19 February 2019 | lost-in-limbo
Hit the reset button
Ver. 2.0 is not a continuation of the story from AO ONI (2014), but another live-action interpretation of the same premise and characters (portrayed by different actors) inspired from a popular Japanese freeware role-playing horror video game of the same name. So does the level upgrade make BLUE DEMON VER. 2.0 a better film? I don't think so. The original was kind of average, but it had a bit more going for it plot-wise and atmosphere. The only real novelties here, is that it's just as bizarre and the film included the supposed fan favorite character/monster Blockman (pictured front and centre of the poster artwork) for one set-piece, and it was probably the best moment in the film.
The story this time around is rather sparse, and less knotty with little understanding on how this all came to be. Hiroshi and Anna are on their way to visit Shun, who has been absent from school the last couple days. However Hiroshi becomes distracted by a mysterious looking butterfly that leads both of them to the abandoned jail house on the outskirts of town. That's where they bump into Takuro, Mika and Takeshi, the trio who bully Shun and the possible reason why he's skipping school. The urban legend has it that the jail house is said to be haunted by a monster, The Blue Demon, and the three are there to test their courage and stream it live from their mobiles. Hiroshi enters the house with the three, while Anna heads to Shun's house, where the two discover the monster video game Shun is in the process of making (Ao Oni), might just be a terrible reality for those in the jailhouse.
Keeping a straight-face and raucous temperament; teens explore an abandoned establishment, overcoming minor puzzles to move through levels, finding keys to get out of this labyrinth, and while being terrorized by a gigantic mutated blueberry colored Pacman. Conceptual there's a bit there to work off, but the screenplay is muted and the visuals are flat like something out of an incomplete demo game. Having it occur during the daytime, in spite of the shabby sets, affects any sense of ambiance and how things could go bump in the dark. Sound FX is surprisingly effective though, with the monster's breathing, growling and munching. While its aim is to frighten, the images of the leering monster/s don't provoke fear, although it did like the freakish look (and those teeth!) of the CGI designs. Although it's no purple people eater.
Really there weren't enough thrills and spills, and the death scenes (one being the exception) happened off screen. Since this grinning demon likes to chomp down on heads, it's hard not be disappointed by the lack of gruel. When the monster/s weren't on the screen, and that's for most part, the character dramatics are dim. There it tries to consolidate its message of the true meaning of friendship, where the lead bully throughout the harrowing situation starts reflecting on his actions and so begins the self-discovery. Game and reality become one, and those characters Shun added to the game are literally pulled inside of it. This game was developed to release the anger he felt towards his bullies, as he would watch them die over and over again. But now that game is really killing, and not responding to him. So his decisions/and advice go a long way in helping those he despised to survive. Too bad it never really hits its strides leading to an underwhelming climax and I wasn't particularly a fan of the ending, even though it fits the mould of what transpired on screen, still it's a lazy payoff.
There's fun to be had if you enjoy watching a video game play-out without the controls, as it barely scrapes over the hour mark, yet feels double the length.