Teke Teke


Mar 6, 2011

Teke Teke (2009)
Director: Koji Shiraishi
Writers: Koji Shiraishi
Starring: Yuko Oshima, Mami Yamasaki and Mai Nishida

The Plot: Kana is a highschool student who is socially different from many of the girls at her school. Her good friend Ayaka however, is very much your run of the mill teenage Japanese girl obsessed with all things “kawaii”! When Ayaka proves to be too shy to ask the uber-cool Utsumi out on a date by herself, she sends Kana in to do the dirty work. Utsumi doesn’t know Ayaka, but he agrees to the date in order to get close to Kana. After Utsumi and Ayaka’s initial date goes over well, they agree to meet again but this time Ayaka brings along Kana so that things don’t get awkward. That proves to be a bad idea, because Utsumi seems far more interested in Kana than he is with Ayaka. When the date concludes, Kana and Ayaka have an argument while walking home and separate from one another. At this point we discover the legend of Teke Teke! A ghost that has been severed at the waist and now travels Japan walking on her hands looking for those who she can mutilate to look like her. When Ayaka stumbles upon Teke Teke that night, she becomes yet another victim. Now it is up to Kana and her friends to discover the horrifying secrets surrounding Teke Teke and try to somehow put and end to this curse!

The Review
The good folks over at Japan Flix have been incredibly charitable in allowing us to screen several of their titles in order to review and provide some press for these obscure films that they have been releasing in streamable format. Their website is dedicated to providing access to a litany of Japanese films that otherwise are not available in the west. While looking over the first group of films available through their site, the first one that stood out to me was Teke Teke. As a lifelong genre film fan, how could I turn down a movie with such an odd premise? As it turns out, the concept isn’t entirely new but the actual delivery of tension and atmosphere are where the movie tends to excel, despite some content that will surely seem “old hat” for the majority of horror film geeks. While I won’t make the argument that Teke Teke is a horror film that changes things up or announces something special to come within the future of Japanese horror, I do think its fair to say that it is an entertaining roadside attraction.

Director Koji Shiraishi is a filmmaker that I am only vaguely familiar with. I have only seen one other product of his, and it was the notorious Grotesque which (if you haven’t read my review) attempted to be the Japanese answer for Hostel, only with far more splatter. Shiraishi threw down the gauntlet with that film, attempting to reinforce the idea that the Japanese were the dominant champions when it comes to “extreme” but unfortunately his film didn’t push through enough boundaries to make up for his poor script. However, the one area Shiraishi did exceed in was with his visual flare. Although Grotesque was most assuredly a cheap piece of work, it did have some visual style and the way he floated his budget surely added to that. Similar to Grotesque, Teke Teke is a horror movie that is equally dependent on its genre but adds a similar visual dash that makes up for some of its conventional moments.

Teke Teke is a far less violent piece of work, that is to be sure, but there is still an appreciation for hardcore gore and mayhem. Teke Teke is much more reliant on mainstream Japanese horror conventions, it particularly borrows from the well know “girl ghost” genre that was popular during the early 2000’s. These films are still apparently cranked out on a regular basis, but Teke Teke does manage to stick out from the pack for several reasons. For one, the previously mentioned violence is certainly something that films like Ringu, Ju-on or Dark Water did not normally think to include. Throughout the course of Teke Teke you will find numerous scenes involving various people being ripped completely in half. The gorehounds in attendance may be slightly let down unfortunately, you won’t find any intense or brutal moments here, but there are some rather fun bits where practical makeup effects are put to good use. So, with Teke Teke you get this strange mixture of ultra-violence and creepy/atmospheric horror wrapped together in some fairly slick packaging. Teke Teke certainly shows that Shiraishi is more than just a entrepreneur looking to engage his audience through extremely cheap splatter.

Another aspect that I liked about Teke Teke, and another in my line of reasons that separates this from being “just another Japanese ghost flick”, is the fact that the movie actually comes from a well known Japanese spook story. A children’s story of sorts, the character “Teke Teke” is not completely unlike Candyman or Bloody Mary here in the United States. These are stories that are passed along from generation to generation, usually around camp fires or on school play grounds. “Teke Teke”, or “Tek Tek”, originally told the story of a girl cut in half by a train who then travels through Japan, walking on her elbows, cutting others in half with a scythe (or a saw) in order to make them just like her. Although the film differs from the explanations for “Teke Teke” that I have read, chances are that the myth grows and changes with each telling of the story. In that sense, there is no direct lineage of the story but by remaining truthful to the original concept Shiraishi gains small points for bringing Japanese culture abroad.

Generally, I can’t help but admit that I liked Teke Teke. I stress however that it is a film with definite issues, it follows genre conventions to the point where you can generally predict most of the narrative well before it happens. It definitely becomes hard to cheerlead for a movie where you can already anticipate its every move from the opening credits. When it is revealed that any person who actually sees Teke Teke will surely die after three days time, you will no doubt feel a large groan well up in your throat from the blatant stealing from Ringu. Once that big reveal takes place, the movie follows in the same generic fashion that many post-Ringu Japanese horror films did. Another negative that may draw the ire of some viewers is the very obvious and very poor use of CGI. The character of Teke Teke, who has a very interesting design, is almost ruined just from the bad quality of the digital effects. I wonder if Shiraishi didn’t realize this during pre-production, because the use of full-body (is that a pun?) shots of Teke Teke are very sporadic throughout the film. It is almost as if the director went the Jaws route and decided to shoot everything that they could without actually showing off Teke Teke. The resulting film turned out fairly positive, in my estimation.

The Conclusion
Far from being a tremendous piece of horror cinema, Teke Teke does manage to excel in very select areas. I fear that many will have a hard time getting over the general conventions of the plot in order to see the fun little tidbits that are different and fun with this movie, but you can’t please everyone! I give the movie a sold three out of four.