Movie Review: Death Note (2017)

(Ho-wdy, Ho-rror Ho-mies…Apologies for dropping the ball a bit around here for the last little bit. I had some personal matters to attend to, butt now I’m back in action and ready to make the spookening happen. ūüôā First up, a review of something near and dear to my cold, black heart…Death Note. This take on the new NetfliXXX adaptation presented by Mr. Anton Phibes…Thanks for the interesting input, Kinky Kolleague! ūüôā xoxo)

It’s a tired cliche to say that the pen is mightier than the sword, but that old chestnut is given new gravity in Adam Wingard’s Death Note, an American incarnation of the popular Japanese franchise. In the film, a few strokes of a pen etched within a most peculiar notebook are all it takes to kill anyone at anytime. Imbued with the abilities of a literal death god, the titular “Death Note” is the murder weapon to end all murder weapons: elegant, efficient, and damn-near impossible to trace. The notebook’s current owner uses its awesome power to purge the world of those he deems evil, resulting in an epic battle of wits between the wielder of the book and those who seek to stop him.

Since 2003, Death Note has been adapted many times over. Starting with the anime adaptation of the original manga, each interpretation retains the primary characters and certain scenes, but always tells its own version of the tale, with new twists and wrinkles. However, despite the many variations on the same story, it seems most adapters agree that the material is simply too much to tell one outing. The manga spawned 12 volumes, the anime series has 37 episodes, the Japanese live-action films gave its take in two films, and the live-action mini-series had 11 episodes. Regardless of the changes made, Death Note is still a massive story.
And that is where the problems begin. A story as sprawling as Death Note shouldn’t be confined to a little over 90 mins. ¬†The picture feels rushed and overloaded, losing much of the power previous tellings had. What’s worse is that precious screen time is spent on paltry teen drama that exists in no other version. Instead of building up the rivalry between the murderous Light and the detective L that’s so central to the franchise, it places emphasis on a boring girlfriend character who would not be out of place in a Disney Channel movie. Much of the suspense is replaced with teen angst, questions on the nature of justice are tossed out for bland romance, ¬†and the Light depicted here is more of an awkward teenager than a diabolical vigilante.¬†The entire affair has the unfortunate quality of feeling like a man in an iron maiden: cramped and bloodless.

Despite these considerable flaws, I actually did find quite a bit to love here. Adam Wingard’s direction is superbly stylishly, with extraordinary color usage, some fun death scenes, and some truly moody moments. Light’s character is significantly neutered compared to previous takes, but Nate Wolff does an admirable job as this version of the character. ¬†The other performances range from pretty good to downright excellent, with Lakeith Stanfield’s L and Willem Dafoe as the death god Ryuk emerging on top. Speaking of Ryuk, the effects used to bring him to life(?) are simply marvelous, giving him a Satanic grace and a perfectly demonic appearance.

Death Note¬†is likely to disappoint fans of the source material, but may be of interest to those who love teen horror. There are moments that evoke the black magic of the franchise, but it’s best taken as on its own. ¬†Wingard’s film is deeply flawed, but not without flashes of greatness. Perhaps if he makes that rumored sequel, Wingard will deliver a film that lives up to the both his own potential and that of the material. There’s still time to make us see the Light.

Splatterday Mourning Cartoons: Death Note – Rebirth

Ho-wdy, my Ho-micidal friends!

In Ho-nor of Netflix’s brand-new adaptation, our terror ‘toon this week is the very first episode of Death Note!

I’m glad you asked!¬†Death Note¬†is a manga series that revolves a supernatural notebook with the ability to kill anyone whose name is written within its pages. The infernal journal is discovered by Light, a bright young man with a warped sense of justice and a desire to rid the world of criminals. When Light begins to act upon that desire, his murderous campaign catches the attention of Interpol and “L”, a world-famous detective who is as brilliant as he is eccentric. With lives in the balance, L and Light engage in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse.
The manga was insanely popular, spawning four Japanese live-action movies, a live-action TV series, light novels, video games, a musical, and an anime series. Of corpse, the anime series many people’s introduction to the franchise, and it is a worthy introduction, indeed! ¬†It was thrilling, stylish, well-animated, and nail-bitingly suspenseful… until the second half, that is…


But when it was good, it was brilliant. And we hope the Netflix version of this maniacal mystery hits the right (Death) notes.

See the madness begin below:

Happy Splatterday, Kreeps!

Ghost in the Shell (2017)

(Submitted by Mr. Dr.¬†Anton Phibes…Thanks, ho-mie, bc I didn’t even wanna touch this one!! ūüėČ xoxo)

I think it’s only fair to state that I’ve been a fan of the Ghost in the Shell¬†franchise for a considerable portion of my existence. Mamoru Oshii‚Äôs 1995 film was a haunting, cerebral film that completely went over my head when I saw it around the age of 7. It fascinated me, but I couldn’t articulate why until I was a little older. The older me view¬†Oshii’s film as a poetic tale that deals with the nature of the human consciousness and the influence of technology, but my younger self saw a confusing sci-fi flick that delighted him nevertheless. Admittedly, that film was not the sort a 7-year-old should have watched, but it did stick with me for a long time after. The older I got, the more appreciated it. When it came to the US, I discovered Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, which maintained much of what I loved about the movie and quickly became one of my favorite anime shows. Masamune Shirow’s original manga didn’t find its way to me until later, but I enjoyed it as well. Over the years, I have collected wall scrolls, action figures, and posters for this franchise and I still love it dearly.

It is important to note this because I did go into 2017’s Ghost in the Shell as a fan of the source material, so I had certain expectations. Were those expectations met? ¬†I’m pleased to report that they were, for the most part. ¬† it does maintain much of the themes and questions of the franchise, although most of it is either simplified or handled with subtlety of a tank. I don’t think the 7-year-old me would have been quite as confused by this picture. However, he would’ve dug the heck out of the visuals and I’d agree with him. The world of this Ghost in the Shell takes the¬†austere atmosphere of the 1995 film and adds a layer of colorful holographic madness that creates a future both frightening and inviting at once. Some scenes are recreated from the first film, and they do not disappoint. If you are any sort of fan of the Oshii picture, I urge you to see the film right now to experience them. Heck, I urge anyone who’s into film aesthetics to seem the film right now!

The basic outline of the original plot is intact: a machine with the ghost (soul) and brain of a human hunts for a cyber-terrorist who can hack the minds of other man-machines. From there, the plot frankensteins bits and pieces of various incarnations of GitS, along with some additions of its own. Frankly, it’s satisfying to watch a film that is comfortably familiar, yet still has a few surprises of its own. Fans of any version of GitS will recognize something from their favorite installment. In fact, the villain is a weird hybrid of The Puppetmaster from the original film and ¬†Kuze from the TV series, bearing the name of the latter. Since there is much that is unique to this film, I won’t type another word of it. I’ll let the film unravel its mysteries for you.

Well, I suppose I should now address the elephant in the room… I think Scarlett Johansson was a rather excellent choice for The Major, and I don’t see the harm in casting her. Motoko Kusanagi (the protagonist in most versions of GitS) is a cyborg with very little of her humanity remaining. As originally conceived, Motoko’s body was a¬†mass production model, so she has the same appearance as many others like her. Very little is known about her past and who she once was in most GitS-related material. In an episode of the TV series,¬†Kusanagi confessed that she couldn’t remember what her real name was, suggesting that “Motoko Kusanagi” is only a pseudonym. Basically, Kusanagi isn’t even human in the traditional sense, so why should the race of the actress matter? ¬†I thought Ms. Johansson looked the part and did wonderful job in the film.¬†

2017’s Ghost in the Shell is a worthy addition to the franchise. Sure, it’s never quite as clever as its source, but there is a human brain in this machine. The film isn’t doing so hot at the box office, so if you have any interest in it, I recommend you see it now. If you put aside any thoughts of “whitewashing,” you’ll likely find a highly enjoyable film that honors a true classic of animation. For Humans and cyborgs alike, this is a groovy time at the cinema.