Ever since Hideo Nakata's creepy classic "Ringu" crawled onto UK movie screens, there has been an influx of extreme titles from the Far East, desperate to become the next smash hit. This is no bad thing.

Some of these Asian movies, like "Dark Water" and "Oldboy", have been exceedingly profitable for their UK distributors. Others, however, turn up as direct-to-video titles. They spring up out of nowhere, ready for the public's consumption, and it's only after you've given up your hard-earned money, that you realise what a mistake you've now made.

"Cursed" is one of those titles. You want to love it, but find it very difficult to do so.

The simple plot follows the disturbing incidents at an unnamed local grocery store in modern-day Japan. Not many customers frequent the store, whilst others, claim it to be haunted. Yet the shop's probably got more problems with its oddball owners: an elderly couple who only watch the store's CCTV cameras, whilst shouting at the woman who represents the chain-store company who is due to buy the store from them, and turn it into a franchised branch, ala "Wal-Mart".

The plot itself is fairly original. Sadly, this film fails spectacularly, that it's almost painful to watch its slow death over the short 80-minute duration. For the first half of the film, it does deserve some credit. There is a superb opening-sequence within the first couple of minutes that will blow your socks off! It's both sick and hilarious at the same time. There are some interesting special effects that are just sly enough to keep you hooked, and the initial idea is intriguing. But after this first half, you get the distinct impression that the entire crew decided to give in, and jettison everything out of the window! The acting quality drops; the plot takes a complete u-turn, and there are times when you think that if the cast and crew can't be bothered, then why should the viewer!

This is a real shame, because "Cursed" tries very hard at first, and more-or-less succeeds, despite its visible limitations. (An unknown Japanese cast; a very low budget; and filming in what looks like 16mm. Some visible artifacting is noticeable early on in the dark scenes, and there is grain, where the print has not been transferred too greatly.) Yet, after the first 40 minutes, the viewer fails to care about anything or anyone.

Putting the actual film aside, the disc is no better. I've already mentioned the picture quality, which on-the-whole is reasonable, but there are visible artifacts. For a film only made in 2004, this is almost unforgivable, and is probably down to shoddy transfer work. The audio format, is a very meaty Stereo track that is loud, clear and very well presented. You get removeable English subtitles, but there are sections when characters talk and we don't get a corresponding translation. Shoddy work, folks!

Thankfully, they have given the film an anamorphic widescreen presentation, but you have to ask yourself was it really worth it. Probably not. The extras are really non-existant. A trailer for the film itself, and then there are about 17 more, of varying consistency, for other "Hardgore" titles. Some are okay, but most are pretty execrable. The titles you might be genuinely interested in, like "Cannibal Holocaust" or "The Red Monks" aren't included, but plenty of the horrible direct-to-video horror movies made by new American horror "talent" are showcased, and are laughably crass. And that's your lot. Basically, there's bugger-all here!

With all this taken into consideration, I can't recommend this title, unless you absolutely have to have every Asian horror film in your collection. I know why "Hardgore" are trying to break into the Asian movie market, but they aren't the right people to do so. On the premise of this single disc, I really worry that they are becoming the "Vipco" of the 21st century (steady on there mate - editor Al) UK DVD fans - you are hereby warned!

Review by "Pooch".

Released by Hard Gore
Extras :
see main review