The late 1990s saw a bit of a revolution for horror movies. Ringu, released in 1998, was a massive success in Japan and helped spark a renewed interest in the eerie, creeping-terror type of ghost story that it perfected. Then, one year later, The Blair Witch Project became a surprise hit and helped establish the found footage genre of horror. Both of these movies have had a profound impact all over the world, and their influences have been seen in a seemingly endless stream of low-budget horror movies over the years. While many of these movies are average at best and entirely forgettable, POV: A Cursed Film, though derivative in some ways, manages to stand out from the crowd just enough to warrant a watch from fans of supernatural horror and found footage films.
POV stars a young actress named Mirai who hosts an extremely low budget show where she watches and reacts to interesting video clips. As the film begins, we watch Mirai and her crew as they set up and record a new episode. Mirai is excited about her special guest on the show, her friend and fellow actress Haruna, but she is less than thrilled about the topic of this particular episode: ghost videos. Mirai tries to stall as best as she can, but Haruna enthusiastically pushes forward, seeming to take a little bit of innocent pleasure from creeping out her obviously reluctant friend.
From the start, there is something strange about the videos the two girls watch. For starters, the location where the first video was shot feels familiar to Haruna. Also, from off camera we can hear the director telling his assistant that these weren’t the videos that were prepared for the show. Still, they continue on. As they watch more of the videos, the content gets creepier and the videos themselves seem to take on a life of their own. They appear to be more than recordings that can simply be passed off as hoaxes.
By using the fairly modern phenomenon of internet ghost videos as a starting point, much like the cursed VHS tape in Ringu, POV uses technology as a way to modernize what is essentially a classic ghost story. After being thoroughly scared by the videos they watched, a psychic is called in to make sure everything is okay. It’s not, and her advice leads the girls and their crew to a junior high school campus where the videos originated from in hopes that they can figure out what is happening and stop it. As with many Japanese ghost stories though, not everything is as simple as it might seem. The solution in Ringu seems pretty simple by comparison.
The time spent in the school makes up the second act of the movie and is where much of the Blair Witch influence can be seen. Less is often more in movies like this, so like Blair Witch, the buildup to the scares are part of what makes it entertaining. There are plenty of quiet, tense moments as they explore the campus trying to see if they can explain what they saw in the videos. These moments build tension fairly effectively, so that when the action does pick up it feels kind of like a release.
As with many found footage films, there is a fair amount of screaming and running in front of a wildly shaking camera during the latter part of the segment in the school, but fans of the genre probably won’t mind it all that much. And really, it stands as a good contrast to the quiet moments and adds to the intensity and texture of those scenes. If you lose your bearings it makes sense because the characters feel the same way.
The main thrust of the story seems to be concluded at the end of the school segment and credits start to roll, but be sure not to turn the movie off just yet. In what might be another subtle nod to Ringu, the final act of the movie takes place as way to show that even though we learned a lot at the school, we don’t know the whole story.
This final act seemed like kind of a mixed bag. On one hand I like the originality of it and some of the setups and images, but there were also some moments that didn’t quite make sense to me or looked kind of awkward (there was even an Inception-like moment where we’re watching a movie where people are watching people watch a movie about people on a show watching videos). Still, I feel that the good outweighed the bad and was satisfied with the ending. I can’t really say anything more than that without some major spoilers, and I think POV is worth discovering on your own.
6 – Pretty Good
Overall, POV is a good example of a movie that draws on some obvious influences, but isn’t necessarily held back by those constraints. It’s familiar enough to draw in fans of ghosts and found footage, but it’s also well-made and original enough to be remembered as a minor standout in a crowded and well-worn field.
Lake Mungo (2008)
Lake Mungo is more of a documentary style than found footage, but it’s about the supposedly supernatural activity that takes place after the death of a teenage girl. This is a movie that relies more on creepiness than blatant scares, and the ghost videos from POV kind of reminded me of this one.
Watch the Lake Mungo trailer
English Title: POV: A Cursed Film
Japanese Title: ピーオーヴィ 呪われたフィルム
Japanese Title (romaji): POV: Norowareta Firumu
Availability: Available on DVD (Region 2) and Blu-Ray (Region A/1)
(Unfortunately I don’t think either the DVD or Blu-Ray have subtitles, but you might be able to find a translated version of POV online.)
Director: Norio Tsuruta
Writer: Norio Tsuruta
Featured Cast: Mirai Shida, Haruna Kawaguchi
Run Time: 92 minutes
Watch the trailer