With the snow blowing fiercely around my windows here at the apartment, this time out I’m back to sunny Thailand for some ghostly scares with a look at “Project Hashima” aka “ฮาชิมะ โปรเจกต์”, director Piyapan Choopetch’s 2013 “shaky-cam” horror hybrid. “Shaky Cam” horror? But… but… “Miyuki”, you say… “You really hate those, don’t you?” Ummm… well… OK… perhaps “hate” is too strong a word. It is fair to say I do think these kinds of movies have been pretty much done to death of late, but since I don’t get many Thai horror films these days, I was willing to take a chance on this one. Who knows? Maybe it would have some new novel idea to make that genre of horror a little easier to take… or at least easier on my poor eyes. I live in hope… 😉
Our synopsis? “Hashima Island in Nagasaki of Japan is well-known as one of the scariest haunted places in the world, after coal mining on the island was closed down and the inhabitants abandoned the it. Now a group of Thai teenagers, fresh from film school, who have become popular for their YouTube ghost video clip are asked by another paranormal investigating film group to scout out this creepy ghost island for a new video. Once on the island, it seems there is nothing much left, but horrible things are still waiting for people who dare to come.”
Yep. Sounds like a pretty standard plot. Jaded disrespectful 20-somethings who will mess about somewhere they shouldn’t, disturbing things best left alone, leading to horrible hauntings and death. Got it? Good. So without further adieu, lets give this one a look then, shall we?
So. Luckily for lil’ ol’ me, having watched this one, it seems this one is less of a “shaky cam” film than I had been led to believe. It has elements of that in some captured footage moments of the story, but I can thankfully say that “Project Hashima” is really more of a movie about people filming a video… and we do see bits of that in the film… but it tells our story in the usual tried-and-true third-person fashion. Yay!!
And what story is that? Well, our protagonists are a group of young film students recently graduated and making the rounds trying to find jobs in the industry. They are, of course, full of youthful exuberance and the usual big expectations that come with it, only to run smack dab into the sad reality of working life. Yes… so many hopeful people all with the same faith in their talent and just a few jobs to go around. That’s a hard pill to swallow. So what do you do to get noticed? Why do a quick lil’ indy “ghost hunting” video to showcase your talent and post it up on YouTube for the multitudes to “oooohhh” and “awww” over . Hey… and what do you know? That can actually work sometimes.
After a million or so hits, our lil group comes to the notice of another YouTube paranormal “reality” video group “Ghostland”. They call them in and offer them a deal… an all expense paid trip to Nagasaki, Japan where they can do the location shooting on haunted Hashima Island for an upcoming broadcast to be called “Project Hashima”. It’s just the break they’ve been hoping for, so naturally they seize it without so much as a peep about being asked to go to what our story describes as “the second most haunted place on Earth”. (Not surprisingly… even though Hashima Island is indeed a very real, and very creepy place, in reality it’s not known for any connection to the supernatural at all…. Guess that made filming this one that much easier for the real film crew…)
Filled with creative zeal, our lil’ group heads to the island to make their movie: Off (played by Alexander Rendell), his girlfriend Nan (played by Apinya Sakulkaroensuk), her BFF May (played by Sushar Manaying), Nick (played by Pirat Nipitpaisalkul), and the prerequisite weird guy Dog (played by Mek Mekwattana). Each of them fills one of those stereotypical roles for bright young things in a Thai horror film, and naturally each has their own lil’ bit of drama to create the tension and melodrama that you just know lurks right beneath the surface of such a group of so-called “friends”.
Even with the help of a local Thai speaking guide, named Mr. Sato there to keep them in line, basically you just know that somehow these people are going to manage to piss something from the “Great Beyond” off enough to bring down some supernatural bad karma on them but good. Yep. It’s a given. That would be the ghost of a suicidal jilted wife named Miko (played by Shô Nishino), who’s burial urn of ashes gets broken during the visit, and who’s spirit decides to visit vengeance against them all after Off steals her wedding ring behind the other’s backs.
This part of our film is prehaps the best, as the crew actually did shoot on Hashima Island itself… and the deserted island really is just about one of the decidedly creepiest looking locales you might ever really want to see. No seriously… this wee Catgirl kids you not. A place of desolate concrete ruins simply abandoned to the elements, at one time it boasted the almost unbelievable population density of 216,264 people per square mile crammed into its tiny overbuilt surface during the height of the coal mining operations there. It’s an eerie locale that rivals the ruins of Pripiyat from “Chernobyl Diaries” as almost a character itself… and it’s well worthy of a horror movie, even if it isn’t really supposed to be haunted. But don’t take my word for it… check out the real details at Wikipedia.
Anyways… once our group finishes filming their footage… narrowly surviving a nasty earthquake that almost buries them in a building collapse… they return to Thailand where the ghost begins ruining their lives, one by one. You know the details…. hallucinations… odd visions and noises…and oodles of general bad luck that drives each of them to nasty ends. Off gets special attention as Miko spends extra time torturing him regarding the thief of her wedding ring. Stupidly, he actually wears the ring at first. At least until Miko makes his finger start to rot off and forces him to sever it to get the darn thing off. He can’t throw the ring away… can’t even have it stolen from him by the gamblers he owes money to after they bust into his apartment and rape poor May to intimidate him into paying the debt he owes them. At least the ghost does us all a favor by seeing those scumbags get good and dead for trying to take the ring…. a “guilty pleasure” this wee Catgirl admits to enjoying.
There’s May’s grief and suicide…. Dog’s crazy “death-by-crickets”… and then, thanks to some of that near forgotten “found footage”, Nick and Nan discover what really happened back during their time on haunted Hashima… our story’s big climactic “Twist”. Not a bad plot ‘twist” either…. and one I’ll not spoil for you should you want to see this one for yourself. 😉
Generally I’d have to say this one goes pretty much by the numbers though… Outside of that one clever ghost folklore bit, it doesn’t really struggle to raise the bar very high, story wise. It’s a standard Thai horror offering, which means we do get some fairly nasty gory bits at times, but again, nowhere as over-the-top as Thai films can occassionally go. Nope. It’s mostly a middle of the road offering with a really neat location and some good general ideas that are servicably done but hardly new or surprising.
I did enjoy this movie, but I still can’t say it’s a great film, just an adequate one. Your favorite catgirl gives “Project Hashima” a mediocre 3 “Meows” out of 5. The HK Region 3 release is much like the movie itself. Adequate for the task at hand and fairly easy on the pocketbook should Asian horror movies be your thing. It’s presented Widescreen, letterboxed and with good accurate English subtitles to accompany the original Thai audio. All for right around 15-17$ US should you locate a copy. And that would be that. 🙂
As always, I leave you with a Trailer… this one nicely subtitled into English for those of us not fluent in Thai. Enjoy! 😉