Battle Royale (2000)
Director(s): Kinji Fukasaku
Writer(s): Kenta Fukasaku, Koushun Takami (novel)
Starring: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Tarô Yamamoto
One of the best things about horror movies from other countries is the obvious lack of pressure from outside influences when they make their movie, or in a fun juvenile way, not giving a CRAPPITY CRAP in order for the director to make their vision of the story. I understand there is push back and issues when any group comes together for a common goal but for movies and especially horror flicks, our cohorts from beyond our borders seem uninhibited and the story flows in a way that seems organic.
Asian horror flicks in particular are polarizing in the sense where the style of horror can either scare the soul from your body without having to spill more than a bucket of blood or they go BATSHIT crazy and shower you with unapologetic ultra – violent goodness. I’ve written about one of my favorite Japanese ghost flicks (Click here for JU – ON) so now I present you with one of my favorite ultra – violent flicks from our friends in Japan, Battle Royale!
The movie is based on the novel about a group of students who are forced to compete in a battle to the death on a deserted island due to government legislation. The game itself is pretty intricate with each student given a random bag with a weapon and all students wearing a collar that can explode if the students are in the wrong part of the island. The students have THREE days to kill each other off until one survivor wins the prize of keeping their life. Now this flick has always been a cult favorite in many geek – centric circles but as a horror enthusiast I remember how shocked I was on how fast and gritty the violence was presented within the first twenty minutes! No kidding folks, even as your FearTastic host, I must admit the pace and amount of violence even caught ME off guard. Once I was on board however, this flick ended up being one of the most violently enjoyable movies that have graced my horror – filled brain.
One of the greatest features of this movie is how well the story flows around different students and how they react to such a horrible situation. Some characters try to survive, while others embrace their inner demons and take it out on fellow classmates. One of the best parts about the character development of this movie are the transformations of the students in how the react to Battle Royale. The movie does a clever reveal when they show how the students were before the Battle Royale and cut back to them in full battle mode and the transition is as alarming as it is interesting. The popular girl is now the sociopath, the innocent quirky girl is actually a sleeper cell murderer.
Something I’ve always enjoyed about Japanese movies/shows is how they use dramatic situations to accentuate their characters. Theirs is such a fine line where it almost comes off cheesy but with the right situation and character development, you end up feeling somber for even the craziest of characters in the midst of all the bloodiness. The over the top dramatics is a nice buffer to the bloody violence that is consistent in the film and the blend of the two make it insanely entertaining.
This flick has come into the spotlight again in the last couple of years because of its obvious influence on the popular series of novels/movies, The Hunger Games. Knowing how Battle Royale was first, I was willing to see another take on this idea and the results were fine for what the movie was trying to accomplish but knowing that a much more violent and dramatically moving flick existed using the same concepts made me think The Hunger Games is the version of the Battle Royale that the U.S. studios wanted for a wider audience. Although I understand that ultra – violent flicks will never make its way into the arbitrary realm of movies, I’d like to think that there will always be a crowd of folks that would appreciate how a story about a group of people forced to kill each other might get a little bloody…and know that it’s logically sound.
Life is FAR more interesting when we take interest in things that scare us.