Posts Tagged ‘battle royale movie’



KOREA 2008  Directed by: Yoon Hong-Seung Written by: Kim Eun-Kyeong, Yoon Hong-Seung Produced by: Kim Kwang-Seop, Seong-Been  Cinematography by: Heo Seong-Ryong  Editing by: Yu Yeong-Ju  Music by: Kim Jun-Seong Cast: Nam Gyu-Ri, Kim Beom, Lee Beom-Su, Yun Jeong-Hee, Lee Chae-Won, Moon Woong-Ki, Kong Jeong-Hwan, Son Yeo-Eun, Eun Jung, Son Ho-Jun, Kwon Hyeon-Sang

If, I mean just if, you are interested to find out how BATTLE ROYALE looks like when transferred to a Korean School, then DEATH BELL might be your thing. I guess ripping off Japanese movies is some sort of late revenge.

A school in the middle of god-knows-where, students being killed one by one by some lunatic who is playing SAW with them, a mysterious past – ready is the Korean instant teen horror. There isn’t much more to the story really, so let’s move on.

DEATH BELL follows genre conventions in almost convulsive fashion: giving away some parts of its puzzle early on, the movie is scripted A-Z style. We learn about the school, its teachers and students, who the good guys and who the bad guys are, learn about relationships, then the killer strikes and the game begins. One down, twenty to go.

Along the way DEATH BELL presents some candidates who run for murderer, so you might want to take your pick and see if you’re right or not. The ending is predictable except for the “why?” question: the movie finally not only reveals who the killer is, but also his motifs. The conclusion is pretty far-fetched, so don’t pretend you saw that comin’: it’s not a bad ending, but it certainly is highly constructed.

While its script is standard, DEATH BELL is also anything but creative as far as the deaths are concerned. The least genre fans would expect are somewhat outstanding killings (that sounds terrible, doesn’t it); ever since FINAL DESTINATION we are spoiled, accepting only the most extraordinary hack-and-slash. Yoon Hong-Seung has forgotten about that (and it’s even more important to remember that if you have nothing else to offer).

DEATH BELL however is very content with being average and puts little effort into trying to excel. With its formal aspects being not much of an aspect the lackluster death scenes and random riddles the students have to solve have a hard time to keep us awake.

I managed though, but I don’t remember how. Don’t believe the hype: DEATH BELL is an average horror flick, catering to average expectations.


HIGANJIMA [PIANDO | 彼岸島 | 피안도]


JAPAN / KOREA 2009  Directed by: Kim Tae-Gyun Manga: Koji Matsumoto Written by: Tetsuya Oishi  Cinematography: Shinji Kugimiya  Editing: Hiroaki Morishita  Music: Hiroyuki Sawano Cast: Hideo Ishiguro, Dai Watanabe, Miori Takimoto, Asami Mizukawa, Koji Yamamoto, Fumito Moriwaki, Osamu Adachi, Tomohisa Yuge, Takahiro Tsutsumi

Akira’s brother Atsushi has vanished from the face of the earth about two years ago, leaving the family in despair. While the father has become a drunk gambling away Akira’s tuition fees Akira himself is trying his best to stay on a path of righteousness, not yet giving up hope that one day he will find his lost brother. One day though he meets a mysterious woman who appears to know a lot about him. She claims that she’s interested in him, and they end up in a love hotel, but nothing happens. Later he sees her again while walking around downtown with his friends, involved in what looks like a strange deal with even stranger men. Akira and his schoolmates decide to follow the woman, and soon they wish they hadn’t as they witness a vampire killing his victim right in the middle of modern-day Japan. When their cover is blown the vampire goes for Akira et al, luckily mystery girl comes to their rescue killing the bloodsucker at the end of a ferocious fight.

But it’s far from over: Akira learns that the woman is from an unknown island not shown in any map. One day a vampire started to kill everyone until all inhabitants were turned into vampires themselves. Running out of blood the vampires tried to lure more humans to the island, and mystery girl was one of their agents. Claiming she went rogue, the woman convinces Akira and the others to follow her to the island to fight the vampires. Her best argument: Atsushi is still alive, living on the island battling the vampire army all on his own. Akira and his friends decide to take a risk and travel to eerie Higanjima to find Atsushi and bring him back to his family.

Boy, had I been looking forward to HIGANJIMA. The kingkongesque scenario looked very exciting on paper, literally: Koji Matsumoto’s manga is playful but also dark and cynical, with his young heroes encountering samurai vampires on the godforsaken island, fighting for survival BATTLE ROYALE style and facing tremendous sacrifice in the wake of looming death. As so often the heroes are adolescent but they encounter a tough and rough fate that makes them grow up quickly. What is also important is the subtext of friendship, sacrifice, coming-of-age, consumerism and the value of humanity.

The main problem when adopting a manga for the big screen is that what looks good in black-and-white sketches doesn’t necessarily translate easily into color, real people and real locations. Also, dialogue that looks fine in written form may just sound less interesting when spoken by (semi-talented) actors. HIGANJIMA the movie obviously faces quite a lot of various issues.

The violent beginning promises a no-holds-barred, slice-and-dice-’em actionfest, and with the group of friends setting sail towards the island we get even more excited. So far, the story works, the characters work (most of all Akira and the girl), the action works, the mystery works (even if you’ve read the manga), so I thought I’m in for a hell of a ride.

What happens however is that gradually, or rather quickly, the movie turns into a teenage vampire flick with rapidly decreasing production value. As soon as the Uber-Vampire shows up it goes downhill, because the chief vampire is the chief problem: the character isn’t charismatic, or cool, or ever feels like a real threat (just like all the other vampires), instead he’s just a kid, a clown in a cheap costume (his look reminding me somewhat of Polanski’s THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS). The actor fails completely to create a villain that we can hate and fall in love with at the same time. Hardly ever was a movie further away from the truth that villains should be equally or even more charismatic than the good guys. You wonder why, without any further ado, they don’t just kick his sorry ass off the island.

Furthermore does the make-up department deliver one of the most horrible jobs in vampire film history: it’s really just white make-up they apply to all vampire-actors, which makes them look like, well, actors that act like vampires. It really feels like watching a Halloween party and not a feature film. On top of that the “blood” is too bright red (the little “real” blood they are using); I remember Tom Savini having serious issues with the color of the blood he used for DAWN OF THE DEAD. Kim should have learned from his insights. Last but not least the CGI effects that are almost exclusively used in all action sequences (despite HIGANJIMA being shot in a bloody forest where you could have spilled all the red juice you wanted) are repetitive and feel increasingly harmless.

Aesthetically and in terms of visualizing the action we’ve seen better elsewhere, but what can you expect from the DOP of MEAT BALL MACHINE and Kim whose only remarkable entry to his CV is VOLCANO HIGH? This is not saying that HIGANJIMA isn’t entertaining, but it lacks sophistication as well as determination. After the presswork hailing HIGANJIMA as manga-movie-milestone the actual product over-promises and under-delivers. Generously borrowing from Tsutsumi’s SAIREN, Kitamura’s VERSUS and BATTLE ROYALE it never matches its sources of inspiration, remaining a low-budget attempt to get away with a good story as main attraction.

Obviously this is not enough to make for an outstanding movie, but if average entertainment with a few above-average moments does the trick for you, just give it a try. It won’t hurt, as HIGANJIMA doesn’t bite.




USA 2010  Directed by: Nimrod Antal Written by: Alex Litvak, Michael Finch  Characters: Jim Thomas, John Thomas Produced by: Elizabeth Avellan, John Davis, Robert Rodriguez  Cinematography: Gyula Pados  Editing: Dan Zimmermann  Music: John Debney Cast: Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Walton Goggins, Oleg Taktarov, Laurence Fishburne, Danny Trejo, Louis Ozawa Changien, Carey Jones, Brian Steele, Derek Mears

Boom. Brody falls from the sky, smack dab in the middle of a tropical jungle. Gets up and realizes there are others like him: mercenaries, yakuza or criminals, all ending up on the – island (?) – with no recollection of what’s happened and how they got here. Very soon they’ll have other things on their minds: chased by abominable carnivores, walking from one lethal trap into another they begin to realize they are not here coincidentally, but are obviously part of some cryptic master plan. The only question is: who is the master and how do you beat him?

With Robert Rodriguez quasi-helming the project expectations were high that the PREDATOR franchise could be taken back to the roots of a man vs. alien all-out war, with some over-the-top set pieces and gross stuff a la PLANET TERROR as a bonus. In fact, PREDATORS literally is planet terror as it turns out. And Rodriguez initially doesn’t let us down.

First off, PREDATORS begins on a high note, with a great opening sequence and cool punch lines. Brody is exceptional; what Neeson did for TAKEN Brody does for PREDATORS. Impressive. The exploration of the jungle, the hints to what’s going on here and the first encounter with our old fiend friend keep us tied to the seat, eagerly waiting for the story to unfold.

But watching PREDATORS very quickly resembles watching the stock market on a bad day, opening on a high and closing on a low: PREDATORS lives up to fan expectations until lunch time, but then plunges and never recovers. What a shame.

With a strong cast (including Brody, Walton THE SHIELD Goggins, Alice Braga, Danny Trejo and Lawrence Fishburne), early action mayhem and enough mystery to keep us guessing PREDATORS is on course to genre movie greatness. Then however it becomes clear that Rodriguez first and foremost is a borrower, not a master blender.

Soon after the opening we feel LOST. I was willing to look the other way but it’s just too obvious. Yet, it works for a while. Then we walk into the tribal camps of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, marvel at futuristic planets just like the ARMY OF DARKNESS, finally we don’t know anymore if we’re on a planet or in a CUBE. When we meet John Locke in his cave – excuse me, Lawrence Fishburne / Noland –, it is too late to turn the ship around.

PREDATORS must have dropped its compass in the row, and the remaining forty minutes or so are as repetitive as the world’s most nonsense island saga. One after another gets killed, with the BATTLE ROYALE interspersed by the well-known thermal images: man vs. alien, man vs. man and beast vs. beast, they really throw in everything they’ve got.

Along the way the movie’s hard-boiled coolness and black humor keep flaring up, so PREDATORS is nevertheless watchable throughout. In fact, it is the best PREDATOR sequel to date (that includes the AVP spin-offs), but different from the original it lacks suspense and sophistication. I liked Antal’s KONTROLL that showed his ability to dramatize and change the pace anytime to steer the audience’s expectations, but it seems he lost control over PREDATORS and succumbed to Rodriguez’ tendency to outsmart everyone, including himself.

We are witnessing a tragic case of opportunities unseized. Too bad. Another one bites the dust. Two stars or the movie, one star for Brody.