“The Locker” Series – A.J. Hakari

Five years ago, it would’ve been a badge of honor to own yourself a nice piece of obscure Asian horror. But what with anyone who has a camera and an actress who hasn’t seen a salon in a decade able to whip up their own Ringu ripoff, it doesn’t feel as special these days. Still, for the umpteenth entry into the “long-haired ghost seeking revenge” canon, Japan’s The Locker isn’t a half-bad flick. It has its decent share of eerie little moments and goes by at a very breezy pace — its sequel, on the other hand, is complete and utter balls.

THE LOCKER

After returning home from a camping trip, a group of friends start to experience a series of strange occurrences. One of them disappears, one dies a mysterious death, and college student Rieka (Asami Mizukawa) hears a wailing baby’s cry wherever she goes. At first suspecting religious desecration, the surviving kids come to learn that their collective haunting is tied to a storage locker in Tokyo’s Shibuya section. Rumored to be a source of good fortune, the locker is obviously giving off the opposite effect, sending Rieka on a quest to find out what took place in that locker before more of her friends fall victim to its supernatural wrath.

As I mentioned before, there’s no denying that The Locker was whipped up to quickly cash in on the success of the Ringu and Ju-On movies. All of the familiar elements are there (long-haired ghost, intrepid heroine, a mysterious curse, etc.), but what may surprise viewers is how often The Locker kind of works more than it doesn’t. There are a lot of little plot holes that add up to some big inconsistencies (chiefly, how in the hell did the locker get a reputation for good luck when anyone who opens it dies?), and the script shells out your standard-issue boo scares. But The Locker isn’t without a few hints of a silver lining; Mizukawa’s performance is solid and sympathetic, there are a couple genuinely creepy scenes (one set in a dressing room is especially freaky), and at just a little over an hour’s running time, the movie definitely doesn’t dawdle around and gets right to the point. The mystery behind the locker is a pretty disturbing surprise, too.

Sure, The Locker is a fairly derivative J-horror flick, but in some cases (particularly with the Ju-On series), it turns out to be more entertaining than the movies it’s ripping off.

Rating: ★★½☆

THE LOCKER 2

Picking up immediately after the end of the first film, The Locker 2 kicks off as the curse of the Shibuya locker is literally handed off to Ayano (Maki Horikita), a young girl being tutored by the previous movie’s heroine. When those around her start to die unnatural deaths, it doesn’t take long for Ayano to deduce that these roads lead back to the cursed locker. While she races to put an end to the ghostly killings before her friends die next, a doctor (Toshiya Nagasawa) enraged by these strange deaths aims to put a stop to the whole matter himself.

The first Locker may have danced quite a bit on the predictable side, but at least it had the decency to present an interesting enough spin on the vengeful ghost formula. The Locker 2, however, is a miserable slice of cinema that suffers from the same affliction that made The Grudge 2 such a ghastly bummer: it cheats. It’s not uncommon to see successful horror movies find some B.S. way of rehashing the same premise in making a sequel, but the way The Locker 2 goes about doing so it just plain lazy. Despite apparently a great deal being accomplished in the first movie, the filmmakers decide to pretty much ignore everything that happened and send the cursed locker’s angry spirit after a new slew of dopes too stupid to stay away from the damned thing. Speaking of which, all those little inconsistencies about the first movie are amplified by about five times here. Stuff like how the locker came to be known as a source of good luck, how the key returns to the locker after its users have been spooked to death, and how in the hell so many people stumble upon it when it’s virtually in the middle of nowhere add up fast and bug the bejeesus out of you for the whole movie.

The Locker 2 isn’t a complete washout, mostly thanks to Horikita’s terrific performance as the lonely, ostracized Ayano. But while the first Locker was a little bit better than the movies it was imitating, the boring and lethargic The Locker 2 is right there at the bottom of the J-horror barrel.

Rating: ★½☆☆

-A.J. Hakari

Read more of A.J.’s reviews at ReelTalk Movie Reviews, Classic Movie Guide, and Terror Tube.

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