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Director: Takashi Miike
Writer: Kikumi Yamagishi
Cast: Ko Shibasaki, Ebizô Ichikawa, Maiko, Hitomi Katayama
Length: 94 min
Label: Scream Factory
Release Date: January 5, 2015
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Audio: Japanese: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0; English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
- No Special Features
Takashi Miike is one of the most prolific filmmakers working today. Barreling close to 100 releases in his 55 years, Miike has found a way to work his vision into a wealth of diverse genres. While his 1999 cerebral horror Audition made Miike more of a household name for Westerners, titles since — like Ichi the Killer, Visitor Q, and The Happiness of the Katakuris — have made Miike a powerful figure in the cinema world at large. Those familiar with Miike’s work are generally quick to recognize the fact that his filmography is uneven, filled with many problematic films. His most recent film, Yakuza Apocalypse, is one such film: an ambitious and eccentric work that feels, at best, meandering and, at worse, inept. A year before Yakuza, Miike produced a far more reserved film, a movie closer in tone to Audition, entitled Over Your Dead Body. Over Your Dead Body did the festival rounds (including Toronto, AFI, and Fantastic Fest) but has had little exposure since. This month, however, the film received a Blu-ray release courtesy of Scream Factory, marking the first time the film has been widely available to be seen in the North America.
Over Your Dead Body is set exclusively during the pre-production of an upcoming play based on a legendary ghost story. A well-known stage actress (Kô Shibasaki, 47 Ronin and Battle Royale) has landed the lead and has made it so her boyfriend, Kousuke (Ebizô Ichikawa, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai), is able to secure another leading role despite his inexperience. Once into production, however, Kousuke begins an affair and the boundaries between reality and the play begin to dissolve.
Having recently had the opportunity to view Yakuza Apocalypse, it can be said, with confidence, that Over Your Dead Body is not only a more coherent and cohesive film, it is a vastly superior one. As a stripped down and more cohesive take on genre cinema, Over Your Dead Body does have a lot to appreciate about it, but it is not without it’s problems. With terse direction by Miike and gorgeously shot by cinematographer Nobuyasu Kita (a long-running collaborator of Miike’s), Over Your Dead Body elevates the less than novel conceit but still cannot overcome Miike’s detached direction.While technically a marvel, Kikumi Yamagishi’s (The Happiness of the Katakuris) script does not develop in a manner that is particularly engaging. The film lacks any real sense of character development and there is hardly much in terms of plot development. We enter the film almost amidst conflict, and the tension ramps up in an effective manner but the audience does not learn enough about the characters to invest in the their plight. We are left with a somewhat barren storyline, one that leaves a great deal to be desired. Too much of the film’s runtime is concerned with the story-within-the-story. You can argue that this intentionally is used as a mirror to the lives of the actors — and the argument is mostly sound but still ineffectively executed — but this juxtaposition fails based on how much more effort Miike pays to the play.
Over Your Dead Body works an effective ghost story/psychological horror on the merits of a fabulous atmosphere that Miike is able to conjure. Those who are taken with Audition brooding sense of tension will be sure to find a lot to love in this title, but while Audition offers an emotional story with complex characters, Over Your Dead Body seems to be only going through the motions. There are a lot of implications in the plot but nothing is fleshed out in a tactile way, and while I am not a viewer that needs everything spelled out, a little more characterization would have gone a long way. Interestingly, Miike seems to be approaching some type of comment on gender and gendered expectations (leading to one of the most gruesome scenes in the film) but the film fails to make a cohesive point — an attribute that plagues Yakuza Apocalypse to a far greater extent.
By the film’s conclusion, Miike does a lot to win back audiences. The dissolution between the boundaries of reality and fiction is stunningly depicted; it just takes too long to get to the point. Suffering from a tepid and detached tone, Over Your Dead Body is good film that could have easily been great. Perhaps if Miike focused on producing fewer films, he could spend more time crafting output that meet his talents.
It would appear as if the film was shot digitally (although I couldn’t verify this fact), and the result is about what you’d expect from a digital-to-digital transfer. Scream Factory’s 1080p transfer looks great but does tend to suffer a bit with the darker elements, however this is a problem that seems to plague most digital cinematography. Likewise, the Japanese 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mixes both offer a fine representation of the aural elements, with no signs of distortion. The disc does include an English sub, but it is quite poorly performed and really inhibits enjoyment of the film, so it does not come recommended.
Sadly, Scream Factory have decided to forgo the inclusion of any supplementary features.
Those who already find solace in Miike’s work will find a great deal to love about Over Your Dead Body. It’s undeniably an attractive looking picture with a palpable tension riddled throughout. Unfortunately, Miike seems almost disinterested in the work as a whole, leaving the film to suffer from laborious pacing, underdevelopment, and a cold tone. Far from a bad film, Over Your Dead Body is more a work that leaves your wanting more but fails to deliver. Despite the stunning High Definition presentation, Scream Factory have failed to deliver any special features making the package less of an attractive release for the company.