Director: Sion Sono
Starring: Reina Triendl, Mariko Shinoda, Erina Mano, Yuki Sakurai, Aki Hiraoka, Ami Tomite
Plot: Mitsuko (Triendl) a shy school girl finds her life thrown into chaos when she survives the massacre of her classmates during a class field trip, which is only the start of the weird and strange journey she now finds herself on
Review: After delivering a one two punch with his previous releases “Why Don’t You Play In Hell” and “Tokyo Tribe” there was certainly a level of excitement in how director Sion Sono would follow it up, more so when both films were so different from each other let much pretty much anything out there highlighting once more his unique approach to film making which has unsurprisingly seen him drawing comparisons to Takashi Miike’s outlaw period.
Opening with the massacre of a group of school girls by an “Evil Dead” style ominious wind which somehow has the ability to tear coaches in half and randomly decapitate anyone who gets in its way, with Sono perhaps in some way trying to beat his own record for school girl he set with the memorable subway sequence in “Suicide Club”. From this opening though things only get progressively more weird and surreal as Mitsuko now starts find herself moving from one bloody set piece to the next which was certainly hinted at with the trailer and which is certainly delivered on here and more.
Considering what starts off a seemingly straightforward soon mutates into something much different I will warn now Spoilers ahead as Sono once here has crafted something not only unique but equally a pain in the ass to attempt to explain which I will obviously attempt now.
Not content just to make another schoolgirl massacre movie, with “Tag” he truly catches the audience off guard as Misuko finds herself on a surreal journey which she constantly finds herself suddenly being thrust into different situations which sees her one moment running away from a high school massacre being carried out by the heavily armed teachers to the next moment being married to a groom with a pigs head. Some how Sono manages to pull the same trick which David Lynch has hung the best part of his career on by managing to somehow hold our attention for this ride even if at time you really have no idea if Sono knows the direction is going with the film and perhaps just making it up as he goes.
Taking inspiration from Yusuke Yamada’s 2001 novel which sees people who share the same surname being hunted down and which was turned into an ambitious five movie series. Here though we are given a world populated seemingly only by women, with the only men being the aforementioned pig man hybrid which is certainly a departure from the source material while retaining the theme of characters having to continiously run to ensure their survival which really is what ties the various characters Misuko finds herself suddenly turned into while the worlds slowly begin to blend together as the film builds to a frustratingly disappointing final reveal.
For the most part its an entertaining and highly unique ride we are taken on here with Sono walking a line between often amusingly over the top grindhouse splatter and arthouse style plotting which here somehow works as we switch from scenes of feminist solidarity to scenes of a wedding massacre or mass schoolgirl slaughter and perhaps because of these constant switches the film certainly holds the audiences attention no doubt as much as its baffling them. Still this is not a film intended for the mainstream especially when Sono is clearly crafting a film made of moments which intrest him and perhaps with a more cynical eye could just been seen as three half baked projected stitched together by with visceral imagery and sheer randomness.
Certainly there is an attempt to build a workable multiverse theory to justify the changes in scene of the fact that the actress playing Miksuko changes with each new setting, a transition certainly made easier by Mariko Shinoda and Erina Mano being as capable leading ladies as Reina Triendl able to carry a sense of familiarity between the three personas while helped further by Yuki Sakurai constant guiding presence throughout the film. At the same time to have schoolgirls justify the deep thinking of how this world work is alittle hard to take as seriously as Sono hoped it would, but atleast he throws in a random Gator attack to hold our attention.
While this might not be his best film to date, there is certainly enough to keep things entertaining while its tight run time only helps it further. However if this is your first experience with Sono’s work you might want to check out the likes of “Tokyo Tribe” or “Love Exposure” to understand his appeal as a director but this is still a fun if completely random watch all the same even if the pay off is weak.