch such a thing. The screaming is one thing, but those unaccustomed to the bubblegum pop of idol bands should precede with caution as the film frequently cuts to the band’s live performances.
Shirome is a deeply flawed yet fascinating project. As an experiment in storytelling, the title provides an interesting insight into the silent struggle of reality and fiction. Whilst some will question the the film’s validity other’s will find a curio, and for those who are fans of J-Pop this film is a real treat. One final note though, at the film’s closing, a brief scene takes place where we see the band perform one last time. In those final moments reality and fiction appear to converge as we begin to question just where the prank begins and the truth ends. Did the joke go to far? Did the director have any control at all? Better ask Shirome…