PRAY (2006)

Country: Japan
Genre: Horror
Running Time: 1H 17M
Yuichi Sato
Tetsuji Tamayama, Sanae Miyata, Asami Mizukawa...

*(*) (2-)

Story: Two twenty-something kidnappers take their prey (a tiny and very unscary little girl) to an abandoned school. When they call the girl's parents, they're told that their only daughter died a year ago. In the meanwhile, the girl  disappears, and the desperate amateurs must chase her down the endless corridors. Later on three more of their friends appear so that there would be some more 'cannon fodder' for the ghostly kills... In the abandoned school no one can hear you pray...

Review: PRAY attempts to be different. PRAY wants to be a ghost flick with a difference. PRAY believes in the audience's eternal desire for twists. Alas! The stress is on 'attempts', 'wants' and 'believes'. The end result, however, is yet another lackluster attempt to cash in on the J-horror ghost craze.

Oh, yeah, it is different in the sense that the characters are not chased by ghosts in their apartments but in a deserted school. Is anything gained by this environment? Not really. This particular school is a far cry from the really creepy one in HAUNTED SCHOOL 4 (a very well made little horror that I strongly recommend over this one!). The building and its interiors are mind-numbingly mundane and utterly devoid of creepiness that more accomplished directors, like Shinya Tsukamoto or Shimako Sato, were able to invest in their spooky schools in HIRUKO THE GOBLIN and EKO EKO AZARAK, respectively. The cheap direct-to-video shots deliver a boring murky setting with no deep shadows or inventive stylization. There is neither atmosphere nor eye-candy, just plain boring building that the characters roam through endlessly.
And yes, they attempt to 'surprise' you with some twists here. There is even a blurb on the back cover of this DVD which says: 'A ghost story with a twist... followed by another. And another...' After watching the film itself, I was reminded of that old joke, when a reviewer says something like: 'This film is incredible in its stupidity! It's amazing that anyone could watch more than 15 minutes of this nonsense!' and then they make a blurb which says: 'This film is incredible ...! It's amazing!' Well, something like that happens here. Yes, there is a twist after a twist here, but the fact that they are piled one after another is not necessarily a good thing. As all great films with a twist or two in them have demonstrated, twists are effective only in stories with characters to care about. And there's nothing remotely like that in this flick.  In PRAY, the twists are merely a lazy device, mechanical and ultimately self-demeaning. After an hour-long boredom of watching some dispensable ciphers run around the corridors you just won't care.
To sum up: no characters; no story; no suspense; no atmosphere; no real frights; no gore to talk about; no inventive kills; no eye candy; no memorable set-pieces... Why should anyone bother? To 'enjoy' the drab environment of an abandoned school in which all the inventory is somehow still there? To discover that a person can be 'killed' by merely cutting his hand off? How's that for an inventive (or physiologically, medically correct) kill? To be surprised by the 'couldn't care less' twists? Why, really? I cannot recommend this quickie to anyone but the most die-hard completists of Japanese horror. Everyone else should pray for the release of something worthier.