T IS FOR TAG
Mariko Miyamitsu as Aki, Eri Akita as Miki
Written and Directed by Shane Ryan
I used to be a BIG fan of J-Horror (and K-Horror, and really, most any Asian themed horror), and have seen quite a few flicks in the genre. I don’t consider myself an expert in any way, but I’ve seen a lot of them… hell, I own at least 27 movies that could be considered in some way Asian horror. I guess my point here is that I have a decent amount of experience with the genre (and yes, I do understand that there is a huge difference between AUDITION and R-POINT and JU-ON, so not every Asian horror is just like every other one), and my genre experience says that T IS FOR TAG is a really, REALLY well done J-Horror flick. What makes this extra impressive is not just the fact that it is low-budget, not just the fact that it is 4 ½ minutes long, but also the fact that this J-Horror flick was written and directed by an American dude. Wow.
TifT has a lot going for it. It packs an emotional wallop into its sparse running time. Ryan’s script does a good job of giving enough exposition to get an idea of what has gone on, but not sitting there and spelling it out for the viewers as if they were little children. It becomes very apparent very quickly that this is a Japanese ghost story, and it follows that genre well. It helps that it is shot in Japanese, with two Japanese-heritage actresses, and has all the tropes of the Japanese ghost movie. There is a lot of squeamishness created without much actual violence shown, and there is a lot of emotion created without much time to develop it. Actually, it amazed me how much I cared about the characters with how little time I had to get to know them.
On the technical side, TifT is a beautifully made film. Obviously shot in HD, and with a good understanding of lighting, the visual feel of the film is dark and brooding, much like the story it hints at. While dark, it is never hard to see what is trying to be shown; the composition of the shots and the setting of the lights work incredibly well. This 4 ½ short, low-budget flick (an entry in the “ABC’s Of Death” competition that unfortunately did not win), looks as refined and polished as many of (and more so than a few of) the 27 other Asian horror flicks I own… and most of those were big budget productions. Even the sound is immaculately recorded, a feat not always accomplished on a low-budget film.
Overall, I really, really enjoyed TifT. It was amazing how quick it drew me in, and I was amazed and how beautifully it presented the grotesqueness displayed on screen. It was a great example of how much impact you can fit into a small package, if you know how to package it correctly.
Overall 8.5 / 10
TifT is not on the IMDB
TifT is not for sale
TifT site: http://vimeo.com/29880252 (watch the flick in its entirety)
MY NAME IS A BY ANONYMOUS
Description (from the IMDb):
Meet Alyssa. She enjoys cutting herself, and killing.
Written and Directed by Shane Ryan
When I first started watching this movie I really disliked it. Really. “Hated it” would be a better way to put it. Sometimes my wife joins me when I am watching the films I review here, and we started watching this one together; we got twenty minutes in before we turned it off. A couple of days later I picked it up and tried again, and made it all the way through. Didn’t like it. It didn’t sit well with me.
I couldn’t get to know any of the characters; the seemed caricatures more than characters. It’s as if they were little sketches of people, not real people… they just didn’t seem like people that I should care about at all, and therefore I didn’t. More than the lack of any (and I mean ANY with the exception of the victim, who we really don’t get to know anyway) characters that deserved to be liked, MY NAME IS A BY ANONYMOUS came off to me like an after school special on crack. Look: here are these bad, messed up kids. This one is bulimic, and has one messed up home life. This one is an exhibitionist that has some serious daddy issues. This one is an emo chick, wanting to be dark and tortured, and proving it through cutting herself and swearing a lot. I just couldn’t sympathize with anyone.
Worse, when the eventual outcome of the film presents itself, I had no idea why. I can’t really explain this without a degree of “spoilers,” so if you don’t want to have any surprises ruined (and if you know ANYTHING about MNiABA then this will not be a surprise), please skip ahead a paragraph. When Alyssa finally kills Elizabeth, there is never any reasoning. I mean, yes, she’s had a fucked up life. No disputing that. As is made very obvious, the collection of girls is really different facets of Alyssa, and those different parts of this girl show the many ways that this character has had a very horrible life. Even though she has this horrible life, there is never any reason given, never any thought shown towards the eventual conclusion of the story. Why does Alyssa kill Elizabeth? Who knows? No one in MNiABA. It just happens.
On the good side, I was impressed with the technical aspects of MNiABA. It had interesting composition; a collection of different aspect ratios and digital film stocks made the filmed pieces easily stand out for the images filmed by the characters within the movie. The sound was again very well done. There was good music in the vast majority of the film, and the dialogue – while plagued with a case of the fuck-fuck-fuckity-fucks – was well recorded over all and easy to understand. At some points the “style” of the film overtook the substance; there was too much going on in the visuals for me. However, overall, while a horrible thing the watch, MNiABA is beautiful to look at.
I finished watching MNiABA and walked away thinking how much I hated that movie, how disjointed the narrative was, how unappealing the characters were, and how there really was never any reason given for what happened. If I had written this review that day, I would have given MNiABA a 3 out of 10, and that would be based on the visual flourishes that impressed me. I have learned in doing these reviews not to write the review right after watching the movie, because things changed.
I kept thinking about MNiABA. It was stuck in my head. While I almost hated to admit it, MNiABA made an impact. Sure, there are tons of movies I’ve watched that I would say that I enjoyed, or that were “good” movies, and that two weeks later I couldn’t tell you a thing about. MNiABA dug in, it made an impression on my psyche, and after years of being an avid fan of film (and years of being a critic), I’ve come to realize that you don’t always enjoy good movies. Some movies are not meant to be enjoyed, but the does not subtract from their importance or their merit. MNiABA is a good movie, even though I really despised it.
One of the turning points for me on my opinion of MNiABA was reading about the actual Alyssa. Did I mention this is based (in parts seemingly pretty heavily, and in other parts much more loosely) on a true event? This is why I said if you know anything about this film, I’m not spoiling anything. So again, if you’re afraid of spoilers, look away now. Alyssa was a 15 year old girl convicted of first degree murder of a 9 year old, and she never gave any reason for doing other than the fact that she wanted to. In her diary, the real Alyssa wrote “I just fucking killed someone. I strangled them and slit their throats and stabbed them. Now they’re dead. I don’t know how to feel ATM. It was ahmazing. As soon as you get over the ‘Oh My Gawd. I can’t do this’ feeling it’s pretty enjoyable. I’m kinda nervous and shaking though right now. Kay, I got to go to church now LOL.” In reading about the real story, I realized that there should not be a reason given. There is not more to know. This is a mystery and will continue to be a mystery as to how, and why, a 15 year old girl could murder a small child that trusted her just to see what it would be like.
Overall, MNiABA is a dark, disturbing, powerful film. It is gross and dirty. It is repugnant and makes you want to look away or turn it off. But MNiABA needs to be seen. It deserves to be seen. MNiABA will make you work for the viewing experience – this is no popcorn movie by far – but if you can make it through you will come out the other side different than you were when you started the ride. I still don’t like MNiABA, and if I did I would be worried about myself.
Overall 7 / 10
MNiABA on the IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1701224/
MNiABA is not for sale
MNiABA site: http://madsincinema.blogspot.com/