JAPAN 2010 Directed by: Yohei Fukuda Written by: Mari Asato, Yoichi Minamikawa Novel: Yusuke Yamada Cast: Shochi Matsuda, Wataru Kaoru, Ishino Atsushi, Tsukamoto Sanae, Namikawa Hajime, Ashihara Kensuke, Hoshina Yohei, Motono Takuya, Shibuki Misa, Oomori Ryochi, Yoshida Masaki
A site broadcasting real people dying for real is a tempting, if expected premise for a 21st century horror flick. It’s only a matter of time until popular culture absorbs reality 2.0, so after Facebook also YouTube gets its fair share of screen time. A young guy stumbles upon the Death Tube website and soon we find ourselves following eight people in eight rooms, each of them facing challenging games. If they accomplish the task, they live, if they fail, they die. The question will not only be who’s the last man standing, but also who is behind the bizarre events unfolding in front of the world’s online audience.
Yohei Fukuda (ONE CHANBARA) is no David Fincher, so I didn’t expect DEATH TUBE to be a fundamental discourse on society, modernism, technology and the value of life. Neither should you: DEATH TUBE is a good idea that never really develops, but instead remains the canvas for Mr. Fukuda to paint some deep red “art”. Sensationalism determines the dramaturgy of the film, and instead of being a serious critique of the loss of values we see every day, you could say DEATH TUBE is an accomplice of bringing society down even further as it turns out to be the organizer of the exact same kind of deathly spectacle it pretends to criticize.
We don’t have to discuss questions e.g., if life imitates art or art imitates life and so forth. I am not implying DEATH TUBE is relevant enough to consider starting a serious debate, because it isn’t. DEATH TUBE is a relatively solid film of a genre director, playing games we have seen before in SAW and elsewhere, presenting a few creative atrocities, but mainly unfolding its program without real surprises.
There is no subtext, hidden meaning or intellectual message, there’s just characters in shitty situations kicking the bucket one by one. Compared to someone like Sono Shion Mr. Fukuda seems to be a simple mind without the caliber to cross genre boundaries. DEATH TUBE caters to the same audience that would be watching Death Tube, so what does that say about the movie?
If you belong to those who think the internet is responsible for all the bad things in the world then the movie will not convince you otherwise, engage in a dialogue with you or explain to you that life’s a bit more complex than. If you think that the internet is heaven on earth the movie’s not going to convince you otherwise either, as it leverages on the endless possibilities on the net. Whatever you think, the movie will actually leave you alone, and that’s why DEATH TUBE is just a horror flick and not a great movie.
If you want to learn about this day and age, about technology and society, about the human being in a world of bits and bytes and the global communication breakdown through an invention that is supposed to do the opposite, and if you also want to get very, very afraid, then just watch Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s KAIRO. There is no scarier, and better, film about the internet than that.
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