Monday, November 23, 2009

Battle Royale Review

Battle Royale Poster

I’ve been hearing about this movie since I was working in Los Angeles, as a casket store salesman. I never really got around to watching it, mainly because I had put it aside for some time now. However, with being unemployed, bored and tired, I was able to garner a copy of this film and finally saw what the hype was all about. This 2000 Japanese film is an interesting take on a lot of different intellectual factors, but to really consider those things, would be a disservice to the horror fans that seem to like to read this blog…all two of them.

Battle Royale
starts with a simple premise, and an interesting visual. A young girl survives some sort of horrific game, she smiles, and the news reporter and fans seem to be going nuts. This is where we start our journey, and boy is it a journey.

The prologue to the film starts:

"At the dawn of the millennium, the nation collapsed. At fifteen percent unemployment, ten million were out of work. 800,000 students boycotted school. The adults lost confidence, and fearing the youth, eventually passed the Millennium Educational Reform Act—AKA: The BR Act..."

With this in mind, a group of students are taken and put into a room, they begin the game. The rules? They must kill each other until 1 is left! They are put on an island and good luck and good night!

If you’ve seen the movie “The Condemned” then you have the right sort of idea in regards to this film.

This is quite the film, it’s not direct to dvd quality, it’s “film” quality. This thing packs one hell of a punch, it features the most gore I’ve seen in a movie in some time. When I say gore for a Japanese film, I usually mean “Tokyo Gore Police” stylized gore, but not this time. There’s some legitimate use of gore. For instance, in the beginning of the film, a kid’s necklace (which everyone is wearing) explodes and a shower of blood comes out, but not to the extent of cartoon violence.

After the initial rules, the kids start to ask questions, and the game seriously begins.

Battle Royale was originally a Novel by Koushun Takami
. The novel wasn’t critically well received, and later on became a best seller, and of course a film adaptation, which we are reviewing here. It was later turned into a bestselling manga comic, and translated into several different languages. You can find it if you look hard enough, and it's essentially similar to this movie, only more graphic...if that's at all possible.

This film, despite not being dubbed, is a great piece of exploitation film. It breaks several taboos, the main one being killing children. Children are not usually seen explicitly being killed on film, but in this film we not only get the complete horror of the situation, we also get explicit killing sequences involving adolescents which is not something normal in horror at all.

Is Battle Royale a scary film? : No.

Battle Royale is a good example of modern day exploitation film. I found the film to be quite good, but I don’t think that it’s a scary film. The story takes place on an alternative plane of existence, so right from the start we get a science fiction edge to it. However, being an adult and not living in Japan, and not knowing the school system, I found it hard to visualize this sort of deadly game.

However, using our imaginations, we can place ourselves in the shoes of the characters and then formulate the horrors that could be possible. For the most part, I didn’t really think this movie was too scary on its own.

This film does a great job showing desperation, and the will to live. It makes you ask some serious questions if you dwell on the scenario.

Battle Royale might frighten those with a weak stomach. However, you must realize that the true horror exhibited here is the human heart. It has been said that the Human Heart is the most wicked and deceitful thing, well, here is a showcase of the heart. A heart condition where you must kill to survive, and the question that this film left me and others with is definitely a simple one with a complicated answer.

Would you kill to survive?

I don’t know. Battle Royale is a good Japanese exploitation film that relies heavily on frenetic, stylized fight sequences, without romanticizing the style (ala kung fu film), and packs a serious punch. Whether you read the political undertones or not, this is a good overall example of exploitation, imagination, and horror all rolled into one package.

An American version was being worked on, but has been halted since some idiots decided to profess their love for this film and kill a bunch of innocent people. Will it be remade one day? Maybe. Until then, you’ve got an English Subtitled version to placate your bloodlust. Battle Royale is an easy target for being one of my favorite Japanese horror/exploitation films of the modern era.

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A writer first, cat lover second, and some other stuff too. Human, with lots of faults, and terrible communication.
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