Directed by Yuichi Onuma
Produced by Yoshinori Kanou, Kousuke Hishinuma
Written by Hiroshi Kanno, Mikaho Ishikawa
Director of Photograpy Masajazu Oka
Music by Masatoshi Nishimura
Cast: Yoshika Kato, Masahiro Kuranuki, Shunsuke Osaka, Yoshihisa Higashiyama, Ken Kazama
2004/86 mins/Color/Digital Stereo
1.85:1/Japanese/Japan/NTSC Region 1
Review from the AsiaVision DVD
Here's a question for you film fans: When does a movie stop being a homage and become a rip-off? How do you determine when a film has become too similar to another movie -- whether through ideas, story, or characters -- and has moved passed being familiar into outright thievery? These were the questions with which I was faced while watching KILL DEVIL, a film which bear more than a passing resemblance to the modern-day Japanese classic BATTLE ROYALE.
As KILL DEVIL opens, a young man (Masahiro Kuranuki) awakens alone in an unfamiliar place. He has no memory of who he is or how he arrived at this place, but he is wearing a bracelet (with a glowing green light) which is marked "Shougo", so he assumes that this is his name. He soon meets some more teenagers, including a boy named "Osamu" (Shunsuke Osaka), and they soon determine that they are on an island, but none of them can remember how they got there or why they are there. As if this wasn't bad enough, at times, various members of the group explode in acts of random violence and kill a fellow castaway.
We (the audience) then learn that the story is taking place in the year 2025. While mapping the human genome, scientists discovered the gene for violence and determined that through DNA testing they could determine who would become a murderer. Thus, a secret government experiment was created in which teenagers possessing this gene were placed on a deserted island to see if their homicidal impulses would expose themselves. Their memories were erased so that they would be acting on impulse.
As the story resumes, Shougo meets Shiori (Yoshika Kato) and is instantly drawn to her. But, how can one survive on an island filled with potential killers?
OK, is it just me or does that sound a lot like BATTLE ROYALE? The similarities are just to obvious to ignore; the island, the futuristic setting, the government-run experiment, the bracelets (which are stand-ins for the collars from BR), the fact that the kids are expected to kill one another. The movie even features one character who wallows in the anarchy, just as in BATTLE ROYALE. As if all of this weren't bad enough, the movie includes a sword fight which has a KILL BILL feel to it. I couldn't find a lot of information about KILL DEVIL on-line, but the copyright date is listed as 2004.
But, if one is able to look past the way in which KILL DEVIL mirrors BATTLE ROYALE, the movie does have some redeeming qualities. While the above synopsis does summarize the basic plot of the film, there is one subtle twist which I didn't reveal which moves the film in a unique direction. The story doesn't call for a great deal of character development, but the young actors do a nice job of creating identities for themselves. The Shougo character does get a boost through some nicely placed flashbacks. Director Yuichi Onuma does a nice job of cutting back and forth between the hostile environment of the island to the lab where the frustrated scientists observe the action. One way in which KILL DEVIL differs from BATTLE ROYALE is that it doesn't revel in its violence and there is practically no gore in the film, save for some stab wounds and one decapitated body.
KILL DEVIL isn't a bad movie, as it moves along nicely and is never boring, but by being so similar to BATTLE ROYALE, the film has perpetually placed itself in the shadow of that better-known movie. KILL DEVIL will appeal however to Asian cinema completists, and I must say that I enjoyed it more than BATTLE ROYALE II.
KILL DEVIL comes to murder DVD courtesy of AsiaVision. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1, but the transfer is not enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The movie appears to have been shot on film (but given the advancements in 24p technology, I could be wrong) and the image is sharp and clear. The colors look good and the picture is never overly dark. The image does show some artifacting at times, and I also spotted some video noise during the interior scenes. The DVD carries a digital stereo audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track is well-balanced, as the music never drowns out the dialogue. But, the rave-like soundtrack is a bit loud at times. The English subs are easy to read.
The KILL DEVIL DVD features an "Alternate Ending", which is exactly the same as the final cut, save for a very bizarre dance segment. There is also an Image Gallery.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2006. ©