Shock Labyrinth 3D DVD Review
Written by Daniel Benson
DVD released by Chelsea Films
Directed by Takashi Shimizu
Written by Daisuke Hosaka
2009, Region 2 PAL, 93 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 31st January 2011
In the formidable shadow of Japan’s Mount Fuji is Fuji-Q Highland Park that features the world’s largest horror maze – The Haunted Hospital. Wait-times for the attraction are reported to be frequently in excess of four hours. One thing’s for sure, the Japanese like a good scare. Marking a milestone as the first 3-D movie made in Japan and, probably, the first one based on a theme-park ride, Shock Labyrinth 3D is Takashi Shimizu’s latest ghost story and the J-Horror equivalent of Pirates of the Caribbean.
Having a resume that includes such a thoroughly creepy ghost story as the Ju-on series (and Hollywood remake franchise The Grudge) there was a certain expectation that Shimizu would deliver in this offering, but sadly it’s not the case. There is some striking imagery and an extremely spooky sequence towards the end of the film, but a ridiculously confusing plot and an over-emphasis on 3D makes this too little, too late.
The film is the story of a group of friends who visit The Haunted Hospital on a day out to the previously mentioned theme-park. While inside, one of the group is dragged off into the shadows and is never seen again. The group seemingly forgets about their missing friend, Yuki, and gets on with life. Then, after some 10 years, Yuki returns and lures the group back to the attraction where the tragedy happened all those years ago.
And this is where things get very confusing. Yuki faints while with her friends, so they take her to a nearby hospital. It’s a perfectly normal place, save for the complete absence of any staff. As the group wanders off to find a doctor, they somehow find themselves back in the haunted attraction at the theme-park. They witness their young selves in the building and, as the film flashes back to events 10 years ago, the younger incarnations are seeing the older ones and running scared from them. Add to this the introduction of a non-linear narrative, and then flashbacks from the out-of-timeline segments and the whole thing starts to spiral out of all coherence.
It’s a huge wasted opportunity, even though many of the set-pieces are now familiar from J-Horror, but no less creepy. The hospital itself is a fantastic set, and you just know that the exhibits will come to life at some point yet, when they do, it’s still a real skin-crawler.
While the 3D is well done for the most part, there does tend to be a number of shots that have been obviously set up to use the 3D effect. Scenes with lots of airborne particles like raindrops (yes, it rains indoors in this movie) and feathers are forced in to get depth of field and there’s a far too frequent use of a floating fluffy rabbit backpack that’s supposed to be scary but really falls short of the mark.
With a J-Horror entry as iconic as Ju-on, Shimizu really needed to break the mould on this film without going back to the standards of the genre. Unfortunately it’s just a brain-bending plot stitched to a haunted house scenario and delivers very little innovation. Shimizu currently has Rabbit Horror 3D in post-production, so he’s either franchised the Raving Rabbids video game characters for a 3D horror film or we are going to see the return of that backpack in its own movie.
Video and Audio:
Chelsea Films has done the decent thing and released Shock Labyrinth in a two-disc set that includes the 2D version of the film and an alternate anaglyph 3D. As there’s no Blu-ray release there isn’t the option of seeing this at home in stereoscopic 3D. As mentioned in my review of Piranha 3D, the main issue with watching anaglyph through red/cyan lenses is that everything looks red and cyan. I'm truly convinced that anaglyph isn't a winner for home entertainment and is little more than a gimmick. I managed about 40 minutes of Shock Labyrinth in 3D before I gave up and threw on the 2D disc. When watching through regular eyes, the colours are rich and the image is stable, if a little soft.
The 5.1 audio track is extremely well-done and includes many rear effects while in the haunted house. Some of the sounds are so well placed, I had to check a couple of times whether they were within my own house or just popping out of the speakers.
Subtitles are well defined and translated, although the text on the 3D version is slightly more pixelated (not to any detriment).
There’s a generous scattering of extras on disc one which consist of interviews with the actors and Shimizu. Each one is only a few minutes so they don’t drag too much, even though there’s not a great deal being said. The rest of the extras are behind the scenes footage and some parts on the attraction on which the film is based.