[31 Days of TV Anthology Terror] Ghost Theater: Ruins

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To celebrate horror on television, I’m looking back at 31 tales from various anthology series. They’re the ones I vividly remember or respond to the most. No matter what, though, they are proof that horror and suspense aren’t limited to the big screen.

The little information online about Hideo Nakata‘s anthology series Ghost Theater (Gekijō rei kara no jōtaijō, which translates to “Invitation from Ghost Theater”) adds to its overall intrigue. The 10-episode show is tied to the director’s film of the same name; they were both released in 2015. A character from the movie, Gōta Nishikino (Koichi Mantarō), acts as the show’s host.

Ghost Theater attracted attention for its casting of members from the popular singing group AKB48 and its spin-offs. Every episode featured at least one of the idols. In the sixth offering, “Ruins,” two members were included: Ikumi Nakano and Yui Oguri.

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“Ruins” starts with several young people investigating an abandoned facility with a creepy reputation. The place is rumored to be home to an urban legend known as the Bandage Woman. Once the group ventures inside in hopes of catching her on film, they quickly become her unwilling prey. Later on, a family of four enters the same building after their car breaks down. They split up and look for help, but instead, they find the notorious Bandage Woman waiting for them.

Ghost Theater feels like a cheap, largely uneventful show because that is basically what it is. A few of the stories are interesting, whereas others don’t amount to anything too memorable or scary. “Ruins” combats its economical restraints by using the divisive found-footage or first-person format that was so popular in mainstream horror not too long ago. While only parts of the episode are actually shot in this style, they end up being the finer moments.

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“Ruins,” written and directed by Ryûta Miyake and Junya Katō, does what a lot of “J-horror” did best — it sets local folklore in contemporary times. The Bandage Woman, who appears to an original creation, is probably inspired by the likes of the Kuchisake-onna (Slit-mouth Woman). This spectral fiend hides behind a surgical mask, and she pops up when you least expect her to. The most startling instances are when she’s chasing after potential victims, or simply hogging the camera as she eerily stares into the lens. Viewers will also be taken aback by a perfectly executed jump scare that becomes the episode’s greatest achievement.

The story admittedly feels slight and underdeveloped, but “Ruins” makes up for that with a spooky atmosphere and a considerable amount of white-knuckled anticipation.

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