After the group was disbanded seven years ago from a student going missing and another going insane, an all-girls Movie Club is reformed by Ai and Maki. Together, the two decide to take the new group up to an abandoned lodge in the mountains. Once they arrive, Ai and Maki revel that they want to attempt to remake the last movie the former Movie Club made before it was shut down. The two girls actually have a copy of that movie, one that was believed only to be an urban legend, and once they play it for everyone. The group realizes that there maybe some truth to the legend and a killer may still be out in the woods.
"Gurozuka" was relatively unheard of until Synapse announced its release and when it was finally made available it was brushed off as nothing but "another J-Horror movie" and swept it under the rug. But I've always been pleased with the quality of Synapse's releases and what they put out. Not to mention I've never been one to invest much into what others had to say about movies, so I was more than willing to give the movie a shot.
"Gurozuka" (a play on words, apparently) is about college students Ai and Maki taking their Movie Club group up to an abandoned lodge in the mountains under the pretense of making a romance movie. Once they arrive, Ai and Maki revel their true intentions; they plan on making a movie based on an urban legend of the last film that was made by the movie club before it was disbanded 7 years ago. Except it wasn't an urban legend as Ai and Maki have a copy of the tape and play it to the current movie club group. Unsure if the video does indeed show the murder of the former missing student, they continue on with their plans on making their own movie about "Gurozuka". Which proves to be a fatal mistake as students start disappearing.
If you think the plot sounds like an American slasher movie, it's because that's what "Gurozuka" is. To an extent. People often incite "Gurozuka" as being the bastard child of "Ringu" and "Scream" but I don't think that's exactly a fair comparison. Especially since at no point does "Gurozuka" attempt to be meta and it doesn't become bloated with self-importance by being a horror movie about horror movies. The lost movie that students watch in "Gurozuka" can definitely be viewed as an antagonist in the story the same way the video tape was in "Ringu" but that's about where the comparisons end.
Sadly though "Gurozuka" isn't as competent as "Ringu". It is a slasher movie plain and simple so it has a lot of those same pitfalls that a majority of slashers have. Lapse in logic, faulty time-line, unnecessary character actions/motivations, etc. It's particularly bad with this movie when it attempts to create red herrings of who the killer might be, if there is even one at all. It often results in random and basically pointless scenes of characters acting suspiciously for no real reason other than to create that confusion for the audience. Which is fine, as long as there is justification but there wasn't.
It's an element that can be looked over easily if you've watched a lot of slashers. For me, even though it's something that results in a check-minus for the movie's overall quality factor, it wasn't something I saw as a complete deal breaker. What was a deal breaker and what pulled me out of the movie was that the killer doesn't show up until the last 15 minutes or so. Something else I could have dealt with if I were willingly, but the movie fills that void left from the killer's absence with jump scares and teen girls being catty. At first, it is an element to systematically create confusion of whether there is something in the woods or not. Commendable, but then it just keeps going and going, and as a result, wears out any effectiveness and leaves you wanting nothing more than a resolution in order to be done with it.
"Gurozuka" isn't entirely a bad movie; there are somethings that the movie gets right. It has an amazing location, an above average atmosphere and it looks pretty slick. However, since the movie is a slasher it is far from a perfect film and has a number of faults like almost every other movie in the sub-genre. I'm still glad I watched the movie since it wasn't terrible and I didn't feel like I wasted my time -- it's just a very middle-of-the-road type of movie. Could have been better. Could have been worse.