Hell breaks loose at a Japanese high school when the students become intrigued with a ghastly string of Satanic murders. While director Shimako Sato's second feature--which was based on a Japanese comic book--is primarily a slasher film, she has also laced WIZARD OF DARKNESS with a few
unexpected twists as well as a glancing examination of the horrors of teenage sexual and cultural anxieties.
Any illusion that order prevails at the school is soon broken for the viewer. For starters, the teacher Mr. Numata not only greets but gropes the girls each morning as they arrive, and Ms. Shirai (June Takagi), the homeroom advisor, is involved in a lesbian affair with her student Kazumi. Class
troublemaker, Mizuno (Miho Kanno), foments interest in the occult among his classmates, and proposes to put a curse on Mr. Numata. The new girl, Misa (Kimika Yoshino), helps deploy the spell. When Numata falls ill, rumors fly that Misa's supernatural powers are all too real. Only Shindo, the class
hunk who has a crush on Misa, and Mizuki, her first friend at the school, stand by her.
Ms. Shirai asks her students to stay after school to take a test, and leaves them alone in the classroom. When she fails to return, they drift off, only to discover that all doors and windows are sealed. Misa, Shindo, and Mizuki set out to find a viable exit; the others follow troublemaker Mizuno,
whose escape efforts lead to a fatal fire, a decapitation, and his own madness. He turns on his fellow students, slits Shindo's throat, and is killed himself.
When only Misa and Mizuki are left, the ruse is revealed: Mizuki's supernatural powers rival Misa's. The two girls square off in a battle of unearthly forces that threatens to destroy the entire city. Finally Misa defeats Mizuki, and locates Shirai, a Satanist who has been behind the murders all
along. While she is unable to save Kazumi, who is only a pawn and one of Shirai's intended sacrifices, Misa triumphantly prevents evil from getting the upper hand.
Even at only 81 minutes, WIZARD OF DARKNESS still stalls now and then. But the film accumulates enough atmospheric detail to rouse a good fright: clean-cut victims clad in school uniforms, claustrophobic classrooms, ominously-darkened hallways, and violence replete with fountains of spurting
While some elements of the film suggest that the real evil is Mr. Numata's abuse of the girls, or corrupting Western influences, pinning the bizarre and violent events on Ms. Shirai's predatory and power-mongering lesbianism seems trite. Every sexual option presented to these ill-fated
adolescents--Numata's lasciviousness, Shirai's homosexuality, even Shindo's adolescent attraction to Misa--leads to death, destruction, and chaos. Given this, one might guess that the real evil is a cultural fear of sexuality. But whatever the cause of cataclysmic disruption, Order (predictably)
must be restored; that a teenage girl gets to do the job is about the only welcome change of pace in this otherwise politically status quo production. (Nudity, sexual situations, graphic violence.)
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: NR
- Review: Hell breaks loose at a Japanese high school when the students become intrigued with a ghastly string of Satanic murders. While director Shimako Sato's second feature--which was based on a Japanese comic book--is primarily a slasher film, she has also laced… (more)