Birthday Mail/Kokurri-san Double Feature -

DVD Review

Mania Grade: C+

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  • Audio Rating: B
  • Video Rating: D-
  • Packaging Rating: B-
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: NA
  • Age Rating: 17 and Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Switchblade Pictures
  • MSRP: 19.98
  • Running time: 126
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series:

Birthday Mail/Kokurri-san Double Feature

Birthday Mail/Kokurri-san Double Feature Review

By John Rose     July 27, 2010
Release Date: January 26, 2010

Birthday Mail/Kokurri-san Double Feature
© Switchblade Pictures

When the living attract the attention of the dead the living are at an incredible disadvantage.

What They Say
Get ready for in a horror filled Switchblade Double feature that proves that communicating with the spirit world in something best left to trained professionals - preferably on a different continent!

First, a group of Japanese girls forget the number one rule for avoiding demonic possessions and foolishly use an Ouija board in a house where a murder was committed. Now they've got the spirit and the spirit is definitely out to get them in Kokurri-san!

Next, a nasty new e-mail is making the rounds. It's not just a virus: open this message and you've got 10 days left to live! How does this all connect to a girl who committed suicide 10 years ago and is there any way to break the deadly e-mail chain? The latest recipients of the lethal love note have 10 days to unravel the answer before their time is up in Birthday Mail !

The Review!
The only available audio track is 2.0 Japanese. It is a decent example of 2.0 in that the dialogue is clear as well as the effects and background music are normally fine. At a few points a couple pieces of whispered dialogue are hard to hear but that may be the fault of the original recording as much as anything else.

Originally made in 2008 the features are both anamorphic widescreen which is the only positive to the video. For the true videophile the encode on this is scarier than either story inside. It has so many problems- a ton of noise, pixilation, softness , serious aliasing and bleeding among them. A number of these problems are bad enough they are still visible on a 15" computer monitor and just distracting as all get out on a 50". There are moments the image is so bad it looks like poor computer rendered work-which doesn't add up when you know it is live people acting. This may be the poorest video quality I have ever seen-at least certainly from a professional studio in a long time.

The cover is a split affair with the characters from Birthday Mail on the top and the three main characters and ghost from Kokurri-san on the bottom. The Birthday Mail image has a split face shot merging a normal shot of the main character with a possessed look and the second character faded in the background against a green backdrop. Appropriately enough the image looks to be having interlacing problems which is interesting given the video problems within. The bottom half has the three main characters looking like they are standing against a red shaded background with the image of the ghost from the feature added into the background. The back features shots of the ghosts from both stories-oddly on the opposite side from where the title for each is on top of the back cover. The copy is split in half with the left side describing Birthday Mail and the Right Kokurri-san. There are nine screen grabs on the back from the two features.

The menu is a relatively basic fare with the main character from Birthday Mail's face on one side and the main character for Kokkuri-san [sic] on the other. The menu shows which title you have selected. When it is Birthday Mail the Japanese characters for 'Die' surround the title and for Kokkuri-san it has a star and circle behind it. The menu is quick to respond however.

These features contain no extras.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Birthday Mail
As the film opens we see an elderly woman praying in front of a household memorial for a girl named Ayako. A quick cut shows a man on the street making plans with a friend about his birthday next week and then back to the elderly woman. She is chasing someone out of her house by throwing salt at them (used in Japanese culture as a purifying substance so an insult at whoever is having it thrown at her) but we are blocked from seeing the face of the offender. The elderly woman then collapses grabbing her chest but it seems no help is forthcoming. The next cut shows the man who had been making plans getting a text message at midnight on April 4th reading 'Happy Birthday' which he comments is ten days away'only to have the message add 'Congratulations, it's only ten days until your final birthday.' Initial he ignores it but ten days later he has a friend over and talks about how he has been receiving countdown messages for the last ten days. At the stroke of midnight he gets a text telling him to die and he looks up thinking he is fine only to find his friend standing over him with a knife. As his life slips away a girl's laugh can be heard.

The scene cuts to a young woman (Mio Kurotani) in her room on February 20 just before midnight as she reads a magazine. Her phone rings and it turns out it is her old friend Kenji Tsujimoto though she wants nothing to do with him and the reminder of her past he brings. He asks her birthday and finds out it is March 3 and he expresses regret. When she wonders why he explains two people they used to know both died at midnight on their birthday. It turns out Tsujimoto has been receiving the ominous texts as well. He made a guess based on the sender's name and tried to contact four other people from the past but two were dead and one was missing. He has her hold on through midnight but the phone cuts out as he starts to grab at his throat and gasp for air. As Kurotani calls back all she gets is a creepy laugh. Kurotani calls her friend Kanae who works in the urban myth section of a magazine. Kanae decides she is going to investigate for her friend as she doesn't want Kurotani to revert to the standoff and lonely person she used to be. As Kanae digs deeper she discovers far more than she ever dreamed about why her friend was the way she was when they met and how the past brought forth the current curse and why it is commencing now. It then gets even more immediate for Kanae as not only does Kurotani start receiving the countdown texts but Kanae herself gains the curse while trying to help Kurotani-and she shares the same birthday as Kurotani which is rapidly approaching.

The feature opens explaining that Kokurri-san is an activity similar to the Western Ouija board in that the participants call on a spirit to provide future knowledge. It then talks about how some saw it as dangerous and some schools banned it. The feature gives us three rules that must be followed: 1. Do not do it alone. 2. Do not let go of the 10 Yen coin during the séance. 3. Do not do it as a joke. The film then shows some very grainy (intentionally) footage of a young boy hiding in a closet with his dog looking through a crack in the door as a woman with a knife laughs maniacally and then appears right in front of the crack with a sinister expression. The title then appears and the feature cuts to a scene of a high school senior named Kotono and her giving narration about how the feature takes place a few years before. She talks about how she was going about her life of cramming for college exams as usual when she felt a pull into a shrine she was passing. As she makes a prayer to get into the school of her choice a young boy appears beside her and tells her not to worry as she'll get in. She spends some time talking to the young boy and walking him home though some friends of hers pass by and only see her talking to air.

She meets her two friends the next day and they confront her with the fact they first didn't see her talking to anyone and then that the house she dropped the boy off at has been vacant for a long time. As Kotono sneaks into the house later to confirm what she had been told she discovers that it truly is abandoned. A scratching noise in a closet draws her to a Kokurri-san board inside. As she is about to leave first an ominous woman's form is suddenly behind her and then she gets startled as the owner of the building catches her. It turns out he can't keep anyone renting the building and Kotono convinces that letting her live there rent free is better for him than him coming to check on it every day. Her parents agree because of it being far closer to school and they think it is just a temporary thing while she studies. As she is showering in her new place an ominous form again can be seen approaching through the frosted glass but when she turns it is gone. Her friends surprise her shortly after and they wind up playing Kokurri-san after they see the board. Things go innocuously until one of the girls asks how old she will be when she dies and she gets a chilling response. They then stop the game by following the rules despite the girl who got the response wanting to just leave and them finding that the spirit summoned is not willing to go back but do learn its name is Satoshi.

The story then gives a brief history on the introduction of how Kokurri-san was a product of US Marines introducing table turning to Japan in 1884. The next day Kotono sees a vision of herself cross in front of her but when she reaches the corner all that is there is a pug which she follows for a bit until she sees herself pick it up and then get hit by a car. She rushes forward but neither a body nor car is in sight. One of Kotono's friends does some research on the house to discover that a woman went insane and murdered her mother-in-law, three sons and the dog before killing herself in the house. The body of the youngest son Satoshi was never found. Kotono is saved from a terrible bout of sleep paralysis which has some supernatural elements as her friend calls her and the three gather to talk about the discovery. The girls decide that they need to go back and try to use Kokurri-san to find what happened to Satoshi-but is the grave willing to give up its secrets without a price?

In Summary:
Both features present middle of the road horror fare with Kokurri-san doing a far better job of establishing mood. Neither film will give most people chills long after-or even during-watching but both are entertaining enough as a lighter horror fare similar to the old Tales from the Dark Side or Tales from the Crypt shows where watching it at the right time can still produce a chill or two. Not a great disc for those looking for a really big scare but it can still provide a few for those looking for a less intense experience.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, JVC DVD player XV-FA95GD


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