Teke Teke (Japan, 2009)

Do you like monster movies? So do I! (if your answer was “no” I guess you weren’t yelling loud enough for me to hear you in Toronto) Director Koji Shiraishi returns to Japanese urban legends after his excellent Carved (2007) based on the Slit Mouthed Woman. Teke Teke, a creature who resembles a cross between your typical long haired Japanese ghost and Belial from the Basket Case movies, is the legend of a girl who was cut in half by a train and now whose ghost bisects anyone who is brave enough to cross the tracks. Teke teke refers to the sound she makes as she runs on her hands since she is missing the lower part of her body. The American urban legend equivalent is Click Clack. Doesn’t that name send chills of terror down your spine?

Our story begins with a public bus full of rowdy children trading ghost stories while throwing a bag around obnoxiously. One of the passengers gives them an earful before being thrust into a real life encounter with Teke Teke herself. It’s a great starting point for the movie, the children’s stories give the film a real urban legend feel and the passenger’s meeting and eventual fleeing from Teke Teke are stylish both visually and audibly, with a really great pace. The scene recalls the force in the woods from Evil Dead (1981) mixed with the cinematography from Evil Dead Trap (1988). Finally, the two have something in common!  (editor’s note: other than a name!)

However, once we are introduced to the film’s main characters, the horror all but disappears for a large portion of the beginning. Kana (played by J-pop star Yuko Oshima) sets her best friend up with a classmate who happily agrees. It’s only later Kana finds out he actually has a crush on her. Awkwaaaard. Well, any drama this may have caused is swiftly resolved when Teke Teke enters the movie again and one of those three teens in the love triangle is cut in half. That would make it a love rectangle, wouldn’t it? It is almost 20 minutes in when this happens, but it is kind of nice that Shiraishi lets the film and its characters develop before putting them in any kind of danger. And once Teke Teke is revealed in all her glory, it is well worth the wait. Creepy and fun, this is what a monster in a decent creature feature should be.

As is the case in most of these films, it’s now up to the leads to unravel the mystery that is Teke Teke. There is a new bit of urban legend added, which is, if you survive a Teke Teke attack, she will return in three days to finish the job. As luck would have it, Kana caught a glimpse of the much repeated footage of the monster. So it’s a race against time as Kana and her older cousin (played by model Mami Yamasaki) meet a variety of characters in the hopes of staving off being sliced and diced which all leads to a very fun and satisfying conclusion. And much like the director’s Noroi: The Curse (2005), don’t shut the movie off once the credits start rolling. He’s not done yet.

Shiraishi has created a very fun spook show here that reminds me of some of manga master Umezu Kazuo’s short works. Shiraishi showed much promise with his brilliant Noroi: The Curse, and though this film does not hold a candle to it, there are some great moments. One of my favourite bits is a scene that reminded me of the subway scene in American Werewolf in London (1981), wherein Kana and her cousin are having a chat, but if you know which section of the frame to look at you see Teke Teke very clearly moving about. Reading subtitles certainly adds to the distraction, but it’s a very nice moment.

However, there certainly are some very noticeable flaws. For one, using footage repeatably is almost always an unforgivable sin in filmmaking and Shiraishi should know better. Heck, if he just punched in a bit more to reframe it in postproduction it would have been acceptable. And while on the subject of repetition, it’s unfortunate that Teke Teke seems to have only one method of killing her victims, but oh what a glorious method it is! Also, Teke Teke moves like greased lightning, so if you are a horror fan who likes his movies suspenseful, this film’s horror scenes usually turn into characters trying to outrun this speedy half-a-gal. And lastly, even though it clocks in at 70 minutes, the movie still feels like it’s moving just a little bit too slow for its own good in certain parts. Maybe if Shiraishi threw in just one more monster scene, it could have broken up the long investigation.

Still, for all it’s faults, I would recommend Teke Teke to any monster movie fan. We might be the most forgiving of all movie fans, seldom complaining about long, dull stretches in any number of Godzilla films as long as there’s kick ass monster action. And with Teke Teke, there certainly is.

Christopher Brown is known round these parts as The Uncoolcat, a name not given to him but chosen by himself. You can read his ramblings at Cool Stuff for the Uncool.