Takashi Miike’s “OVER YOUR DEAD BODY” (TIFF Movie Review)News Phil Brown
Takashi Miike is an interesting figure in the horror community. Though considered a master of the genre (hell, he had the only episode of MASTERS OF HORRORthat was banned from TV, which is essentially a badge of honor), he really hasn’t made many horror films. Sure, he’s often a gorehound’s wet dream and seems to deliver buckets of gag-inducing grew that make even the most hardened genre fan reach for the pause button and a bucket, but rarely does that ultra violence come in a package that one would honestly classify as outright horror.
Which makes Miike’s has return to the genre with OVER YOUR DEAD BODY something of an event and cause for celebration. His latest feature falls very much into the AUDITIONmold, though. It’s a deliberately paced headtrip that almost borders on tedious, until that’s all revealed to be misdirection for a classic Miike mind fuck that will leave you stumbling out of the theater weak in the knees and unable to look at raw meat for at least a few hours.
The heart of the movie is the classic Japanese play “Yotsuya Kaidan,” a 200-year-old ghost story and cultural touchstone, which centers on an unemployed samurai who murders his fiancé’s father. They wed and bear child, yet continue to live in poverty. Years later, the samurai is given a shot at employment, but only if he marries a nobleman’s granddaughter, which he reluctantly agrees to.
If you’ve any knowledge of Japanese folklore and ghost stories, you’ll know that arrangement won’t end well and its tragic finale will appeal to a confirmed sicko like Miike. I mention the play in such detail, because it all plays out in OVER YOUR DEAD BODYin an elaborate stage production that Miike stages with all the tricks he learned from his time directing theater (rotating sets, creepy lighting cues, stylized kabuki-influenced performance, etc.). Of course, it’s not a straight adaptation, because Miike doesn’t do such things. Around the edges of the play, Miike teases out his own story amongst the performers, one that mimics, echoes, and references “Yotsuya Kaidan” in a number of startling ways.
The director’s staples, like self-mutilation, limb-removal, and lingering close ups of such things, get plenty of screen time. Miike also takes great pleasure in toying with whether or not the audience is watching genuine supernatural shenanigans or merely psychotic breaks and hallucinations. The free-for-all finale is a real stomach turner, while the set up is meticulously crafted and artfully conceived. It’s a mixture of high and low art very reminiscent of his masterpiece AUDITIONin both structure and style.
At times, OVER YOUR DEAD BODY’s pacing can be punishing, yet the payoff is very much worth the wait. It’s something worth noting because this is not a film with the tones of ICHI: THE KILLER or the DEAD OR ALIVE series. It is however, still unfiltered Miike. It isn’t for everyone, but those who have missed that specifically disgusting/alienating cinematic pleasure, should feel free to get excited because he’s back in his horror hat at long last.