Japanese director Hideo Nakata achieved some degree of international fame with his compellingly subliminal and immensely popular horror film, Ringu, but his subtle style had already been established with his debut film, Joyurei. Directing his first feature, Nakata clearly understands his milieu (it takes place on a film set) and is assured enough to let the tension build very slowly. There are times, in fact, when the movie seems to be going nowhere, and numerous disparaging references to the screenplay (in the film within the film) could be Nakata's self-deprecating way of acknowledging that the script for Joyurei has a distinctly unfinished feel. The same could certainly be said of Ringu, but that film has a more compelling, not to mention frightening, subject. Joyurei contains some effectively creepy scenes. The found footage at the center of the film's mystery, in which an actress reacts with horror to something offscreen, while an out-of-focus apparition laughs in the background, is all the more disturbing for its lack of sound. But it promises a more chilling film than Nakata has delivered. It all ends on an appropriately bizarre, horrific, and open-ended note, but most viewers will not find themselves compelled to figure out what it all means.
by Josh Ralske review