Release Date: March 21st 2009
Director: Kōji Shiraishi
Country of Origin: Japan
Runtime: 1 hour 10 minutes
Teke Teke is one of those funny, little made-for-T.V. movies that immediately endear themselves to you. They remind you of a simpler time when, as a child, you curled up on a sofa, peered from behind a huge cushion and caught those first, tantalising glimpses of horror. They were low budget, they were poorly acted, and they were brilliant. After researching the urban legend behind the film, I just couldn’t wait to get a hold of it and enjoy some grainy, shaky camera action. I settled down to watch Teke Teke with a cup of tea and a bucket full of low expectations.
Yet this film, with its eerie score, creepy camera angles and rather candid performances, surprised me. It not only shattered my low expectations, it was…dare I say it…actually rather good. For those of you who don’t know what the teke teke is, I won’t ruin it for you. If you’d rather not go in blind, you can read my post about the urban legend here. Teke Teke is a creature feature at its finest, and we’ll leave it at that.
The film tells the story of a high school student named Kana and her childhood friend Ayaka. After a brutal murder takes place in their local area, Kana naturally starts to panic. The victim has been severed in half, a scene resplendent with delicious gore, and subsequent murders in the area lead Kana to deduce that this isn’t just an isolated incident. However, her (rather brief) investigation into the deaths brings her face-to-face with the stuff of nightmares; an urban legend from her childhood that seemed too farfetched to be true. The teke teke, the cautionary tale parents had used for centuries to dissuade children from staying out too late, is out there. The violence with which this realisation hits Kana is catastrophic as she discovers that, this time, the Bogeyman might just be real. In spite of its low budget and seemingly cliché plot, Teke Teke is a J-horror movie with a delightful twist. The acting is surprisingly sincere, as Kana and Ayaka behaved exactly as I imagined two high school girls would. Their performances were strong enough to leave me with the impression that they must be friends in real life, and that’s quite an achievement for a movie made for peanuts.
The score of the film, though repetitive, is oppressive and suitably terrifying, making the opening sequences so unbearably distressing that I nearly switched the film off altogether. The way the camera distortedly follows the creature, dragging you along with it, forcing you to see through its tortured eyes, is a work of pure genius and enthralled me instantly. And don’t get me started on the sound the damn thing makes when it runs. Let’s just say, my house has tiled floors, my dogs have long nails, and after watching Teke Teke that noise sent me into PTSD-style fits for days.
The reveal sequence, in which we’re finally exposed to the teke teke at its most horrifying, is about as disconcerting as any reveal in a Hollywood blockbuster. The only problem is this sequence, which made me recoil in horror the first time, gets re-used so often throughout the film that it detracts from the tension and becomes, quite frankly, rather ridiculous. There are so many subtle yet petrifying scenes involving the creature that there was really no need to keep re-using this shot, and this is precisely what makes it quite so disappointing. It’s understandable, considering the film’s low budget, but it none-the-less diminishes the quality of the film in my eyes.
What I loved most about the film is that, in such a short space of time, it manages to do what no other J-horror movie I’ve seen has done. It manages to explore the concept that urban legends have countless variations, which have each been adapted over generations, and sometimes, when it comes to the question of solving the mystery, there is no clear cut answer. In a game as dangerous as this one, in a world where the supernatural is purely the stuff of fiction, you’re going to have to risk gambling. There are no experts in the occult; there are no friendly exorcists on hand to save you. All you have is your gut and you gotta trust it, for as long as it’s still attached to your body that is.
Teke Teke may not have the best special effects and it may not win any awards for its acting, but I guarantee it will surprise you. The sheer, delicious creepiness of it left me giddy and, for a film that lasts about as long as it takes me to bath my dog, that’s really rather remarkable. Be sure to wade through the credits, as there’s a little Easter Egg waiting for you at the end. With all that out of the way, let’s just say I won’t be walking around in the dark anytime soon, but I will be watching Teke Teke 2. Acting: 6/10, no Oscars here but not your typical made-for-TV cringe-fest either.
Storyline: 6/10, in only 1 hour and 10 minutes there’s not much meat to it, but it does more than the average J-horror.
Fear Factor: 7/10, overuse of the one sequence aside, the special effects are, on the whole, better than your average B movie and the teke teke is downright freaky.
Overall: 6/10, if you’re looking for a cheeky horror quickie, Teke Teke is your best bet.