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Goth: Love Of Death
cast: Kanata Hongô, Rin Takanashi, Kunihiko Ida, Mika Kamiya, and Chika Kumagai

director: Gen Takahashi

95 minutes (18) 2008
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
4Digital Asia DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Sandra Scholes
Based on the manga novel by Otsuichi this is an unusual film that seems to be shot entirely in sepia tones to give the impression of the darkness of the two main characters, their thoughts and dialogue showing how embroiled they are in what happens around them, even going so far as to revel in it. It is a mix of surreal horror, tension, and has a strange noir aspect about it that fits the story. The style conjures up other noir movies where the attention falls on the two main characters and everyone else is seen as rather unimportant, just as the manga did earlier.

The opening sequence of a bike going past bushes and of a cut to a series of strange and deranged-looking children's artwork showing dismembered bodies bleeding over the screen sends chills down the spine even before the film truly starts. This movie is like many of the Japanese shock-type horror offerings, and its nature is mostly a mélange of random events that link in with others to become a greater shock to the system.

The main story concerns two high school kids who are unnaturally preoccupied with death and images of death in books and magazines while in the school library. At first Itsuki Kamiyama (Kanata Hongô) is not interested in getting to know fellow student Yoru Morino (Rin Takanashi) until she persists, handing him a horrific book of photographs, showing mutilations and dismemberment. Once he sees this he notices he has a lot in common with her so when she approaches him again he allows her to chat to him and together they begin a strange relationship completely based on, death and the wholly unusual.

One of the stories they are interested in is the hand-cutting murders where an incident takes place in a local water garden and a young girl is shown sitting as if to bathe. Her sunhat is over her face but she never moves. It is some time before it becomes apparent she is dead, possibly drowned, but as one onlooker notices one of her hands is severed and it is obvious someone sinister has been at work making it look more like a murder. Another murder has taken place and, in both instances, Yoru has been seen there in the background blankly observing the scene without showing the perverted interest she has in it.

Other movies like this originally based on manga novels have become more popular with UK and US viewers, namely the Death Note series where another school kid embarks on a killing spree when he finds a black note book on the grounds of his school. Due to the graphic way the novels are done their publication was banned in other countries as they were considered too subversive.

Yoru goes through the movie like a ghost analysing and watching, appearing at points in it whenever crime scenes are to be found. To the other spectators she might seem an innocent in her school uniform, she is far from it. Her hair and eyes give away her dark thoughts. Her interest in death is more in the observation of it than her friend Itsuki who has a desire to be a killer. At school the other kids think he is a decent guy though he does not appear a solitary soul to them, he is a very different person to Yoru.

It is simply a terrifying look through the eyes of two people who should not think the things they do, like describing the hand-cutting murderer as an artist who views his victims as works of art to be posed as though they were dolls or living statues. Itsuki never at any point realises he is a cold-blooded killer who searches for his victims and kills them with precision. If it is at all possible to go deeper the movie is making more of a social comment on children who break away from the mould in Japanese schools becoming obsessed with subjects that society would frown upon. Known as 'hikikomori' it is a well-known form of social withdrawal due to work-related structures changing, and the young finding new outlets for their behaviour, becoming individually minded as opposed to mixing with others in a group. Although common in Japan it is less so in the west.

Some will view Goth: Love Of Death as a slow-moving movie, but it does say a lot about Japanese culture and social awareness today as there are many teenagers who can be labelled as antisocial and who possibly have secret hobbies.

The bonus material on this DVD may be scarce but it is interesting as it has a making-of featurette that shows what the cast and crew went through to get the film looking as authentic to the manga novel as they could, and also get the colours looking right for the general feel of the movie. A trailer for the movie itself is enough to convince anyone who is a fan of this type of movie to rent it.

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