... aka: Evil Heart
... aka: Girl Being Robbed of Her Heart, The
... aka: Stolen Heart
A group of high school girls go to an abandoned and reputedly haunted old house late at night, where they plan to test out the validity of a local urban legend. Rumor has it that if they can manage to tell one hundred different scary stories at their current location in just one night, a ghost will eventually present itself to them. Up next for story time is the shy Hitomi (Yumiko Takahashi). A recent transfer student who self identifies as "weird," Hitomi begins her tale by lifting up the bottom of her shirt to reveal a long surgical scar. She claims to have had open heart surgery prior to coming there, which took a full year to recover from, and relates her strange tale in the form of a long flashback.
Jumping back several years, Hitomi hasn't been herself recently. Her compassionate, albeit strangely physically aggressive, friend Takako (Ayako Sugiyama) tries to get to the bottom of things. Is she doing bad in school? Is she pissed off at her friend for being so damn rough with her? Was she jilted by a guy at school? Nope, nope and nope. She's been feeling sick recently. Very sick. Suffering from shortness of breath and a tightness and pain in her chest, she suspects the problem may be heart related. In order to cheer her friend up, Takako promises to give her her heart if she needs one, granted she return the favor. This pledge ends up biting both of them in the ass.
While the girls are out on some rocky cliffs overlooking the ocean, Takako jokingly pushes Hitomi. Presuming she's about to fall over the edge to her certain death, she instead lands on a ledge, but the shock from the experience proves to be too much for Hitomi's weak ticker to handle. She's hit by a severe chest pain and is then rushed straight to a clinic.
Arriving at Tanon Hospital, the staff inform Takako that her friend will now require surgery as well as a transfusion from her since the two have matching blood types. Returning home, the mentally unstable Takako becomes convinced the hospital plans to steal her heart. She starts freaking out, hangs up when the hospital calls and prays to a statue of Virgin Mary, which promptly topples over onto her head. She's rushed to the hospital and is pronounced brain dead... but is being brain dead the same thing as being dead dead? In this movie, no. Takako is still conscious inside her immobile body as the doctors wheel her into an operating room, remove her heart and then transplant it into her friend. It was this bizarre, ironic series of events that gave Hitomi her second lease on life.
We then return to the modern day story of the students telling scary stories in the abandoned home as the ghost of Takako takes possession of another of the girls - Emiko (Yuka Takeshima) - and goes after Hitomi in order to get her heart back.
It's hard to believe that this and MOMOCO WONDERLAND: STRANGE HOUSE (1986) were made by the same guy. Not that this is really all that great, but it's at least passable and shows a basic filmmaking competence that was almost completely absent from the technically inept Momoco. I suppose it helps that he had something of a budget to work with here, at least enough to shoot this on film and hire real actors, decent make-up artists and adequate production people. A couple of the gore fx are pretty good, there are some nice scenic locations and a wide variety of camera shots, including crane shots, tracking shots, slow zooms and a few curiously long, pseudo-arty unbroken takes, to keep things visually interesting. By contrast, Momoco was unimaginatively directed and photographed for next to nothing with a terrible script, laughable fx (like a killer stuffed bunny rabbit), awful editing and inexperienced amateurs who were carted over from a teen idol magazine and couldn't act their way out of a wet paper sack.
This is based on Kazuo Umezu's manga おそれ / Osore / "Fear" (called "The Horror!" on the VHS cover), which was first published all the way back in 1969. Umezu has been dubbed "the king of horror manga" by the Japanese press for his extensive, influential work in the genre and a number of his other works have also been adapted to film, with SNAKE GIRL AND THE SILVER-HAIRED WITCH (1968), The Drifting Classroom (1987) and the animated THE CURSE OF KAZUO UMEZU (1990) being just a few. To mark the 50th anniversary of his 1955 manga debut, a series of films released under the banner Kazuo Umezu Horror Theater were made in 2005.
Hideyo Amamoto, Shingo Egami and Yuki Ninagawa, three of the stars of the director's previous film, The Fury of Evil (1984), have cameo roles as members of the sinister hospital staff, as do producer Takao Asaga (DEMON HUNTER; Guyver: Out of Control) and many others on the crew.
Director Hayakawa (center, left), writer Umezu (center, right) and the stars.
Emotion / Bandai released this on both VHS and laserdisc, but only in Japan. An enjoyable 13-minute videotaped 'making of' documentary short narrated by lead actress Takahashi rounds out the 45 minute tape. It features lots of behind the scenes footage and production stills and we learn some things about the casting process and how some of the camera shots and special effects were achieved.