Thursday, January 30, 2014

Film Review: Lesson of the Evil (2012)

Lesson of the Evil (Review)
Japan/2012 
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray (Hong Kong Version) (CN Entertainment Ltd.)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...works well as an all-out slasher/thriller and as a social commentary..."

Seiji Hasumi (Hideaki Itō) is a well respected, popular, and charismatic English teacher on the surface... with psychopathic tendencies and a lust for blood bottled deep down.

Lesson of the Evil follows Hasumi as his sociopath personality slowly surfaces. For example, Hasumi develops a relationship with a student who has been sexually harassed by another teacher; Hasumi also plants a bug in his classroom to spy on the students and staff; and, well, he kills without sympathy or empathy. As students and staff begin disappearing, some classmates begin to suspect foul play. This bizarre tale leads to an shocking, ultra-violent third act, and a thought-provoking, well-played ending.

First up, Lesson of the Evil is a horror/slasher with possible satirical elements. I emphasize possible because I don't really feel like the satirical elements, and they are there, were fleshed out enough. Sometime I couldn't tell if I should take a scene seriously or if I should laugh. It kind of felt like it was aiming for an American Psycho vibe, but it doesn't quite reach that level of satire and black humor. Regardless, there are a handful of darkly humorous moments -- more than enough for the length of the film, and well-constructed enough to have me laughing.  

Lesson of the Evil works well as an all-out slasher/thriller and as a social commentary -- everything becomes clear during the ending. Overall, I applaud the story for being daring and thought-provoking -- this is a film that most filmmakers would be afraid to make. The final act alone, especially in the U.S., would likely be attacked by mainstream media due to the content. Oh, and there are a couple of storytelling mechanics that don't work well, so you might get lost once or twice. Not detrimental to the experience, but you'll have to work a tiny bit more than an average popcorn flick to keep up.

Hideaki Itō is fantastic as the lead; he's as sinister and maniacal as he is charming and charismatic, much like Christian Bale in American Psycho. The rest of the cast is impressive, especially considering its comprised of mostly teenagers/young adults. Visually, the film is beautiful. The camerawork is engaging, and the cinematography, particularly during the final act, really shines with great sets and use of color. The soundtrack is perfect, it plays right on queue to create some unforgettable moments. The direction of Takashi Miike is fantastic -- it's creative, unique, daring, and stylish. Miike does what most filmmakers won't do with a slick, distinct style, and he does it in great volume. I watched the Hong Kong Blu-ray release, which works on Region A Blu-ray players; the English subtitles are great, there are a few grammatical errors, but they never hurt the film.

Overall, Lesson of the Evil is a fantastic slasher with a shocking third act and superb ending. There is some confusing storytelling and a couple of moments where the satire elements fail to deliver, but those are minuscule issues compared to the rest of the film.

Score: 9/10
Parents Guide: Excessive strong violence and blood, some sexuality and some nudity (usually in the dark and barely visible.)

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