J-horror can do better than “Ghost Train,” a poorly written, ponderously directed exercise that dutifully reprises motifs from “Ringu,” “Pulse,” “Ju-on: The Grudge” and other contempo Nippon supernaturals. Though successful at home, and helmed/co-penned by Takeshi Furusawa (former assistant to genre specialist Kiyoshi Kurosawa), pic is a labored exercise unlikely to excite much offshore remake or theatrical interest, though it does have a Stateside DVD distrib.
Upstanding teen Nana (stilted Erika Sawajiri) has enough worries already, caring for younger sib Noriko while their single mom is hospitalized. But when Noriko goes missing in a subway tunnel — like an elementary-school classmate — Nana must investigate a mystery of multiple disappearances, with the help of a youthful train conductor and another “disappeared” child’s mother. Initially, the pic offers enough atmosphere and “gotcha!” moments to pass muster. But sloppy script, indifferent thesp handling, repetitive content and pacing longueurs sap energy well before the illogical climax; a maudlin friendship between Nana and a not-so-bad-girl classmate doesn’t help. Shot in 35mm, pic was screened DigiBeta at the San Francisco Intl. Film Festival, making the tech package hard to judge.