Blast From the (Recent) Past - Battle Royale

"Blast from the (Recent) Past" is a periodic feature where I reflect on films I saw and loved before the O.G. version of Bloody Good Horror bit the dust. Now that we're back in the saddle I owe it to the classics of (not so) old for getting me into the genre in the first place.

Release Date: 2000

IMDB Rating: 8.0 (as of post date)

Synopsis

Forty-two delinquent students, three days, one deserted Island: welcome to Battle Royale. A group of delinquent students from a Japanese high school have been forced by legislation to compete in a new forum of reality television.The students are each given a bag with a randomly selected weapon and a few rations of food and water and sent off to kill each other in a no-holds-barred (with a few minor rules) game to the death, which means that the students have three days to kill each other until one survives--or they all die. The movie focus on a few of the students and how they cope. Some decide to play the game like the psychotic Kiriyama or the sexual Mistuko, while others like the heroes of the movie--Shuya, Noriko, and Kawada--are trying to find a way to get off the Island without violence. However, as the numbers dwell down lower and lower on an hourly basis, is there any way for Shuya and classmates to survive?

I stated once on the podcast that my true test for a horror film is being able to show it in front of a group of non-genre friends (or civilians, as my friend Adam calls them) and have them enjoy, or at least react to the film. I can't think of a single horror flick that has passed that litmus test more handily than Kinji Fukasaku's 2000 joint "Battle Royale." As the plot summary suggests, "Royale" feels a bit more like watching an ultraviolent video game than a classic horror film. Don't let the ultra-high rating on IMDB fool you, "Battle Royale" is in no way a perfect film or even a totally coherent film in parts, but it has inspired a rabid cult following, of which I am a card carrying member.

On the surface, the political and social message behind "Battle Royale" is heavy handed and powerful. Although even at my most cynical I can't imagine things getting THIS out of hand, the premise is presented so matter-of-factly that its hard to dispute its validity. Once you get to "know" the characters, you are in no way surprised that they are colossal pains in the ass that can only be dealt with "Royale" style.

Poor translation, wacky weaponry, and enough nut stabbings to make even a woman flinch are just a few examples of over-the-toppitude that "Battle Royale" reaches. When you see Takeshi Kitano (a.k.a. MxC's Vic Romano) receive multiple grievous gunshot wounds only to (spoiler) get back up and answer his phone before dying, you know that you've just survived something unique, and absolutely fucking crazy. This movie comes up in conversations I have revolving around horror STILL, and I'll always cross my fingers for a video game adaptation (on the Wii perhaps?) although it will never come to be.

Until then, give the Battle Royale drinking game a try!

Theatrical Trailer

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