Kanna HashimotoYuri TsunematsuShido NakamuraYumi Wakatsuki
Signal 100
Medium: film
Year: 2020
Director: Lisa Takeba
Writer: Shigure Kondo, Arata Miyatsuki, Yusuke Watanabe
Actor: Kanna Hashimoto, Yuta Koseki, Toshiki Seto, Shoma Kai, Masaki Nakao, Shodai Fukuyama, Keisuke Nakata, Keisuke Higashi, Riku Ichikawa, Joe Kanda, Yui Kitamura, Ayano Kudo, Louis Kurihara, Ko Maehara, Karen Masaki, Ken Nakajima, Shido Nakamura, Nari Saito, Tsukushi Suzuki, Nicole Sarah Togari, Yuri Tsunematsu, Yumi Wakatsuki, Aina Yamada, Jinto Yoshida
Country: Japan
Keywords: horror
Language: Japanese
Format: 88 minutes
Url: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10765896/
Website category: J-horror
Review date: 20 June 2024
Signal 100
Well, that was extraordinarily horrible. It's a bit like Battle Royale, although the idea's different enough to be very much its own story. You could call it "horror" and I wouldn't disagree.
We meet a class of high school students. They're bubbly, likeable and romantically interested in each other. They're great fun. Their teacher looks like Chris Chibnall (except Japanese), but that's not their fault and he seems nice too... until a girl arrives riotously late and he gives her a hypnotic command. She plays a creepy, surreal DVD for the class, then commits suicide. Chibnall-sensei explains that they've all been hypnotised to commit suicide if they break any of a hundred rules... and he's not even going to say what those rules are. He only tells them a few. They'll have to find out the rest by trial and (whoops) error.
1. Don't use a phone.
2. Don't commit violence against others. (This rule is interpreted too narrowly. It prohibits stabbing someone, as you'd expect. However, it doesn't activate if you trick your friends into triggering a post-hypnotic command that makes them kill themselves, e.g. by stabbing.)
3. Don't cry.
4. Don't leave the school.
5. Don't tell anyone about the hypnosis. You can't seek help.
The worst bit, though, is the cure. There's only one way. You've got to be the last survivor, with everyone else dead.
This has all sorts of plausibility issues. Hypnosis can't make you kill yourself. Also, some of the suicide methods we see here look impossible for human physical strength. Those objections I didn't mind, though, because the whole thing's so gross and played with so much conviction that I could go with it for ninety minutes. It's grand guignol. A few deaths are so over the top that an unsympathetic audience might laugh, but for the most part I just thought it was horrible.
For me, it was undermined by a different kind of plausibility issue. It's too contrived. I could believe in Battle Royale's dystopia, but not the situation we see here. Not because it's impossible (although it is), but because it's so pointless and gratuitous that it just feels to me like a screenwriter inventing something for the sake of an evil movie. There's no reason to do that to a class of schoolchildren. Chibnall-sensei doesn't gain from it. He's just being a record-breaking bastard to end all bastards. Mind you, apparently the original manga's teacher was being bullied, which would be a sliver of a hint of the beginning of some motivation.
There's a range of reactions from the students. Some are sensible, practical and keen to work together. There must be a way out of this problem, right? Others are less public-spirited. Theoretically, the apocalyptic cure condition justifies anything and it's hard to say that you wouldn't start killing in the same way, but it takes someone special to start laughing as one of your classmates commits suicide at your feet. There's also a vicious killer bitch. Most of the teenagers, though, are relatable, normal and trying to avoid a bloodbath, which makes it more distressing when they fail.
This film is no fun at all and I'll never rewatch it, but it's good. It's strong stuff. I'd certainly never seen anyone tell this story before. It has a flashback scene in which small children say, "Let's kill ourselves." It makes you imagine all kinds of dark outcomes, then goes off in different (but equally dark) directions instead. The worst thing might be how good the film is at being nice. In flashes.