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Body count: 5
Entertainment value: 3/5
Eek factor: 1/5
Ooh factor: 1/5 (0/5 if you don’t like Mitsuru’s hair)
Ouch factor: 1/5
Film Elements
  • ghosties
  • hwangjasil
I went into this movie with high hopes. Those hopes came crashing down in the first five minutes of the movie, then slowly went back up again as the story moved on. It’s not as good as I thought it would be, but it has some appeal in its own way. Pray strikes me as very iffy as to whether you’ll like it or hate it. (I don’t think anyone is likely to fall totally in love with it.)

Maki and Mitsuru are hard up for drug money. They have a brilliant plan to get it, though. They kidnapped a little girl from the playground, and they’re holding her hostage in an abandoned school. Mitsuru’s old school, in fact. He’s advertised the place to his buddies as a great hang-out. (All of this in the first five minutes of the film or so, which had me wondering how the rest of the time would be filled.)
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Maki makes the ransom phone call, and is informed that the people’s daughter died a year ago, to the day. Maki freaks; Mitsuru keeps his cool. Though it’s strange that the drugs they administered didn’t keep the little girl knocked out for long, he’s certain that she’s alive, and he’ll prove it if he can just find her in the building somewhere.
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As Maki and Mitsuru start hunting, weird things start happening. Shadows move in the background. Water in the toilet moves even though there’s no one there to flush. A low, eerie voice comes over the intercom—oh, wait, that’s just Yasuda and their other two friends, who have turned up to investigate Mitsuru’s “great hang-out”. Well, the rotting corpse in the bathroom is kind of creepy, but no big deal, Shima and Yasuda know all about that one too.
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Aspersions are cast as to whether or not their hostage really is alive or dead. Whoever she is, the little girl reminds Mitsuru of something. He keeps having second-long flashbacks to his childhood and the school. There’s only one thing to do about it—grit his teeth, find the girl, and kill her if it turns out she’s not already dead, provided that I-hate-kids-especially-ones-her-age-Mitsuru can get up the nerve to do it.
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In the meantime, a middle-aged couple visit a psychic to find out the fate of their daughter, who has been missing a year. The husband is sure she’s alive. The wife thinks she’s dead. The psychic agrees with the wife. This seems like an obvious expository lump, until we get a look at the photograph of the couple’s daughter, who is much older than the kidnapped girl.
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One by one the hooligans start dropping, dead from a left hand hacked off at the wrist. They turn on each other as it’s revealed that they’ve been double-crossing each other from the get-go. While they start shouting at and threatening each other, there’s still at least one dead person on the loose, and she wants…a piano?
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The ending is totally cliché without being too entirely predictable, and totally sappy while still sort of sweet. The resolution drags on too long. It’s not really a good ending, but if you’re in a sentimental mood it’ll give you a few warm fuzzies.

The title, I'm pretty sure, is a play on words. The katakana could be Romanized as either “pray” or “prey”. The fact that it says “the pray” under the katakana suggests a pun to me. (Since “pray” is a verb, you don’t ever put “the” in front of it.)

Tamayama Tetsuji (you may recognize him as Takumi in NANA) has got the slouchy, sulky ruffian thing down pat. All of the characters are overacted, but it’s amusing on Mitsuru and it kept me entertained during the slow parts of the film. I know I was in kind of an over reactive mood when I watched Pray, but I thought it was hilarious to see Mitsuru, after all his show of being tough, go scooting down the slide. And knock on the door of the haunted toilet stall, to make sure he’s not interrupting anybody.
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And the hair. I could screencap that hair all day. Honestly, it's the most interesting thing in the movie. Have another one.
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Overall, though, the characters are pretty flat. Nobody really has a personality; just a character type. The ghost’s reason for wanting to kill people is weak to nonexistent. There are only a few creepy visual moments, and they’re just not scary. The foreshadowing is overly obvious in retrospect; I missed the significance the first time around because I was laughing at Mitsuru overreacting to everything. This thing had to have been pretty low-budget—blood spurting from a severed arm doesn’t make a neat circle between the arm and the hand.

I had a great deal of fun making fun of this movieuntil the plot started heating up. If you’re in the mood for some sap, or a guy with nice hair, rent Pray—don’t buy it; it has little rewatch value.