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The Grudge director Takashi Shimizu is collaborating on Night Cry, the crowd-funded reboot of a cult Japanese horror video game, and has created an accompanying 12-minute short film to promote the title.
Shimizu, who directed the original Ju-on (The Grudge), as well as two of the Hollywood remakes from Columbia/Sony, which took more than $250 million at the box office, is working with Hifumi Kono, creator of the Clock Tower game series that first hit consoles 20 years ago.
In addition to recruiting Shimizu, Kono has put together a creative team of respected veterans from the Japanese game world for the project, some of whom have worked on landmark titles including Metal Gear Solid, Halo, Silent Hill and Final Fantasy.
Following a series of disappointments in the film world, Shimizu was brimming with enthusiasm about Night Cry, which is in the process of raising funds through Kickstarter, when he spoke with The Hollywood Reporter in Tokyo.
“I haven’t had a lot of good things happen in the last few years. I’ve been let down and betrayed by producers and studios in both Japan and Hollywood: That’s given me a lot of energy for this project,” said Shimizu.
“The original idea was to make a three-to-five-minute promo video, but it kept on getting bigger and ended up as a short film. I thought Kono-san would ask me to include some things or not show certain elements, but he was busy working on the game and left to my own devices,” he added. “I actually shot about an hour’s worth of footage and cut that down to the current length [of about 12 minutes.]”
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Having cut his directorial teeth in Japan’s then vibrant straight-to-video sector, which spawned the original two Ju-on movies, Shimizu said he was able to use many of the tricks he learned from working on a tight budget in creating the Night Cry short film.
As well as working on the promotional video, Shimizu and Kono have been brainstorming ideas for the game, which is set on a cruise ship.
“I was a bit concerned about working with him as I respected him so much as a director,” said Kono of Shimizu. “I wondered what I was going to do if he came up with a load of ideas I couldn’t use: how I was going to say ‘no’ to him. In the end, he had some interesting opinions, not from a gaming perspective, but from a horror perspective.”
Night Cry features the giant scissors that were an integral part of the original series, along with the point-and-click, horror-survival gameplay that Shimizu sees as reminiscent of the J-horror sensibility that his films helped define.
“The game doesn’t have fighting, and there are other ways of dying other than just getting killed by monsters,” Shimizu said. “There’s a definite J-horror touch about the game that was there from the start of this project.”
The original idea was to create a smartphone game, but like the short film, ambitions kept growing. The plan now is a PC game, with a console version made if enough money is raised.
Unsurprisingly, if the game is a success, the creators are thinking about the possibility of a film version. The original Clock Tower games were heavily influenced by Italian horror director Dario Argento‘s film, Phenomena.
However, both Kono and Shimizu have first-hand experience with projects not making it to fruition: the rights to the Clock Tower franchise were previously picked up by The Weinstein Company and Sony Pictures.
The game may also see more of Shimizu’s real-life friends and family “killed off,” as happened with The Grudge characters.
“I gave the characters in the films the names of people I knew from school, family members and ex-girlfriends,” Shimizu said. “When I meet them at school reunions, they seem pretty happy about it, though some complained they got killed off too quickly.”
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