I can imagine director Miike lecturing a group of open-mouthed students: “Just because a film has a supernatural evil killing people in grisly (and gristly) ways, doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.” And this is, both grisly (and gristly) and fun.
The central theme of this film is the cell phone warnings of impending death, which comprise a message, from the doomed to themselves, containing their last words. Now I don’t know about you, but if I received a message from a future me which said “Oh no, it’s raining” then screamed in a blood-curdling fashion, I’d remember never to comment on the weather. Lips clamped shut under all drippy provocation would be me, but not so Miike’s first victim. Perhaps she was too busy thinking about new ring tones or something, but she utters the fateful line and is duly despatched.
Subsequent victims also forget this crucial principle of phone etiquette, to their short-lived regret. This provided an air in the cinema almost of pantomime: instead of shouting “Look behind you!” the audience groaned in unison each time someone unwittingly announces their own imminent death. There was a general ripple of relieved laughter at other times, too: the equivalent of the pantomime hero unwittingly elbowing the stalking monster off the stage.
There’s a nice stab at reality television, which is about as subtle as a train smash. I’m not a devotee of this bargain-basement genre, and I confess to more than one snigger as Miike took aim and blasted away with both barrels. The notion of a TV producer promoting a special as “The co-ed marked for death. Will she survive? Find out at…” is both incredible and far too believable. It’s a sad sad world.
So, who should see this? Well, anyone who likes suspense and isn’t put off by a bit of gore and dismemberment. And anyone who answers their phone in the middle of a lecture or a film, because I’m always hopeful of social change.