FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Aug 19, 2010


I know that at some point here on the Ol' FG I've mentioned a place I frequented once in a while in Brooklyn called Happy Taco. I should specify, I suppose, that it was a food joint and not a strip joint. Happy Taco's specialty, as you might then guess, was Mexican food. What you might not guess, however, is that it was run by Chinese immigrants. Mind you, I'm not saying that Chinese people should only make and distribute Chinese food...but you have to admit, it's kind of strange and unexpected. I mention this because the surprise I felt when I walked into Happy Taco for the first time and saw the workforce was the same surprise I felt at the end of Tales from the Dead (2008), when the credits revealed that the film was not made in Japan, as the Japanese actors and Japanese dialogue (subtitled in English) led me to believe. It turns out that the writer/director, Jason Cuadrado, is American (as is the entire crew, it seems), and the film was shot in and around Los Angeles. How you like them happy tacos?

It's an interesting approach to the material, and one can only assume that the goal was to capitalize on the J-horror craze...or maybe Cuadrado is simply a J-horror enthusiast. The result is pretty authentic; I mean, it'd have to be to make it past my mad expert detecting skillz. Okay, I don't have mad expert detecting skillz, but I'd like to have them, which surely counts for something. 

Bitch wife Shoko (Nikki Takei) (PS- aren't wives always bitches? I mean, really) leaves her husband home alone, saying only that she's "going out". Fate intervenes in her plans, however, giving her a big IN YOUR FACE, SHOKO via flat tire. She's soon picked up by Tamika (Leni Ito), an odd young woman who claims to be a medium. She hears the dead speak and regales Shoko with...wait for it...TALES FROM THE DEAD despite Shoko's protestations of "Please don't bore me with your tales from the dead". Such is the price one must pay, however, for accepting a ride from a stranger...mua ha ha...

Home Sweet Home

Tamika herself stars in this tale, offering up her mad communication skillz to a couple who have seen specters around the house. The sightings began shortly after the couple brought their son home from the hospital, where they found him, completely paralyzed, after he'd been missing for several months. Are the spirits and the son connected somehow? Don't worry- Tamika Explains It All, and it's an fairly cool little story, despite what the cheapo ghost makeup will lead you to expect.


Good cops gone bad, missing murder victims, and mysterious chalk outlines add up to a supernatural story that doesn't make much sense at all. It's not excruciating by any means, but it's undoubtedly the weakest story of the lot. 

"Hmm, maybe we left this story's logic outside..."

The Dirty Business of Time

Yoshi (Yutaka Takeuchi) is a self-loathing, self-perceived failure. Despite the love of his girlfriend and mother, he never feels that he's as successful as he wants to be. His recent firing drives him to the point of suicide, but he is saved by Ebisu (Mark Ofuji), a mysterious man who offers Yoshi all the success and wealth he desires in exchange for a small commodity: Yoshi's time. The dead, you see, offer up exorbitant amounts of money so that they can spend a few moments more with their loved ones. An hour here, an hour there traded for untold wealth? Seems like a pretty good deal- but if you've ever seen an episode of The Twilight Zone (or...umm...Tales from the Dead), you know that these deals are never actually "pretty good" in the end. "Dirty Business..." was quite a surprise- the best segment of the film and clever enough to be a tale told by Rod Serling. 

Shoko the Window (typo that stays)

Finally we get to the tale of Bitch Wife Shoko (you didn't think she was just randomly picked up by Tamika, did you?). It turns out that she's even more of a bitch than we thought! See, she's a member of a homicidal coffee klatch known as The Black Widows Club. Guess what they do? HINT: They don't spin webs (or if they do, the film does not address such). From there...well, you can probably figure out where that particular tale will go faster than you can say "I hate to say it, but Haley Joel Osment looks kind of weird as a grown-up. Well, not weird, necessarily, but more...he looks exactly like he did as a kid only his way bigger, sort of like a reverse Shrinky-Dink."

Tales from the Dead: hey, not bad, particularly if you're a fan of anthologies and/or J-horror. Sure, the low production values peek through quite often- video just looks so damn video-y- but it's an authentic-feeling facsimile of Asian ghost cinema. It's closer to the real thing than that Chinese Mexican food I used to eat ever was, so there.


originalslugboy said...

There were a couple restaurants in Toledo when I lived there that actually sold both Mexican and Chinese food- from the same menu!!

I always figured it was because a lot of Chinese immigrated to North America through Mexico.

Mikey Sarago said...

Americans making J-Horror, rather than REmaking J-Horror? That's definitely surprising. I really don't think we need any more Asian ghost movies, but I gotta give the dude a lot of credit for going after what he wanted and making such an unlikely film.

A friend of mine loves that Happy Taco place and tried getting me to eat there, but a Chinese-run Mexican restaurant sounds a bit weird to me. Is it actually good?

Missy Y. said...

Strangely, I, too, have this experience with Mexican food in my neighborhood in Upper Manhattan, but to add to the confusion, the Chinese food is made by Latin people.

Sehr verwirrend.

bird said...

i find strip clubs pretty creepy but i would have to go to happy taco once. i would also eat at happy taco as long as they have vegan dishes on the menu.

Anonymous said...

I would eat a taco in a strip joint if the girl was good-looking