Saturday, May 28, 2011

Girl on...Movie? Action: Death Trance

Death Trance (2005)
Director: Yûji Shimomura
Writers: Seiji Chiba, Shinichi Fujita, Junya Kato, Yûji Shimomura

Aside: I know you were expecting the usual glib book review, my dear little spiders, but I'm a mercurial creature (I really am - a Virgo, ruled by Mercury). So instead of my nattering about books, you get a review for a movie you've never even heard of, enjoy!

Some Introductory Rambling:

Every so often I find myself awake late at night, not tired enough to sleep, but not really able to partake of my usual entertainments (reading, writing, snarking on the internet, or playing Dragon Age 2 for the tenth time – in case you were wondering) and so I turn to Netflix. My recent problem there has been that all the movies I really want to watch are foreign films and at that point of the night I don’t really want to bother with subtitles. Alas, alack and well-a-day my dear pumpkins I braved the horrible yellow type for this one anyway. I had absolutely no expectations when I randomly picked this flick and so I was pleasantly surprised.

Thoughts that might resemble a Review:

If you’re a fan of strange Japanese movies you might have seen Versus some years ago (I know I saw it multiple times with my sister) and Death Trance is done by the same director and main actor guy. Strangeness abounds.

The story, as understand it, is that Grave (our main character) steals this magical coffin from a monastery.  Why, you might ask, well, rumor has it that it grants wishes if you take it to a special forest.  Although really, what do I know?  It was 3am.  Naturally, a lone surviving monk (he was elsewhere when the thief attacked the monastery) is sent to prevent Grave from opening the coffin and unleashing forces that will destroy the world (who'd have thought a wishing coffin could lead to problems?). A very creepy little girl (in a Japanese movie? Shocking!) follows Grave around for a while, but once he's separated from the coffin, it becomes clear that it's the coffin she's following, not Grave. Oh, and the monk runs into a guy with a strange sort of curly mohawk hair-do and a bazooka. These two team up to get the coffin, although mohawk guy wants it for wish-granting purposes.

Along the way, we watch Grave fight a whole bunch of pale guys in awesome clothes – sorta like a cyber / steampunk convention in the middle of a forest. And if you were wondering why I found this movie so appealing that last sentence pretty well sums it up: it was lovely to look at. Silly plot aside I loved all of the costumes and I am a superficial creature that can be easily seduced if you present me with enough black-clad folks, especially if there are also buckles and zippers and goggles involved. Speaking of – the movie hit another one of my weaknesses: stoic anti-heroes with glowing eyes. Yes, Grave becomes some sort of Chosen One meant to do battle against the Goddess of Destruction (I'll explain this in a moment, don't you trust me?) and his eyes glow red as he begins to come into his power. I just about turned into a puddle.

Right, so once Grave brings the coffin through a strange glowing door in the special forest (which had some weird spider-vampire-ninjas and a horde of zombies wearing leather facemasks that he defeated with his sword that was actually a gun) the creepy little girl crawls into it and comes out as the Goddess of Destruction. The monk and a strange lady (yes, another person following Grave and / or the wishing coffin through the magical forest full of ninja goths) who showed up along the way follow and witness the battle between Grave, whose wish is to be destroyed, and the Goddess. This battle scene was gorgeous! All rose petals for blood and floating around in an infinite black space. She defeats our unfortunate anti-hero despite the fact that he gets a special sword with a pulsing, fleshy hilt and glowing red script on its blade. He falls and falls in a shower of red petals. Very picturesque.

And then for the most nonsensical part of the whole plot (yes, even more nonsensical than the wishing coffin, list of bizarre characters and some things I haven't had time to touch on yet) where we find our monk again and he is in the middle of the desert with angels falling to the earth all around him. Yes, angels.  That strange lady shows up again and we see on her back that she has scars that look like she used to have wings there. Between the two of them they hash out that the Goddess has gone to the heavens. And it turns out Grave isn’t dead, because he shows up again, with glowy red eyes and his glowy red sword and he follows her to do battle once more. I guess the whole "dying" thing was meant as some sort of rite of passage to bring him into his powers, but the promise of a much better battle (which I presume takes place in a sequel that has not yet materialized) does take the oomph out of what was supposed to be the climatic battle scene.

Finally, I need to address the issue of some of the strange anachronisms going on in this movie - although, given that the tag line reads: “An unknown time. An unknown place. Without reasons. With no future. His only desire is... Destruction!” (thanks, IMDB), the word anachronism seems inaccurate.  I already mentioned the bazooka, and while this was probably the worst, it certainly wasn't alone.  There were several species of guns (though no one seems to understand how aiming worked) and a motorcycle.  To a certain type of continuity nerd this might have been unbearable.  I don't know if it was the time of night (it sure was getting late) or an innate ability to ignore the movie's occasional nod to being a period piece, but I had no issue with a few misplaced items.  So, long paragraph short, the lack of internal consistency didn't bother me, but the distinct lack of marskmanship sure did!  Guns aren't just there to make loud noises, people.

Is Death Trance a good movie? No, not at all. Was I amused? Oh, yes. Should you see it? Well, if you like strange flicks, men with glowing eyes and don’t mind reading subtitles, go for it! Mostly, it wasn't anything more than pretty to look at and weird enough to keep me entertained (at godawful o'clock).  Now, I'll just sit here and wait for a sequel...and wait...and wait...and wait...I sure could use a wishing coffin right about now to end this interminable waiting (nothing could go wrong with that, right?)


  1. I've wanted to see this movie. Just for the weirdness.

  2. Dude, it's so worth it! I really liked it - probably more than it deserves to be liked.