Yukihiko Tsutsumi's "Forbidden Siren is based on Sonys Forbidden Siren series for the Playstation2 and was released in Japan to coincide with the launch of its sequel, the eponymic Siren 2. The premise closely follows the very footsteps laid by the game without digressing a whole lot. Roughly resembling a disturbing bedtime story to keep rumbustious children in check, it spans a generation of sinister, shadowy events from 1976 to present day Japan. Set entirely in the desolate island-village of Yamajima, it hides a dark and evil history. The inhabitants of the island were terrorised and eradicated, except for a solitary man who was driven to madness, convinced that he has seen evil in its purest form.
Fast forward 30 years later and we see a whole new set of villagers taking up the reins. A writer, Shinichi (Reo Morimoto) hopes a change of surroundings will be beneficial to his family. So he optimistically packs up and relocates his grown daughter, Yuki (Yui Ichikawa), and his young and sickly son, Hideo (Jun Nishiyama) to Yamajima. Yuki, fiercely protective of her brother, does not welcome the change when she finds that her menacing neighbours do not seem pleased with the foreign invasion. Aside from the friendly Dr. Minamida (Naoki Tanaka), the new family does not interact much with the people on the island. The story truly kicks up when a neighbour warns Yuki to never leave her house alone at night, never go up to the tower on the hill and never under any circumstances, leave her house when she hears the siren.
Forbidden Siren, perhaps unsurprisingly, has the look and feel of a horror videogame. It depends largely on its ghastly atmospheric qualities, which excels in contrast to the rest of its production values. With its very dark and uninviting environment, it sets the stage to turn this remote island paradise right into hell on earth just as easily as day turning into night. It draws certain parallels with Silent Hill, another game-based film translation that had more or less the same team working on both the original Silent Hill game and the first Forbidden Siren game. It combines a fair bit of the recently revived and oft-used horror elements such as its large baroque sets, themes of estrangement and pianissimo hints of foreboding to the heart-pounding screeches of shock. Giving credit to the director, there are some smidgens of flair in its execution to bring across the claustrophobia and xenophobia that could have just as easily been charted with hackneyed chase scenarios that would have been par for the course.
Even with its perfunctory main performers, the films detracting aspect would be the ghouls. While understandably working within a budget and given the relative difficulty in interpreting them for the big screen from the animations of a game, they come across as harmless and terribly unthreatening. But they hold the key to the mystery of the island, which the film constantly clues us in on. Save for certain contrivances, the mystery works well within its internal logic that could have you hearing the wails of the siren even after leaving the cinema.