Joint Eater, Contributor
Dir. Takashi Shimizu (2022)
In a so-called "spirit video," Kanon is astonished to see a high-school girl who looks exactly like her.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Gozu (AKA Cow/Ox-Head) is a well-known urban legend in Japan. The legend says that the true story of Gozu is so terrifying that anyone who has ever heard it will be overcome by crippling fear and then cursed to die a horrible death at the hands of the mysterious entity. While this story of a story is unsettling in its own right, the lack of any consensus of what the Gozu is allows for a lot of creative freedom when telling the story, a fact that many writers and filmmakers have taken to heart, each giving the entity a different life of its own. Ox-Head Village is another retelling of this story, though it is unique enough to stand by itself, even without cultural context.
For any of you familiar with J-Horror (or American remakes of J-Horror movies such as The Ring and The Grudge), the overall structure of the movie is likely something you’ve seen a few times. A young woman named Kanon is shown a viral video where all of the people in it mysteriously died afterwards, and one of the girls in the video looks exactly like her. She must travel to where this video was taken in order to discover what entity is now haunting her and stop it before it kills everyone around her, all while trying to figure out her connection to the mysterious girl in the video.
Ox-Head Village does a surprisingly good job of creating a legitimately creepy atmosphere. The film is filled with many blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments that keep you glued to your television. The film also manages to make many of its scares thematically relevant, making full use of mirrors, reflections, and symmetry to make the film’s focus on twins hit that much harder.
While I did enjoy the film, if I were to critique any aspect of it, it would be its tendency to over-explain key details of the plot. The movie does a lot of double dipping, first having people explain something that happened in the past and then have that explanation shown to us via a flashback or supernaturally induced vision. While these moments can be quite unsettling at times, they end up making the movie a bit longer than it needs to be, causing an otherwise good movie to drag in some places.
Despite its flaws, I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone who is a fan of supernatural J-Horror. I would also recommend this movie to anyone who is new to the genre and wants a good gateway movie. As a person with a oddly-specific fear of people with animal heads, this one definitely gave me the chills, but with a constant stream of unsettling imagery and a disturbing story to boot, I have no doubt it will give others that same feeling.
Who this movie is for: J-Horror Fans, Supernatural Horror Fans, People Who Have a Twin. Bottom line: Ox-Head Village is a solid addition to the supernatural J-Horror genre and offers fans a little bit of everything in terms of scares, imagery, and story-telling fans have come to expect.