Movie Reviews: Crazy Lips

Cult cinema is a continual game of one-upsmanship of the bizarre. Just when you think you’ve seen the Weirdest Thing Possible, something else comes along and flings a wrecking ball through it. Let me introduce you to the new wrecking ball.

Crazy Lips has the form, but not the content, of any number of J-horror/J-thriller productions. Or maybe it’s the other way around—form, but not content. Something like that, anyway. Included within are psychic powers, sexual perversity, bloodshed, violent revenge, government cover-ups—it’s all been mashed together in a way that would be easy to dismiss as incoherent if I was not also certain that was precisely the idea. It’s a satire on everything from Crossfire to Ringu, with deliberately hammy acting and over-the-top music stings to underscore the fundamental silliness of everything going on. Even if you go in with some inkling of how deranged this thing is, you’re still likely to never lose one iota of the disbelief that forces your jaw to hang wide open.

Satomi's life is upended when serial murder, psychic powers,
and the FBI all come crashing in the front door.

The plot, or rather, what can be discerned of it: The heroine, Satomi (Hitomi Miwa, looking astonishingly like Winona Rider), has fallen on hard times. Her father’s dead, her brother’s been implicated in the murder of four teenaged girls, the media have ruined their privacy, and some sleazy detective is making moves on her in exchange for “protection”. At a total loss, Satomi hires a female psychic; the glimmer of hope they provide quickly turns to disaster when the woman’s hunky assistant seduces her Satomi’s sister Kaori and turns the house into a three-ring circus of self-indulgence.

But Wait, There’s More. Satomi’s own nascent psychic powers are unleashed, causing heads to explode, after which agents from the FBI show up to keep tabs on her. They do this by taking over the TV and making the people on the set don a leotard and do aerobics. Badly. Then there’s the terrible secret of the killings, which should have a fairly obvious solution by the time you get there but the whole way it’s revealed—and followed up on—is beyond bonkers. And then there’s the blood-spattered kung-fu free-for-all, and the gun-crazy chick singing “The Star-Spangled Banner”, and the newscaster suicide, and the aliens, and the … yeah. The aliens.

You can't manufacture a cult film, but Crazy Lips tries darn hard.

Back when I wrote about the lamentable Killing Machine, I took the stance that you can’t deliberately create a cult movie; they’re a kind of happy accident. The folks who smashed into each other for this production definitely had big smiles on their faces when they collided. The writer for Crazy Lips was Hiroshi Takahashi, he who also scripted the Ringu series—which are about as cult as most movies can get. Here he and the director (Hirohisa Sasaki) set out to make something low-budget and freewheeling—and that allowed them to go back to the very genres they’d created more professional work in and loot them for inspiration. This was made by people who knew what they were doing: when the main character bursts into a sad enka song, that’s not a mistake of tone, but calculated excess.

The end result is funny from moment to moment, but also too random and inconclusive to really stick to your ribs. Apparently there’s a follow-up, Gore from Outer Space, which looks even more unhinged and might deliver what this one only hinted at. To sum up here, though, I shall paraphrase the tagline from another infamous horror production: To avoid boggling, keep repeating: It’s actually a comedy, actually a comedy, actually a comedy …

Tags: Hiroshi Abe Japan movies review

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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the categories Movie Reviews, Movies, published on 2009/11/25 14:11.

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