Not only is it time to kick off Horror Month 2009, but this is also the second film in my fourth match-up in the first round of the 90s Far East Bracket!
Screenplay By: Daisuke Tengan
Directed By: Takashi Miike
I figured it would be a good idea to kick off horror month here at the blog with a horror film that I have often heard about but have never seen myself. When I was given the chance to watch Ôdishon for the Filmspotting 90s Far East Bracket I jumped at the opportunity. Nothing, not a single word, that I heard over the years could have prepared me for Ôdishon. I don’t mean that in the way you think I mean, at least I don’t think that I mean that in the way that you think I, oh, never mind! What I’m getting at is that I expected another Hostel, another brainless torture porn film masquerading as a horror film, but Ôdishon is the exact opposite.
There are many different types of horror films, but more often than not the best horror films share a single essential element, suspense. Ôdishon is dripping with suspense, it literally spends the first hour and a half building and building an atmosphere of suspense. Takashi Miike understands that what he will show us in the final fifteen minutes can’t exist on its own. Those final horrific acts have to have some sort of meaning and thanks to the brilliant job Miike does in creating atmosphere for the finale those final minutes do have meaning.
At a certain point the viewer should realize that something is up, but Miike refuses to cave, he won’t just give you the horrific acts. He stays with his delicate and interesting tale, keeping up the hope in the viewer that maybe Asami is normal, or that hope beyond hope things will turn out they way we want in this romantic film. By playing with our expectations and occasionally referencing back to the horror elements of the film Miike creates a sort of suspense so intense that it burns within you. With each passing second your dread builds, then it is assuaged, only to build again.
The human psyche is much like Ôdishon, delicate and not quite what it seems at any given moment. Delicate is an interesting word, that’s three times I’ve used it so far. I didn’t expect to think of Ôdishon as a delicate movie, but it most certainly is. It is framed in a slight manner, the musical cues are almost non-existent, as if the usual horror bombast will break the picture in half. Every character is delicate in their own way, while the film revels in the delicate nature of the human mind by toying with the viewer from start to finish.
All of the above truly separates Ôdishon from any sort of torture porn label. There is something else that you see in Ôdishon that you will never see in an Eli Roth picture, restraint and directorial flashes. The characters are often seen far from view, or with barriers in between them and people outside of the scope of the narrative. Miike is placing them in an area where only they exist, yet their distance from the camera calls to their lack of knowledge of what is to come. The look that Miike goes for is monochromatic and staid, it is a very normal and plain looking film. Even at the very end when Asami is torturing Shigeharu this look isn’t broken from, the film remains entrenched in its normal delivery.
I have yet to get into the themes of Ôdishon, and if ever there was a film that speaks to the interpretive nature of the medium it is Ôdishon. I don’t know if this is the popular view, but I read Ôdishon as being about female revenge. Yes, Shigeharu is a pleasant character, but think about what he does for a second. He parades young women around on a fake audition merely for the chance to check them out and judge if they are girlfriend material. The women are powerless in that situation, while in its later stages the film flips the tables. The male protagonist ends up powerless, at the hands of wronged woman. That is just one of many interpretations that can be found in Ôdishon, the trippy dream sequences that exist in the finale could be a review of their own they are so full of interpretive material.
Many people have claimed Ôdishon to be similar to the ideas behind Fatal Attraction, but I don’t agree. My interpretation is that of female revenge, and while surely Asami is batshit insane, thematically her actions travel well beyond any sort of psychosis. Fatal Attraction was all about a woman being off her rocker and causing harm to those around her. Ôdishon is about a woman off her rocker who has a very specific cause in mind. It may not be pretty to watch and you may not agree with my interpretation, but I strongly feel that gender power is at the heart of Ôdishon.
The truth is that I could say plenty more about Ôdishon, not only because it is a great movie but because it is a movie that appears to need defending. If you want torture porn then go find another movie, I’m sure Eli Roth can help you out with that. However, if you are looking for a smart and suspenseful film that will wow you with its technique and skill then Ôdishon is worth a look. I’m not denying that it is gory near the end, but the gore is limited and the gore is built to through suspense. I guess what I’d most like for you to do is to watch Ôdishon with an open mind. If you are willing to do that then you will get to add another film to your pantheon of great movies.