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Having scared us witless with Ju-on and The Grudge, writer-director Takashi Shimizu‘s latest frightfest, Shock Labyrinth, enters the realm of 3D with this spooky tale about a group of friends whose past misdeeds come back to haunt them.

At a theme park near Mount Fuji, a group of children sneak in the haunted house attraction after hours, where one of them, Yuki, disappears. Ten years later, a woman claiming to be Yuki suddenly reappears – but her former childhood friends are not sure she is who she claims to be.

When Yuki collapses at her old home, the group rush her to a nearby hospital, but it seems abandoned. To their horror, the friends discover they are back inside the haunted house attraction, where they relive Yuki’s original disappearance.

Set in an actual haunted hospital attraction at the Fuji-Q Highland theme park, Shock Labyrinth is the first Japanese film to be shot in HD Digital 3D and stars some of Japan’s big star names, including Ai Maeda (Death Note: The Last Name), Suzuki Matsuo (Robo-Geisha) and Shoichiro Masumoto (Goemon).

This Scooby-Doo adventure for adults is a fun ride, just like the haunted house attraction itself, made all the more exciting by the clever, twisty script (a la Triangle), well-developed characters (especially the blind Rin) and claustrophic setting.

In normal 2D (which is included with the 3D release), the production looks great, especially the use of primary colours in the lighting (very reminicent of Mario Bava’s Baron Blood). But I had a real problem with the anaglyph 3D (as seen on my 37″ HD home cinema screen) which requires the old-style red/cyan glasses. The picture appears in double vision (though the middle-ground remains in focus) and the colours are very muddy. This does give it an ethereal air, but I have seen better examples of this 3D process in The House of Wax and The Mad Magician (and they were made back in the 1950s).

Given the new craze for everything 3D, I question why a 3D digital version hasn’t been released in the UK – the kind that could be shown on Sky‘s new 3D channel. Shame, as Shock Labyrinth is a damn fine ghost story. It may owe a huge debt to The Grudge, but it does packs some surprisingly inventive scares – death by falling child, anyone? And, as for the floating fluffy rabbit pack… Cute!

Out now

Here’s one of a number of exclusive clips, courtesy of Cult Labs.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZJkaxmSoxM&fs=1