St. Johnís Wort
Megumi Okina, Yoichiro Saito, Koji Ogura, Reiko Matsuo
Directed By:
Shimoyama Ten

St. John's Wort obviously wants to cash in on a growing craze - videogame horror. The story revolves around a group of videogame designers who make a series of horror games based on the director's ex-girlfriend, Nami. As the movie kicks in, the game director, Kohei, and Nami go out to a mansion that was bequeathed to her in a will. Apparently, she never knew her family and she wants to search the mansion to find out more about this family. When they get there, they find a creepy ancient mansion filled with clues about her family, including a sibling she never knew and a father who is famous eccentric artist. The story manages to slowly build to a point where conflict is inevitable, leading to the destructive conclusion.

Considering that the title of the film is a reference to flowers in the lawn of the mansion, which are conveniently given the meaning of "revenge", one might tell that the story tends to falter into easy conventions. It does manage to throw some curves here and there, but the story tends to be homage to a video game genre. Yes, you heard me right. Video. Game. Genre. You have your mansion, keys to doors and hidden rooms, and static camera angles (clearly a reference to Resident Evil). Not to mention the fact that Kohei keeps in contact with his game developers as they map out the mansion for him.

I will say that the story does have a few odd twists that keep it from growing too stale and dry. The ugly little secret of Nami's father is pretty intense and the final confrontation with her long-lost sibling brings about a brutal ending. It's these little things that actually manage to make the story at least worth your attention.

I would have to commend St. Johnís Wort on trying to be ambitious in its filming. At the beginning of the film, it uses a lot of filters and color schemes to try and throw the viewer off. Also, you find a lot of static or odd angles given to their search through the mansion. The problem with this is two-fold: one - it becomes rather annoying as there is no logical reason for these odd colorations, and, two - the concept gets dropped later on as the story begins to gather steam. Because of these reasons, one has to think that the odd angles and effects are merely an afterthought or something that never got serious consideration.

In the end, St. Johnís Wort is an homage that suffers from what it's trying to emulate. The survival horror genre in videogames has always suffered from poor plots and weak efforts to carry a story, surviving on constant thrills to keep attention. Since the viewer has no interactive elements to cover up a weak story, the whole of the movie ends up feeling pretty shallow. It could be a film where the ending makes you think "Is this real?", but the trip to the ending will most likely make you think "Do I care?"

- - Vane

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