Written by: Giuseppe Rijitano on September 8th, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 2010
Director: Yohei Fukuda
Writer: Yohei Fukuda
Cast: Shôichi Matsuda, Wataru Kaoru, Ishino Atsushi, Tsukamoto Sanae, Namikawa Hajime, Ashihara Kensuke, Hoshina Yôhei, Motono Takuya, Shibuki Misa, Oomori Ryoichi, Yoshida Masaki.
DVD released: September 20th, 2010
Approximate running time: 117 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo Japanese
DVD Release: 4 Digital Asia
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £15.99
Satoshi Inoue a young Japanese man gets a call from his buddy telling him to check out a crazy new website called Death Tube. The site apparently features footage of people that have been kidnapped and are forced to play and win various games or die. As Satoshi watches, unable to tell if what he is seeing is real or an elaborate hoax, he falls asleep only to awaken in Death Tube himself! Now, along with seven other victims, he must play the games and win or face the brutal and deadly consequences……..
From the director of Chanbara Beauty and Tokyo Gore School; Yohei Fukuda and the producers of 2009’s Grotesque. This is an ultra low budget far eastern take on the Saw films mixed with Japanese game shows and filtered through the Youtube generation aesthetic. Tolerance for low budget cheap-ass filmmaking is a must here folks although I’ll admit I’ve a far higher tolerance for watching dodgy acting in a foreign language production for the simple reason that most of the ‘bad acting’ nuances pass me by if they aren’t speaking a language I understand. As such the acting here, although I’m sure it is amateurishly bad, seems fairly passable despite some quite obvious overacting here and there.
The storyline is of course highly derivative of countless other kidnap/torture flicks but nevertheless this puts a slightly new spin on the old formula with eight people initially trapped in separate rooms with a laptop linking them to each other and a viewing public which is constantly commenting on the action via onscreen scrolling text ala YouTube comments. These little messages from the DeathTube viewers are actually sporadically hilarious with comments like “She’s not a very good actress” scrolling along over one of the victims crying in despair or the like. Also highly entertaining are the captors dressed in David Lynch-ian cuddly bear outfits and sporting handguns but still prone to a little slapstick at inappropriate moments. Plus Pon-Kichi the yellow animated bear with a top hat that pops up on TV screens to cheerily tell the victims the rules of the game and order them onto their next deadly task somewhat steals the show.
The tasks that the victims must pass range from the silly (keep a hula-hoop spinning for 60 seconds) to the squirm inducing (jam a nail under your fingernail) but aren’t simply arbitrary tortures, they do contain an ongoing thread involving loyalty and intelligence that if the victims were to adhere to would mean nobody would die – lucky for us they aren’t all that smart. Pretty light on gore most of the deaths are relatively bloodless or confined simply to a quick blast of bloody vomit with only a couple of exceptions and the biggest slice and dice moment takes place off-screen. That said I enjoyed the fact that this wasn’t all about gory traps and bloody spectacle. The film lasts just under two hours but barrels along at a good pace with the survivors circumstances changing periodically (they emerge from their private rooms around the 40 minute mark, etc) and thus keeps the audience from getting bored.
So despite it’s two greatest defects – an irritatingly generic synth soundtrack and it’s poorly staged amateur dramatic action scenes – this one featured enough little twists, a satirical sense of humor aimed at the indifference of the new internet generation combined with a relatively compelling plot to be a fairly entertaining little Japanese indie thriller, just don’t expect it to be a polished production.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic picture looks excellent, when it’s not filtered through DeathTube that is and artificially degraded. Strong colors, excellent contrast and detail. The stereo audio track is clean and clear again outwith the scenes filtered through DeathTube.
The only extra on this screener is a short original theatrical trailer.