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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

Over Your Dead Body  (2016)
2 Stars
Directed by Takashi Miike.
Cast: Kô Shibasaki, Ebizô Ichikawa, Itô Hideaki, Miho Nakanishi, Maiko, Toshie Negishi, Hiroshi Katsuno, Ikkô Furuyao.
2016 – 94 minutes
Not Rated (equivalent of an R for strong bloody violence, disturbing behavior and sexual content).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman for, January 5, 2016.
Art and reality become irrevocably—and gruesomely—interwoven in "Over Your Dead Body," a wickedly imagined, thematically undernourished effort from Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike (2001's unnerving "Audition"). There is a lot to admire here, but also a lot by which to be frustrated, its spare parts never quite forming a cohesive whole. The screenplay by Kikumi Yamagishi sparks with a clever premise, as the lives of stage performers immersed in dress rehearsals for a production of 200-year-old Kabuki classic "Yotsuya Kaidan" begin to mirror their doomed characters, but once this correlation is picked up on Miike has trouble figuring out where to take it.

The heroine of the piece is Miyuki Goto (Kô Shibasaki), an actress whose co-star/lover Kosuke Hasegawa (Ebizô Ichikawa) is not very convincingly hiding his unfaithful ways. In her private life, just as in the play, Miyuki finds herself replaced by a younger, more desirable ingénue (Hitomi Katayama). Meanwhile, fellow actor Hun Suzuki (Itô Hideaki) continues to hit on her, unconcerned by the teeny-tiny fact that he is married and has a baby. Miyuki's descent into madness leads to a queasy, hard-to-forget third act, but so little time is spent getting to know her and satisfactorily delving into her psychological state that its turns to violence (both outward and self-inflicted) feel like meager ploys for shock value.

"Over Your Dead Body" stretches itself mighty thin over its slow-burn 94 minutes, more than half the running time dedicated to observing the play within the film. One could say this was Miike's modus operandi all along, but once the subjective connection is established there is little reason to continue holding on these extended sequences except to pad the film's length. Miyuki's personal struggles should be the crushed heart of the picture, but neither she nor her relationship with Kosuke is satisfactorily developed to have the impact intended. Meanwhile, the inclusion of supernatural forces and a doll who blinks and weeps are hastily forgotten about as quickly as they pop up. "Over Your Dead Body" is evocatively shot and earns a few winces of discomfort on its way to a lurid finale twist. What the picture fails to accomplish, however, is giving the viewer someone to care about, relate to, or understand.
© 2016 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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