DVD REVIEW Pet Shop Of Horrors
No, it doesn’t sell Pokémon…
1999 * 15 * 96 mins * £15.99 * 2 August
Director: Toshio Hirata
Cast: Toshihiko Seki, Masaya Onosaka
This supernatural anime mini-series recalls the vintage “portmanteau” horror films by British studio Amicus, such as Dr Terror’s House of Horrors. Like them, Pet Shop Of Horrors is a quartet of short stories linked by a fairy-tale framing device – in this case, a shadowy pet shop in the heart of Chinatown, which is very reminiscent of the one at the beginning of Gremlins, and just as dodgy.
Its caretaker is the androgynous, geisha-faced Count D – no relation to the anime vampire hunter of that name – who sells various strange creatures. For example, he gives two grieving parents a double of their late little girl, but claims that she’s actually a rabbit. Later stories involve a mermaid, a Medusa and a unicorn-like beast. Each creature is sold with a set of rules, and the gentle warning that if the buyers – who are troubled, deficient souls – break them, the shop accepts no responsibility for what happens…
Pet Shop Of Horrors is just over a decade old, but looks older. The character designs are dated, the animation is limited, and the script often bangs you over the head with its silliness. There’s a ludicrous hunky cop who mainly seems to be present to contribute to the gay suggestions that run through the stories. But this is no Torchwood – the guys never even reach first base!
The stories themselves are tolerably diverting, with a few truly weird moments, such as a bunny version of Alien’s chestburster scene (it’s not just one at a time any more…). It’s never remotely scary, though the pet shop, suffused with red light, has more presence than its owner, and the music adds to the off-kilter atmosphere, changing capriciously in mood and style. But for creepy, multi-stranded anime shows, you’d fare far better with Paranoia Agent or Boogiepop Phantom.
Extras: Clean credits.