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  • Warning: Spoilers
    OVER YOUR DEAD BODY (2014, original title Kuime) is another film from the incredibly prolific Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike. This one's set at a theatre, where a troup of actors are busy rehearsing their latest production, a stage adaptation of a classic ghost story. Trouble arises when the actors begin to adopt the roles of their fictional counterparts and things come to a head when madness, adultery and murder plays out. As interesting as the plot is, this is very much a disappointing film, a real slow-burner where very little happens for the first hour and ten minutes. It's very low budget and has that horrid digital look that I despise, and the actors have very little to work with. Things pick up for the climax, where Miike brings in some of his traditional nastiness with a very unpleasant self abortion scene and some grisly ghostly hijinks right at the end, but for me it's too little, too late at that point.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Miyuki Goto (Ko Shibasaki) stars in a play on a revolving stage. Her lesser known co-star is her boyfriend (Ebizô Ichikawa). The play is about a samurai who murders his non-approving prospective father-in-law to marry his daughter. They have a child. He is unemployed and is offered work by a rich man on the condition he marries his 16 year old daughter. This has issues, but the rich man assures him things will work out honorably.

    As life imitates art, Miyuki has trouble separating her real life from the play. The first hour of the film is psychological drama, establishing the scene for the weird stuff in the final half hour or so, including an intense shower scene that made me cringe.

    There is a gold fish that appears in a tank always at the edge seemingly wanting to get out. I think it is symbolic of Miyuki's issue with life or else the director's little girl wanted her goldfish in the film.

    Guide: No swearing. Brief sex. Brief rape. No nudity or swearing. Blood and an unrealistic dismemberment scene. English subtitles
  • A star, Miyuki Goto (Ko Shibasaki) plays Oiwa, the protagonist in a new play based on the ghost story Yotsuya Kaidan. She pulls some strings to get her lover, Kosuke Hasegawa (Ebizo Ichikawa) cast in the play, even though he's a relatively unknown actor.

    Being a fan is a challenging business. For horror lovers, we like to say we are "John Carpenter fans" or "Wes Craven fans". And these are bold statements, because then you find yourself in a position where you have to defend the worst films these legends have made. Yes, although it is painful to say it, even Carpenter and Craven have made bad movies.

    This becomes even more complicated with Takaski Miike, the only modern Japanese master of horror. He is incredibly prolific, meaning few have seen everything he does, and he has something of a wider range, not always sticking close to the horror genre. Even those who would be considered fans may appreciate some films more than others: "Audition", "Visitor Q" and "Ichi the Killer" are three big ones, and have almost nothing in common.

    And now we have "Over Your Dead Body", the first film (to my knowledge) to be released by Scream Factory. What sort of Miike fan will this appeal to? We have a samurai story, some gore, and something of a story-within-a-story. Nothing as perverse as "Q", as violent as "Ichi", or as iconic as "Audition". And yet, this may be the most stylish Miike film yet, with possibly his best color palette to date. (I use "may be" and "possibly" simply because I have not seen every Miike film -- he has released a staggering 100 films in only a 25-year span!) Star Ko Shibasaki may be familiar to Japanese horror fans for her roles in "Battle Royale" and "One Missed Call". She has primarily worked in Japan, but did appear alongside Keanu Reeves in "47 Ronin". This film (Dead Body) is quite possibly her darkest yet, and although few Japanese actors become "horror icons", she ought to be considered one after this film. One scene clearly seems reminiscent of the controversial parts in Miike's "Imprint" (2006).

    What is most striking about "Dead Body" is the shift of themes and tones. In the first half, we have a conventional story of two lovers who cannot be married because the potential bride's father disapproves. This sort of story could have come from Ozu or one of the other Japanese masters. And then things get increasingly strange, until we are firmly in Miike territory. (Again, not as strange as "Visitor Q", but still highly unconventional.) For those who love a nice slow burn, this is a great film with some decent gore and striking imagery. The Scream Factory blu-ray is, unfortunately, lacking in special features. The disc does have both English and Japanese audio, however, so whether you prefer subtitles or voiceovers, you will be able to watch in your preferred format. (If you speak Japanese, this works out even better and you avoid both.)
  • Warning: Spoilers
    SPOILER: I've never watched Audition so this is the first time I've seen anything from this director. I don't usually watch foreign films because I feel that I lose so much of what is happening on the screen because I am trying to read subtitles.

    Here are the good points. The sets were really awesome. I loved the rehearsal shots. The stage was nicely decorated and was designed to rotate to different scenes which I thought was neat. The apartment had a very cold feel to it with shades of blue and white and I thought that helped in showing just how depressed the wife was. Loved the fish tank. The "horror" moments were disturbing so I can give it credit for that.

    Here's the bad parts (for me). It was slower than a slow burner to fit my taste of buildup. I didn't really understand some of the scenes. I didn't get why the tear rolled down the doll's face. My initial understanding of the genital mutilation scene was that she was trying to abort a baby but then I remembered that all the pregnancy tests had been negative. It confused me more when she said she had been trying to find the baby. I thought he had killed her but she showed back up. I didn't really get why the fetus was being eaten.

    Now the thing is that I really liked the movie. I am going to admit that my dislikes may be due to my reading subtitles and not being able to give the screen my full attention. I will probably end up watching it again and better understand things. Regardless I loved how the "horror" scenes were shot, the sets and the atmosphere. It is a movie I would suggest to someone looking for something creepy.
  • PedroPires904 April 2021
    Me and Miike have a strange relationship. I love some things he done before, even things most people don't think are great (Lesson of Evil is my fave and some people hate it!), but there are other movies that are almost indifferent to me.

    This is one of them. The last 30 minutes are great but the first and second act are just boring (not slow burner, just slow) and made the end predictable. Great visuals, good allegory and a good use of gore in the last act saved the movie.
  • EvanKevelson5 February 2021
    3/10
    Art?
    Warning: Spoilers
    I've seen "13 assassins", "Blade of the Immortal" and the painfully dragged out "Hara-Kiri" (didn't like it), "Graveyard of Honor" and the"Yakuza Apocalypse". I loved 2, liked 2, and disliked one, but in all of them I knew what was going on. I read other reviews and they're speculating... Reality I'll admit at the point where she is having or appearing to have a psychotic break, and he's driving home having his own psychotic break hallucinating he was decapitated.. I didn't know what the hell was happening and going on. I read one reviewer saying the lead actress in the play was promiscuous as well. At the onset discussing happiness she says she never gets involved with married men. I read another review mentioning a fetus...there's no confusion she's not pregnant, she's at first view experiencing major depression with psychotic episodes, as she lays covered in her own blood likely dying from a bleed out "I can't find our baby". Then Mr psychotic narcissist goes from getting her to a doctor, to strangling her, to a spotlessly clean apartment..At this point the movie fails to distinguish for the viewer what's real what's a hallucination. Added with things earlier that are psychotic, the understudy may have a crush on Mr Narcissist or envy of the star...did the doll which looks very much like the star...a symbolic occurrence or some spook factor. Then when Mr Narcissist is having fun time with the supporting actress, and it shifts back to the lead all alone depressed she's not pregnant and ramming her head into the mirror...Mr. Narcissist's supporting actress has a nightmare wakes up with a bleeding forehead. Or was that his first hallucination. After fun time and a pit stop "home" he goes to wash up and isn't phased by the cracked mirror. Hallucination or not your paramour on the side wakes up with a bleeding forehead, your main residence has a cracked mirror, you'd think that would warrant a discussion. Are they turning blind eyes, hallucinating, dreaming, or is there some scary supernatural phenomena. Answer I have no clue. Someone mentioned subtitles there wasn't a lot of dialogue to be distracted...the movie made no sense. I won't list renown Directors who are praised regardless of the occasional body of work that simply stinks....because 70% of their work is good. I saw six movies from Takashi Mike....this one was just convoluted and poorly executed. Or it makes an assumption that the audience can figure it out. I watch a movie for great dialogue, to be entertained, or invoke thought. This did none of the above. I gave it three stars because it kept me on the hook to finish it...as opposed to shutting it off immediately. So to all "The Artistic" types my message is "Stop Fronting".
  • Kousuke Hasegawa (Ebizo Ichikawa) is an actor, cast to portray Iemon Tamiya in the stage play, Makato Yotsuya Kaidan. Those familiar with the Japanese horror film Kaidan, will potentially notice similarities between that feature, and the play taking place in Over Your Dead Body. Though Hasegawa's attitude potentially undermines why he was selected, one cannot deny his talents, not to mention the similarities he shares with Iemon. Both individuals are men who are largely uncommunicative and emotionally impotent, possessing strong, lustful urges. Moreover, they are as greedy as they are ambitious, and yet, continuously find their appetite for happiness unfulfilled.

    Actress Miyuki Goto (Kou Shibasaki), is Hasegawa's lover on and off the stage, portraying the character Oiwa, Iemon's wife, during the production. The sterile environment she and Hasegawa reside in, not to mention the metaphorical representation of the pet fish, illustrate the lacking emotion during their relationship, which is purely physical. Though Hasegawa is unable to control his urges, and begins an affair with a younger actress involved in the production (Hitomi Katayama), while conveying interest in Goto's disabled assistant (Nakanishi Miho), who idolises the actress she works for, Goto herself, who is continuously the subject of married actor Jun Suzuki's (Ito Hideaki) advances, is a woman of fidelity.

    This striking contrast is also apparent in the film's representation of happiness, and the many avenues that lead towards its fulfillment, the behavior and dialogue between the characters indicating that the idea of happiness, and what happiness truly is, are two very different things. Furthermore, though the film contains sex scenes, these are very tame in contrast with the tonality of the feature, yet still sensually invigorate the film.

    The first half of the feature seems positively normal by director Takashi Miike's standards, the second half descending into madness. As similarities between the stage play and reality begin to overlap, certain characters become so obsessed with their roles, they begin to mimic them, as reality and fantasy supernaturally merge, resulting in a surprise ending. Perhaps because I am accustomed to the work of Mr. Miike, or potentially due to the sheer number of horror films I have seen, Over Your Dead Body, neither scared nor shocked me. That being said, there were more than a couple of scenes, where I was disturbed by the content, which was not only uniquely unpredictable, but grotesque to watch.

    Much of the film is set in darkness, from the set of the play, to the residents of the performers, and though there are scenes that occur under the light of day, these are especially minimal. The use of panning, often to circle characters or events, alongside long cuts, captivates our interest, and assists in holding us in suspense, while the musical score excellently contributes to the thematic elements and story-line. Furthermore, the obscene amount of blood during later scenes, amplifies the poignant characters and depressing atmosphere.

    The idea of reality and fiction intertwining is something that has been done before, and though the conclusion is indeed unpredictable, this too has been used previously. Over Your Dead Body is a film that doesn't necessarily offer viewers a lot of 'new' content, and despite the end culminating in a satisfactory finish, it feels incomplete, as though more could have been added. That being said, though this is not a typically scary film, Over Your Dead Body will sensually appease viewers in one scene, and make their skin crawl in the next, resulting in a feature that will make sure you never look at the theatre the same way again.
  • The Toronto International Film Festival guide describes Takashi Miike as a "madly prolific auteur." He indeed is prolific noting his record of 100 films over the years. Auteur refers to his vision given the director's unbridled, unflinching and unconventional terror - although he has gone afield as well. Madly might be an image he cultivates but is perhaps most apropos given his explicit films such as the two I have watched, Audition (Odishon) and 13 Assassins (Usannin No Shikaku). These DVDs' astounding stories and actors motivated me to attend the premiere of Over Your Dead Body or Kuime (although an exact translation is unlikely given the invented and made-up word, 'kuime' translates somewhat into 'the woman who devours flesh like an animal or in a bestial manner') in Japanese. The Canadian premiere screened subtitled at 6:00 PM at the Ryerson Theatre on September 11th as part of the festival's Vanguard films presentation. Read a few words about the premiere's attendees at the bottom of this review.

    A theatre troupe is rehearsing a folklore Japanese play of murder and vengeance from afterlife when life begins to imitate art and, more than that, life and art begin to merge. The play being rehearsed, Yotsuya Kaidan ('Ghost Story Of Yotsuya'), is a traditional story of Japan, one of that country's more prevalent ghost stories and not coincidentally was itself written in 1825 by Tsuruya Nanboku as a kabuki theatre play. It is not the first time the tale has been filmed or influenced a work of art. The tale even inspired the villainess of the Ring movie.

    Two questions are relevant when discussing a Miike film. One is specific and one is general.

    Was the film violent, shocking or eccentric? You see he is subversive and baits the mainstream as Negisa Oshima once did. The answer is an unreserved 'yes.' The film is perfectly haunting. It is scary, macabre and violent right from the start. It is difficult to imagine that anyone could match old Japanese supernatural films, like Kaidan or Ugetsu Monogatari, in terms of chills and scares. Takashi Miike is the master and manages to do so. One scene, in particular, defies you to keep watching.

    Was the film good? This question is perhaps especially relevant due to an existing benchmark given how the subject has already been filmed for the small and big screen in Japan. The answer is again 'yes.' The film is dark and tense, but simultaneously beautiful and stylish. The mixture of the modern and the traditional set, which matches the film itself, is dazzling and stylish. The chouchin lanterns, the kimono, the landscape, the entire set are frightening and attractive at the same time. The eerie music is chilling. The slow camera movement perfectly suits the ambiance. "You have already been in hell," exclaims the female lead and she might have been speaking to the viewers. Parenthetically fans of Japanese history and cinema will marvel at the appearance of a blind masseur reminiscent of Zatoichi. Moreover, the director has in recent past taken time to orchestrate at least two plays on stage in Japan with one being related to Zatoichi.

    Miike stages much of the film appropriately on a Kabuki stage as a device - which might take one back to Kinoshita's 1958 drama Ballad Of Narayama - and to remove any suspense, yes, the blood does eventually flow. The original tale of a supposedly honour-bound ronin perpetrating such foul deeds makes one wish there were in fact spirits which would come back and haunt such guilty individuals.

    As much as it is an opportunity to be screened at TIFF Over My Dead Body was overshadowed by the push given to Tokyo Tribe (also featuring actress Hitomi Katayama), which was given Midnight Madness categorization and extra promotion by the festival. Not having seen that film it would be impossible for me to render a verdict on TIFF's judgment, but Over Your Dead Body at the very least does not include hip hop thank goodness (see above... non-mainstream). Being in line to attend the premiere a man next to me was soon joined by two friends for whom he was waiting. When the first friend arrived he asked the person already in line what the name of the film was. His friend did not know, mumbled and pulled out their tickets to find out. The second friend soon joined and asked a similar question. He wanted to know what the film was, who was in it and moreover what it was about. None of them was really sure. However upon finding out the new guy asserted that: "It is Miiike, eh?" The kicker: the original guy who did not know the name of the film he was attending started talking about "Miiike" too and how great he is and how the director's film already has his vote for the People's Choice Award. It probably says something about the mindset of the festival's attendees. The three brothers-in-arms were near the head of the line too and, per later conversation, turned out to logically be fans of the oh so great mayor of Toronto as well. Enough said. Hi guys hope you enjoyed the film and the work of "Miiiike!"