444-444-4444 is a segment from Gakko no Kaidan G, a set of horror shorts made for school childen. It is directed by Takashi Shimizu . Most of us would have seen his world famous films like the Grudge and Ju-on that created a category of its own called J-horror (japanese horror), and in this early work, in 3 minutes itself, we can see the template or the form he is trying to achieve. 3 minutes is tough to hold and scare someone but the young director in his really early work manages to hold you and even surprise you at the end.
One can see that in all his films, regular, innocent, everyday people confront a curse, formed from the rage inherent in an act of extreme cruelty and betrayal, and there is nothing they can do but die. There’s no answer. There is no solution. Evilness exists and cannot be solved or curbed. These kind of stories echoes with eastern philosophies, which believe in co-existence of good and evil. Unlike lots of western movies, the evilness can be cured (mostly by the church) and J-horror brings about a new thought and sees the world as it is with its hidden cob-webbed streets and unspoken secrets. Also interesting is depiction of the dead. While most of the european and american films sees dead as the people who have risen from the grave, restless zombies and decomposed bodies form the majority of the ghosts. They are powerful but not infallible. Japanese culture however sees dead as the living being with life sucked out of them and like in all the films right from Ring to Grudge - the dead are well formed but weak and pale, neglected but not decomposed, they are like a shadow, lurking, observing you quietly and their quietness and invincibility makes them gut-wrenching.
Its good to see a simple short, made clearly in a shoe-string budget but eventually leading to powerful films that stay in our collective consciousness for times to come.