Director: Sion Sono
Script: Yūsuka Yamada & Sion Sono
Cast: Reina Triendle, Mariko Shinoda, Erinc Mano, Yuki Sakurai, Aki Hiraoka, Ami Tomite
Running time: 86 minutes
The summary for this film on IMDB reads: ‘A girl’s life cascades into chaos as everyone around her suffers a gruesome fate while she herself becomes less and less certain of who she is and what kind of a world she lives in.’ This is actually a pretty good summary because there’s no real ‘plot’ to unveil here folks; this is structured to be more like a waking nightmare, rather than fit in with your traditional horror film three act structure. That’s not to say it’s not entertaining, or without interest; it’s certainly different!
Beginning with a scene involving a bunch of nicey-nicey Japanese school girls out on a school trip, we see our lead character, Mitsuko, (played very well by Reina Triendle), bending down to pick up her fallen pen at the same time that a strange wind blows along the road cutting the three school coaches, (that are travelling in tandem), in half, including all the occupants; well, apart from our heroine. She understandably reacts badly and finds, as she runs from the scene of horror, that wherever she goes thereafter, that similar levels of carnage continue to happen around her; mostly to cutesy teenage Japanese school-girls!
In fact, there’s quite a bit of time spent on filming a bit too much detail of the girls (and their underpants!), so much so that it quickly becomes apparent that the film very much reflects Japan’s fetishization of its school girls in general, which makes for somewhat uncomfortable viewing at times.
However, it’s not all about perving at young Japanese women, it’s also an odyssey of discovery for Mitsuko; a little like Lewis Carroll’s Alice down the rabbit hole, only this hole seems to push the girl across different dimensions, dimensions populated by alternative versions of herself, including a bride-to-be version, and a female marathon runner version. It’s all very confusing – deliberately so, me thinks – but it still retains a certain charm, especially to fans of the more bizarre end of Japanese cinema.
Director Sion Sono seems to enjoy traumatising school girls, if this and his past works, such as Suicide Club and Cold Fish, are anything to go by, but he remains an interesting director, one who I think we’ll continue to see producing increasingly disturbing work.
The film is nicely shot, although much of the CGI gore is cartoonish, hence loses its impact, and is probably the reason the film was given a lower 15 rating. TAG has quite an interesting musical score, which at times sounds like something that Pink Floyd might have come up with, if they wrote musical cues to underscore weird Japanese horror films, that is!
It’s also interesting to note that not until the very end of the film do we see any men in the movie, and the final men all seem to be weirdos or pervs (perhaps that’s how the director views most Japanese men?).
I have to admit that, although I found the film something of a disturbing trip, I still enjoyed it for what it is, a head-f**k of a fever dream fantasy…
Eureka! is distributing TAG on DVD and Blu-ray. The disc only has one extra, the film’s trailer (1.08 mins), which somewhat interestingly helps explain who’s in the film and what it’s, kind of, about! However, it does try to make it out as some sort of Battle Royale rip-off, which it most certainly isn’t. The film’s tag-line is: ‘Get Tagged and Die!’