The latest example of J-horror to reach our shores, Takeshi Furusawa's "Ghost Train" demonstrates that the increasingly tired genre may be in need of a serious overhaul. The familiar elements are there, including the requisite pale-skinned, black-haired, jerky-moving ghosts, but this would-be spooky tale of mysterious disappearances along apparently haunted train tracks never quite leaves the station. The film recently received its U.S. theatrical premiere at New York's Two Boots Pioneer Theater.
As is often the case, the heroine seeking to get to the bottom of the mystery is a plucky high-school student. Nana (Erika Sawajiri) not only manages to be at the top of her class but also cares for her kid sister, Koriko (Aya Sugimoto), while their mother is spending an extended time in the hospital suffering from heart trouble.
The girls travel to school by train, a trip that becomes more problematic when first a little boy and then Koriko go missing after gaining possession of a mysterious train pass. It turns out that they are but the latest in a string of commuters who have disappeared without explanation. Nana sets out to find them with the help of a conductor (Shun Oguri) who keeps halting his trains after seeing a ghostly figure on the tracks.
The usual thematic and visual elements are handled in less than exciting fashion here, with the derivative film lacking the assured qualities of many of its predecessors. Although the director manages to sustain a reasonably scary atmosphere, true chills are in short supply: A subplot involving one of Nana's classmates proves unrewarding, and the climactic sequence in which the monster is ultimately revealed is more cheesy than horrific.