Reviewed by: JimmyO
What's it about
After the kidnapping of a young girl to make some fast money; Mitsuru and Maki soon realize the girl may not be who they think. When calling her parents in an attempt to get ransom, they find that the girl had died one year before. Maybe?
Is it good movie?
I like ghost stories. Why? Because there is something terrifying about the unseen; someone watching you from the shadows. You set that in a creepy element, you’ve got goose bumps. Pray is an interesting take on the current J-horror trend. When we first see Mitsuru and Maki, played by Tetsuji Tamayama and Asami Mizukawa, we realize they have done a terrible thing. There is a child asleep in the back seat of their car. They had just taken this child from the park to collect ransom from desperate parents. But soon they discover that the child is dead. Or so we think. There are many “twists” in Pray, some work and some don’t. What does work is the director. Yuichi Sato uses everything to his advantage. Most of this film takes place in an empty school, where there are many dark rooms and shadows that go bump in the night. He used the space well especially with the use of tilted angles, wide shots and other interesting compositions. This could have been a really spooky story.
But with all that is good, there is bad. The script, while using many horror clichés (especially J-horror) like the creepy girl with the long black hair or the “is there something behind you” really didn’t work. If you are going to use a surprise twist it should be used wisely. In this film, there are so many twists that I began not to really care about them and spent much of the time picking them apart. The use of flashbacks was okay but gave too much away early on. Because when the “reveal” came I had long since figured it out. I also had problems with the beginning of the film. We are just thrown into the situation without getting to know why they came to such a desperate decision. I didn’t feel any compassion for these people. Although both Tetsuji and Asami gave credible performances they didn't give me any real reason to care about them. Not to mention the partners in crime that show up and just annoyed the crap out of me. These are “bad guys”? Sure, if this had been High School High. I didn’t buy any of these people as criminals. This should have been a terrific ghost story but with a weak script and unconvincing casting… it wasn’t.
Video / Audio
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and DTS Surround Sound 5.1
The extras are pretty basic here. They include The Making of Pray (11:12) which is your usual behind the scenes. Not bad but nothing all that interesting.
Pray Q & A (15:04) is a good watch. It was done before a screening of the movie with Yuichi Sato, Tetsuji Tamayma and a few other cast members. It was interesting how much Tetsuji was a part of this production aside from being an actor. Easily the best feature on this disc although that doesn’t really say too much.
The Original Trailer (1:11) really won’t sell the movie at all. It looks grainy and cheap and makes the movie look worse than it is.
Tartan Asia Extreme New Releases include trailers for “Marebito”, “Natural City”, “R-Point” and “Ab-Normal Beauty”. There is also a trailer for “Lady Vengeance” before the movie begins. I need to check that out.
I really wanted to like Pray. Really I did. As I was watching another scary little girl movie I just had the feeling they are trying too hard to creep us out. There are some truly inspired moments but along with that are ridiculous twists that lost me. Yuichi Sato is a strong director and he has a good eye for this kind of material but he needs a good script. There was a good idea behind this ghostly vision but in the end… it didn’t have a prayer.