Eko Eko Azarak III: Misa The Dark Angel (Japan 1997)

Rating: ***
Cast: Hinako Saeki

There's obviously a lot more going on in this film than I could pick up on. Part three of this popular horror series sees a new face for Kuroi Misa (Hinako Saeki) and a leaner budget. Here's what I came up with... An innocent school play and a creepy old mansion turns into a night of terror for eight young girls, as they all die in gruesome and psychologically personal ways (think "A Nightmare On Elm Street" (1985) here). Once in the house, they all travel to a parallel dimension of some kind (either physically or spiritually), full of nasty critters and pitfalls which plague them for the rest of the film. Not surprisingly, one of the girls in the group is responsible for all of the mayhem and appears to be a sorceress bent on the destruction of humankind. It's up to Misa to stop her and return to reality (even though she gets killed at one point!). This one seems more talky than the other two films, and is thus harder to figure out just what the hell is going on - quite clearly there are multiple layers. It tries really hard to be scary, but it really isn't. The usage of bluegreen filters helps make everything look creepier, but no genuine sense of fear is ever generated (horror film sequels tend to have this problem). A couple of overly bloody scenes help spruce up the slow paced action, which helps to keep your interest up. Unfortunately, Hinako Saeki doesn't live up to Kimika Yoshino's precedent. She's not nearly as cute, and her delivery tends to be a little flat. She does, however, have a harsh appearance and does the whole dark and tragic thing really well. And maybe that more appropriately suits the character - who knows? Overall, not bad, but not great.

Notes on the domestic release: Those bastards at Media Blasters have done it again by confusing the public with the domestic release of this film. They released it as "Eko Eko Azarak," but fortunately kept the tag line intact so that more astute viewers would know that they're in fact getting part three of the series.

The subtitled version of this film adds a lot to the enjoyment and understanding of it. The nasty sorceress has tricked seven young and sorrowful girls, including witch Kuroi Misa (Hinako Saeki), into performing a sinister ceremony that whisks them away into another dimension. There, the girls serve as sacrifices that are killed in the cruellest manner so that the nasty sorceress can become human (she's actually a "humonculus" - a sin-less and emotionless creature created from science and dark magic). Quite enjoyable, despite the low budget and drawn out narratives.