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Film review: Takashi Miike's Over Your Dead Body fails to engage

Stately backstage drama gradually morphs into a full-blown supernatural horror movie

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 July, 2015, 9:16pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 July, 2015, 9:16pm

The staged reality of theatre rehearsals blends clumsily with the surreal spectacle of a horror movie in Takashi Miike's Over Your Dead Body, which takes its time to build towards a nightmarish final act. Revolving around a sumptuous production of the 19th century Japanese ghost story Yotsuya Kaidan, this tale of life-imitating-art is a sometimes spooky, yet mostly unsurprising take on familiar materials.

The play follows the morally corrupt ronin Tamiya Iemon as he marries a noble's daughter, Oiwa, after secretly murdering her disapproving father. While Oiwa has given him a son, Iemon remains unemployed as a samurai two years into their marriage. And when another wealthy clan offers him a job on condition that he marry their granddaughter Oume, Iemon's decision sets off gory outcomes.

While these theatrical scenes are mesmerising to watch, they serve only as a stepping stone for Miike to retreat to his favourite territory of extreme violence. It's too convenient a set-up for the play's lead actors — Kosuke (Ebizo Ichikawa), his co-star girlfriend Miyuki (Ko Shibasaki) and the new actress Rio (Miho Nakanishi) — to replicate offstage the love triangle among Iemon, Oiwa and Oume.

A stately backstage drama that gradually morphs into a full-blown supernatural horror movie, Over Your Dead Body proves to be a synthetic experience that sporadically intrigues but never fully engages.

Over Your Dead Body opens on July 9