Saturday, January 23, 2016

OVER YOUR DEAD BODY (2014) (Blu-ray Review)

Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 94 Minutes
Audio: Japanese DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1, Stereo 2.0, English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Takashi Miike
Cast: Ebizô Ichikawa, Kô Shibasaki, Maiko, Miho Nakanishi, Toshie Negishi, Hideaki Itô, Hiroshi Katsuno, Ikkô Furuya

I will say at the top of this review I am an admittedly casual Takashi Miike movie fan. I have seen a dozen or so of his better known and widely distributed movies, from about 1999 forward. Like many I first became aware of Miike through the notorious movie Audition (1990). I specifically became aware of it and the director through Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments which aired in 2004. It was one of only a handful of the movies featured on the list that I hadn't seen at that point. As any respecting horror fan would I made it a point to seek it out, I found it hard to digest, a slow-burn for sure, but with these weird disturbing moments peppered throughout which hinted at something awful just ahead... and then that payoff ...whoa. 

Afterward I set out to watch more from Miike, I had just started my Netflx physical DVD subscription and they had a decent array of his movies. I saw the more notorious Yakua movies (Ichi the Killer, Deadly Outlaw: Rekka) and a few samurai films (13 Assassins, Hara-Kiri), then onto his Three... Extremes anthology entry and I caught up with his notable episode of from Showtime's Masters of Horror once it hit DVD. All in all  I have seen about a dozen of his films, which is only a tenth of a percent of his over 100 movies! Miike is like Jess Franco during his most prolific period in the seventies and eighties on anabolic steroids, keeping up with his filmography nearly qualifies as a life style choice, it's massive. So, here I am with one of his more recent entries, the Miike journey continues. 

The happenings of this movie revolve around a trio of young actors entwined in a tragic love triangle. Actress Miyuki Goto (Ko Shibasaki), her husband actor Kosuke Hasegawa (Ebizo Ichikawa), and his mistress actress Rio Asahina (Miho Nakanishi). They form a love triangle in the stage play Yotsuya Kaidan within the movie, and off stage in their own private lives the same dynamic holds true, with certain events in the stage play weirdly mirroring what's happening off stage. 

Kosuke carries on an affair with his co-star Rio while his starlet wife Miyuki stays at home with dreams of having Kosuke's child, a thought that weighs heavily on her mind, as does the affair which she seems well aware of. Her sleepless nights at home alone are preoccupied with cooking large amounts of pasta and repeatedly using a home pregnancy test to determine if she's with child, the strain of the relationship and want of a child are clearly driving her away from the safety of sanity, her adulterous husband does little to improve her state of mind, his action may come back to haunt him, much as they do his character in the play. 

The trio are rehearsing for the stage play of Yotsuya Kaidan which concerns a scorned wife who becomes and vengeful ghost spirit, the fun of the movie is that the lines between the play and reality seem to be bleeding into each other as the movie advances, which at times made it hard for me to discern what was real, imagined or maybe even supernatural, which is by design, Miike is in full control as a director and storyteller with Over Your Dead Body, it might not have much weight for the straight horror fans looking for blood and carnage, though there are ample amounts of both, but as a taut psychological thriller that blurs the lines of reality this is an engaging slow-burn with a streak of black humor which I loved. 

The movie is gorgeous and the sets of the play are amazing, at times I wished I could just see the play performed in it's entirety as staged by Miike. Each set has a vibrant and colorful design, both elaborate and surreal. I loved the meta turn of this one, very well crafted. Takashi Mikke can pretty much take on any genre and make it his own, a master craftsmen of cinema, and with Over Your Dead Body he's made a surreal ghost story and a tense psychological love-triangle thriller, it might appeal to every horror fan, but any dark cinema fan should be able to appreciate it, particularly if you enjoyed Audition, which treads similar themes.

Audio/Video: Takashi Miike's Over Your Dead Body arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory with a sharp and attractive 1080p HD presentations, colors are robust, the image is clear and sharp, the wonderful cinematography and staged set designs looks wonderful with some great textures and fine detail ...not to mention the bloody gore that punctuates the movie looks exquisite, with a fine decapitation!.

For the sake of this review I watched the movie with the original Japanese DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 with English subtitles, the presentation is nice and nuanced, I wouldn't say the surround was overpowering but I will note that my pooch kept peering off in the direction of the surrounds when the discreet sound effects kicked in. The dialogue and score come through crisp and clean, I switched over to the English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 a few times during my viewing and was slightly put off by the dub, not awful but it did lack the subtlety and nuance of the Japanese track.

Unfortunately this is a bare bones Blu-ray from Scream Factory with only a trailer for the movie, I would have appreciated a commentary as I am not familiar with the Yotsuya Kaidan stage pay which is art of the movie, and the movie reality and the play reality begin to blur, I would have enjoyed a few insights into the source material from Miike. I don't think my unfamiliarity with the play detracted from my viewing, but knowing more might have enhanced it.  3/5