Film review: Tag – Japanese schoolgirls meet extreme violence in exploitation fantasy
Shockingly gory adaptation of novel Real Onigokko might have good intentions, but ends up being sadistic and misogynistic
Opening with a busload of schoolgirls being violently sheared in half by a malevolent wind, Sion Sono’s Tag certainly gets off to a promising start. But the provocative Japanese auteur soon finds himself wallowing in lurid exploitation and unpleasant misogyny.
After making his name with a string of crossover arthouse successes including Love Exposure, Cold Fish and Himizu, Sono has fast become as prolific as fellow countryman Takashi Miike. Tag is just one of six films Sono completed during 2015, and has enjoyed a healthy run on the midnight festival circuit, but from the outset its sleazy tone is off-putting even by late-night horror standards.
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Following the opening slaughter, timid schoolgirl Mitsuko (Reina Triendl) is relentlessly pursued by an unseen murderous force. Arriving at a high school she doesn’t recognise, she is soon on the run again, this time from gun-toting teachers.
With each fresh encounter, Mitsuko’s appearance changes, and it soon becomes apparent external powers may be at the controls. Most disturbing of all, however, is the fact Sono presents his adaptation of Yusuke Yamada’s novel Real Onigokko as a pro-feminist tale of empowerment, when it’s really anything but that.
Tag opens on January 21