WARNING: THIS BLOG CONTAINS BODYCOUNT. HIGH RISK OF SPOILERS. ENTER IF YOU DARE.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Mackie's back in Town!: Lesson of the Evil (2012)

Lesson of the Evil (Aku no kyôten) (Japan, 2012)
rating: ***1/2
starring: Takayuki Yamada, Hideaki Itô, Howard Harris

Ah, Takashi Miike. Yes, the man responsible for the psycho-thriller Audition, the violent Yakuza film Ichi The Killer (which I personally found overrated. sorry) and at least half a dozen surreal "mind fuck" films that I've yet to understand. (Visitor Q? What are you?) He's in and out within the horror business, making movies of varying genre such as the live action film adaptation of the popular Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright games and even lighthearted kiddie flicks such as The Great Yokai War, so it's a bit impressive seeing him go back through the slasher category with this much guts and mayhem.

Mr. Hasumi is a well respected teacher working in Shinko Academy; good-looking, well built, calm, sincere, he's loved by both students and most of his colleagues. But what they didn't know is that Hasumi is a terrible sociopath and he has a nasty habit of killing people wherever he goes, simply setting them all up as suicides or strange disappearance.

He had done this plenty of times from other schools and now he's preparing to do the same for his class. But when people began to get in too close to his secrets and an upcoming school day festival had his class preparing that night, Hasumi devised a plot to cover up his tracks and at the same time fulfill his sick fantasy of murder and mayhem.

With a running time of two hours and so, Lesson of The Evil  (Engrish) is a slow-burning thriller that kept its pace and tone fresh until the randomly brutal climax, meanwhile showcasing the life of a man who feels for nothing other than his need to kill. What I find disturbingly effective here is the double life our lead anti-hero has quite an interesting look into it, showing what could be hiding behind every perfect man's smile. At school, Hasumi is well-dressed and poised, full of energy and concern, but behind this façade he lives in an old runny shack with his only mode of transport is an old pick-up truck, which he also used to hide away the bodies of those he killed. He has a deep fascination with the song Mack the Knife (including its original Moritat version) and the Norse legend of Huginn and Muninn, two ravens he believe to be watching his every move. There were moments where we watch him trying to explore his own fascinations and needs, seeing if he would react or understand something as a normal person would, such as blackmailing people and starting illegal relationships with his students, but all of this seems to show him very little interest, which makes the character uneasy and effectively creepy.

And though it's not new to see psychos doing their best to be presentable in front of a huge crowd and then letting go of their inner animal to hunt down victims at night (oh, the countless slashers and thrillers modeled after Norman Bates!), Lesson's sheer focus on its star killer's life, provided with flashbacks, a bit of his own narration and even his dreams, pushed the bar to  an unpredictable angle as none of these details seems to match up to why he's acting, thinking and feeling this way. With the only suggestion that he does it because he "can" puts more shock value to the climatic rampage he had on the film's last running half hour or so.

Relentlessly, all I could say about said climax is that it's bound to scar some minds, especially those who're very sensitive regarding the topic of school shooting. Armed with a rifle and a box-full of shells, there was something rather distraught watching this man gun down every student he can find. He did this with no witty one-liners, no mad ramblings, all shown in unflinching close-up of heads and chests being shot open; it's depressing and maddening, and yet it's hard to turn away from it as you stare in disbelief with the untamed violence onscreen. There's actually a few killings prior too this but they were tame if not obscured. There wasn't any clear indication that the film will end up to this, so the random suggestion to just kill off these kids, add in the brutally bloody special effects here, made this the infamous highlight of the film.

Being a character driven story, I have to give Hideaki Itô a big hand for an outstanding performance as both a charming teacher and a heartless psychopath. Not much can be said for most of the remaining cast, although I do give them highlights since they act their part with most realism. (hence making the latter shootout so hard to watch) When it comes to the direction,Takashi Miike certainly shows that he still have some magic left when it comes to straight-forward horror, managing to shock, disturb and intrigue us. My only concern about this film is the running time, which lengthens the film to an extent that it tests our patience and stomach for unrelenting brutality and playing along with a two-faced villain. Not everyone's going to enjoy this as the violence had a tendency to be repetitive and shallow, with zero chances for these students to actually fight back. (though, I do see one or two opportunities for them to gang up and beat Hasumi down with his own gun, but that's one reason why this film is labeled as a "slasher" by some. me included) Anybody who is hoping for a deeper meaning to this movie may not find what they are looking for, as this is certainly as close as Japan can do for a big-budgeted slasher.

Lesson of the Evil is a slick, bloody, tremendously bodycount heavy campus slasher that definitely divides attention and taste. If brutal school violence is what you're looking for, then so long as you don't bitch out about it and just say to yourself whenever you're gonna faint it's just a movie, then trail out this mean mother and see what Miike has been up to lately. Those who're easily offended by blood, violence and lengthy horror flicks, then look elsewhere. Except India.

Bodycount:
1 male caught on house fire, burned to death
1 male and 1 female stabbed to death with hunting knife (flashback)
1 male hanged with bag handle
1 male stabbed on the neck with soldering iron
1 male set ablaze (flashback)
1 male seen shot on the mouth (flashback)
1 female neck broken
1 male shot with shotgun
1 male shot on the face with shotgun
1female shot with shotgun
1 male shot with shotgun
1 male shot with shotgun
1 male shot with shotgun
1 male shot with shotgun
1 male shot with shotgun
1 male shot with shotgun
1 male shot with shotgun
1 female shot with shotgun
1 female shot with shotgun
1 male shot with shotgun
1 male shot with shotgun
1 male shot with shotgun
1 female shot with shotgun
1 female shot with shotgun
1 victim shot with shotgun
1 female thrown off the floor
1 victim shot with shotgun
1 female shot with shotgun
1 female shot on the head with shotgun
1 female shot with shotgun
1 female shot with shotgun
1 male shot with shotgun
1 female shot with shotgun
1 male shot with shotgun
1 female shot with shotgun
1 female shot with shotgun
1 male shot with shotgun
1 female shot with shotgun
1 female shot with shotgun
1 male shot with shotgun
1 male shot with shotgun
1 male shot with shotgun
1 male shot with shotgun
1 female found dead with wrist cut
1 male shot with shotgun, knifed to the neck
1 male choked on hand towel, shot to the mouth with shotgun
total: 47

2 comments:

  1. "Ichi the Killer (Which I personally found overrated. Sorry)"

    Not something you hear everyday.

    Of course, I felt kinda the same way.

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    Replies
    1. I'm sorry, but I watched it like four times now and I still saw nothing special about it. All the promised gore is almost in CG. How the heck is CG grue mentally scarring?

      No, I rather stick with Audition, or at least Miike's Masters of Horror entry "Imprint".

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