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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

LAFF 2013: Lesson of Evil Review

For fans of Japanese cinema you can laugh in the faces of friends going to the San Fran Japan Film Festival or the New York Asian Film Festival because the people of LA got to see Takashi Miike's return to bloodshed and cult status with Lesson of Evil for the U.S. Premiere. Long time fans of modern Japanese cinema remember Takashi Miike's name synonymously with crazy wtf films out of Japan and Lesson of Evil is a return to form. Hideaki Ito plays the lovable Mr. Hasumi, a high school teacher who is also a psychopathic killer who loves being naked at times. By the end of the film, a quote from a Korn song would best describe what happens at the school he teaches, "Let the bodies hit the floor!" 


Class please put down your pencils and get ready to die painfully! There's no cheesy lines like that, but some black humor jokes that will have you rolling your eyes as you laugh.

We start with Hasumi's parent frightful of their son and the way he acts in conversation with Hasumi himself getting ever closer to them. He is about to enter their room when we transition into the present to see Mr. Hasumi part of a staff meeting. You can tell Hasumi is well respected even when he has the idea to use the High School radio club's tower to jam cell phones on an upcoming test. We see his teaching style in class and we get some nice Engrish with the uses of good, greater, excellent and finally, magnificent! He is a trusted and beloved teacher, but the school has it's problems and at this point he isn't one of them. A slow build up of problems such as teachers sleeping with students and bullying on forums made me believe Hasumi would be some sort of messed up avenging angel taking revenge to extremes. That was not the case, Hasumi is a black-hearted murderer who only acts out for himself. 

He's wickedness knows no bounds. After breaking up a relationship with the gym teacher and a female student he picks her up as his own lover. An art teacher is having a homosexual affair with another student which Hasumi uses for blackmail for the use of the art teacher's trendy pad and car on dates with his underage high school girlfriend.

The body build up is slow at first. When a rival teacher not as popular Hasumi digs to deep and a student tries to uncover what happens Hasumi's true self starts to break threw. A fast but brutal kill of the rival teacher and then a more tortuous affair with a student who is also on his trail start pumping blood into the heart of the movie in the third act.

After tying up a loose end, killing his underage girlfriend and making it look like a suicide, Mr. Hasumi is just having one of those days where his best laid plans don't work out. He's cold push of his former lover off the roof only begins the nights carnage. Seconds after he tosses her another students checks to see where her friend is, Mr. Hasumi not having a strategy for this breaks the poor girl's neck. Then  he devises a plan on the go where he tries to gun down everyone of his poor students and then blames it on the art teacher. The students we're all staying late pulling an all-niter for the school festival, a common tradition seen a million times throughout anime. Of course, they'd be doing a haunted house, but common to Japan a gateway to Hell is included in such festival highlights making a perfect colorful space for Takashi to direct widespread mayhem.

This brutal beauty third act has Takashi and Hasumi shine as well as the huge cast of students who are violently gunned down one by one in one of the most painful acts of violence in cinema on a background of  a Hell-scape in a high school. The sad looks from the students eyes as the teacher they all adored starts taking his time gunning them down adds so much more to the simple stalker scenario. A scene where his students were just waiting for him as they thought he was trying to get them to safety is heart-breaking. Others hide all over the transformed school, but Mr. Hasumi is a trained killer, hunting them down slowly around paper machete monsters and another classes model of a Moon Lander .The body count and blood shed are a masterpiece of hard to watch violence that takes it's time.

Dark humor jokes come out like bullets with moments of Japanese culture unrest like needing to get into a good college even in the face of death. A scene of love shot down by Mr. Hasumi will be a classic. The worst best joke might be when Mr. Hasumi stole the panties off his underage girlfriend before tossing her off the roof. Later, with his plans ruined he tosses them to the gym teacher who also had an affair with the same girl. The gym teacher sniffs them, then quizzically says her name before being blown away.

It ends with a clue you might have picked on earlier in the film, it becomes the evidence against Mr. Hasumi with two survivors he didn't plan on. Then we learn it's suppose to have a sequel even with Mr. Hasumi going off to jail and perhaps his son taking his place???

Don't mention the obvious about cell phones. Remember, Mr. Hasumi can shut them down through the radio tower in the school. One lone student does make it out to get help, but goes back to save the girl he likes and you can believe in your heart that it will work out fine.

Nice demon shotgun you got there pal! Takashi couldn't break away from oddity with cut scenes retracing how Hasumi learned to kill or what his inner demons look like. An outer demon takes form as disgusting living shotgun that Hasumi uses to blow away his students. The shotgun is sort of a reflection or reincarnation inside Hasumi's troubled mind of his murdering psycho friend in America that he eventually kills by burning alive after he teaches him everything he knows about murder. These moments are the darkest black humor you can get when moments like dropping a bucket of blood are shown almost like a sitcom scene. Then there's the glaring Harvard shirt Mr. Hasumi wears as a reminder that this happened when he was in America at Harvard. The real use of English made me chuckle every time it gave Hasumi a suggestion and added a "let's do it pal" tag line.  The flashbacks come back as an even bigger joke when Mr. Hasumi is told to leave America because it's okay to kill people if you're doing it for money, but not because your a psycho.

Anyone whose been a gamer for a while might feel at home with this premise of a living skin and giant eye on a talking shotgun, it reminds you of Soul Calibur right away. I doubt they'd add him as DLC, but Mr. Hasumi would fit into that game. 

On another level you have Mr. Hasumi also believing in Norse mythology and that two crows that watched over the world for Odin , Huginn and Muninn, are after him and always watching him. That doesn't stop him from being naked any time his at the home of his slain parents that is dilapidated and falling apart with huge holes in it. This side of Hasumi shows hot troubled and far gone he is. When Mr. Hasumi needs to relax he gets naked and works out or builds contraptions to electrify crows. Remember, get naked and work out or build contraptions to electrify birds when your feeling no so fresh.

Lesson of Evil brings back Takashi Miike from the family friendly Ninja Kids!!! and back to a being a brutal cult favorite king with buckets of blood and violence and a little bit of the crazy with a talking shot gun. Magnificent! It's better than good, great or excellent, it's simply magnificent!!! Watch it when it gets picked up by the three possible distributors in America not including Magnet or IFC.