Final Take (Film Reviews) :: “Ao Oni”

Written By: Lauren

“Ao Oni” is a Japanese horror film based on a video game of the same name and was released in 2014. The movie revolves around a group of teenagers exploring a remote jailhouse rumored to be haunted by a demon. Here are my thoughts about the movie! This review contains spoilers, so proceed with caution.

Film: “Ao Oni”

Release Date: July 5, 2014

Director: Nibayashi Daisuke

Duration: 1 Hr 10 Mins

Despite mediocre acting from one of the two main characters and many unanswered questions, “Ao Oni” had relatively interesting animation, characters, and plot. 

The Final Take

Watching this movie was a one-of-a-kind experience for me, not because the movie was outstanding, but because I watched it completely without subtitles. (Woohoo! Still understood most of it.)

“Ao Oni” is adapted from a video game of the same name and centers around a group of friends who decide to investigate a haunted jailhouse. After a few cut scenes of a bloodied, terrified Anna and her brother, Naoki, dying in a car crash it transitions to Anna and Shun on the riverbank.

Shun and a group of friends (if they can be called that) meet up to visit the haunted jailhouse, and Anna secretly follows them there. Once in the jailhouse, the group splits up to explore. (What kind of logic is that?) They are then terrorized by the Ao Oni, who lives in the jailhouse, and are picked off one-by-one.

As the horror unfolds, Anna and Shun realize that the events are just like the one in the game he’s making. They use their knowledge of the game to locate keys and unlock puzzles, hoping to get out alive.

At the climax of the movie, Shun discovers the crate Takuro’s been pushing around is carrying his own dead body. Now we know they weren’t ignoring him because he’s the outcast, but because he wasn’t really there in the first place. (Poor guy!)

What are the good things about this movie?

I loved the characters (especially Mika and Takeshi’s), the animation of the creature, and the spectacular acting. The Ao Oni was an intriguing creature, with abnormal proportions, colors, and behaviors not typical in horror movies. Its voice and voice-mimicking was chilling, especially when imitating Mika. The prospect of the big-headed beast with razor-sharp teeth hunting me down genuinely scared me.

The directors did a good job making Shun appear like he wasn’t a ghost, even if he was throughout the movie. From the start, he was introduced as an outcast, so the fact none of the characters besides Anna spoke to him wasn’t questionable. After all, he was already the “odd one out,” so it wasn’t a surprise that he was ignored. We didn’t really question Shun’s presence until later into the movie, where Anna starts saying weird things and we begin to get suspicious.

As for the bad things, I probably have the same complaints as others who’ve watched the movie. Anna’s cringe-worthy acting, bad character choices, and flawed logic. The characters are poorly-introduced and the fact they’re all even hanging out together in the first place is unrealistic. Anna doesn’t have much of a role in the story, besides giving Shun lines.

Mika was an interesting character, but she was one of the first to be killed off by the monster. Hiroshi had a lot of potential (and isn’t he the main character in the game?), but he was reduced to a side character who also had little to no role except being extra ground for the Ao Oni to trample on.

As much as he annoyed me, Takuro was unique as well, his overconfident attitude setting up intriguing relationship dynamics with the other characters. His relationship wasn’t good with anybody except for Mika, so it didn’t make sense they were all even hanging out together. His intentions were confusing. We knew he was bad news from the start, but the entire movie, I was annoyed trying to figure out what he was doing down in the basement.

The use of the GoPro cameras to film some of the running scenes was bizarre. Although not exactly bad, the same, or even better flight frenzy effect, could have been achieved by a typical camera shot.

Also, what the heck was the point of everyone receiving unexplained phone calls at the start of the movie? That still doesn’t make sense to me. If they wanted to convey that they were trapped without signal, they could’ve done it another way, instead of leaving an unanswered question. (Even if it is something from the game, it’s not clarified in the movie.)

And what was with their reaction to their friends dying? They hardly reacted to seeing the mutilated bodies and guts of their friends on the ground, especially Anna and Hiroshi.

At the very end of the movie, as Anna is trapped in a room with the Ao Oni banging on the door from the other side, she reaches a sudden epiphany and runs up to the door and is covered in a white light. The scene cuts back to her and Shun on the riverbank, and the game on his laptop now says “Game Clear” instead of “Game Over” as it had in the beginning.

Cheesy, isn’t it? It was a little too cheesy for my tastes. Apparently, Anna had just been imagining the entire game in her mind and finally reached the good ending of the game.

Overall, “Ao Oni” was disappointing, but not outright horrid. The interesting characters (aside from Anna), the animation of the Ao Oni, and the Ao Oni itself saved the movie from becoming cringe-worthy.

Ren’s Rating: 6/10

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