Sunday, January 20, 2013

DVD Review; X-GAME (2010)

X-GAME  (2010)
Label: Danger After Dark
Region Code: 1 NTSC
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 119 Min. 
Video: 16:9 Widescreen (2:35:1) 
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Director: Yôhei Fukuda
Cast:  Hirofumi Araki, Kazuyuki Aijima, Shôta Chiyo, Meguru Katô, Ayaka Kikuchi
Tagline: Ready or Not... It's Time to Play. 

Synopsis: In 'X-GAME,' Hideaki is kidnapped and when he awakens the next day, finds himself in a recreation of his old schoolroom, along with his recently reunited classmates. Trapped and held captive by mysterious hooded figures, each of them must now play a brutally violent, version of the punishment game...or face death. A twisty, horror/mystery 'mash-up' peppered with dark humor and inventive gore, director Yôhei Fukuda's ('Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad aka Chanbara Beauty') shows how revenge is a dish best served cold and not very sweet - Japanese style

If you've seen the Japanese film DEATH TUBE (2010) then director Yôhei Fukuda's X-GAMES (2010) will seem slightly familiar in design and concept, four people wake up in a classroom held against their will by masked figures armed with ass-whooping cattle prods. In the center of the room is a TV set and a small red box with the letter X emblazoned upon it. A spinning wheel of misfortune on the TV screen chooses one of the four whom are then required to draw a punishment from the "X" box. These bizarre penalties must be administered by the others under penalty of an even more severe punishment - branding with an "x" shaped branding iron seared into their flesh.

Most are a bit reluctant to dole out the punishments but quickly come realize that the consequences of not performing the penalties in the prescribed manner are far worse. There is one guy who seems to relish performing the sadistic and brutal penalties, the characters are not particularly well developed but you do get a feel for who they are just underneath the surface, it's enough to keep you interested in the dynamic amongst them .

As it turns out the four all attended the same grade school and were somehow linked in varying degrees to the bullying of a young girl, could it be that she's behind this bizarre brand of revenge? There's some decent gore and violence on display here, the penalties are based on the pranks and punishments perpetrated upon the young girl whom was bullied years earlier only more extreme. We get a version of sitting on tacks which is now a chair studded with ass-piercing nails, the pencil guillotine just might take a finger off and the clothespin torture has now upgraded to flesh-tearing meat hooks - it's pretty twisted and outrageous stuff. There's definitely some black comedy at work here, it's not laugh out loud funny but a sort of nervous laughter as we witness to the increasingly over-the-top penalties, it's hard not to think of SAW (2004) when watching it, but infused with a dose of twisted humor. 

The film is definitely messaging over and over again that bullying is a pretty terrible thing that leaves deep scars and that the monster you create through you actions might just come back and bite you on the ass in horrific ways, that is messaged throughout the film over and over again, perhaps a bit more than was needed. The major downside to the film is that it's a bit overlong at nearly two hours in length, my interest really started to wain a bit in the final third and the extended ending is a bit more convoluted than I think it needed to be. 

The film is peppered with some neat flashbacks to the bullying years earlier from different points of view that inform the proceedings and fill in some of the missing gaps, it's pretty cool and really changes the way we view some of the characters and alters our sympathies slightly. This is was an entertaining watch with some awesome murder set pieces, a nasty bit of dark comedy with some decent gore, shocking violence and tense moments, definitely worth a watch. 3 Outta 5