Sunday, 24 November 2013

Aku no Kyōten/ Lesson of the Evil (2012)

Those of you that I have shared a dialogue with pertaining to horror movies will probably have heard me dribble on about Takashi Miike and his works. I am super gay for Takashi Miike. I want to wine and dine this man, all the while verbally sucking him off. He's that damn good.

Some people would have you believe that he's the "Japanese Quentin Tarantino". Fuck that, fuck that idea stone dead. Takashi Miike doesn't belong under any umbrella other than his own. Though somewhat overlooked, movies like Audition (1999) , Ichi the Killer (2001) and 13 Assassins (2010) have cemented Miike as the master of Ultraviolence. Though it isn't fair to say that his films are nothing more than splatter porn, there's a complexity there, there's story, there's social commentary. He stares down that recognizable, sparkly-eyed anime school girl, and spits right in her face. Miike is an anarchist that takes our perception of Japanese culture, strips it naked and defiles it in ways that could have Jeffery Dahmer reaching for a bottle of NyQuil and his favourite blankey.

Provocative imagery and stringent story plots are the ammunition for his antipathetic agenda. I don't mean to speak for the man, but my understanding is that he is vehemently opening fire on our Western perception of a clean, uniform Japan. He has been doing this for a long time now and Lesson Of The Evil is proof that the gun is still loaded and smoking.


Much in the vein of films like American Psycho (2000), we're introduced to the charming psychopath. Seiji Hasumi is an English teacher that is respected and loved by his students, this respect is attributed to his unorthodox methods of teaching and laid-back demeanor. Everyone remembers that secondary school teacher that tried way too hard to be "down with the kids", well that's Hasumi, except he's very, very good at it. He's charismatic, fluent and has his students practically eating out of the palm of his hand. The perfect teacher and all around stand-up guy. One thing about Hasumi though. He's also completely out of his fucking mind. Bat shit insane.

There's a rise in bullying and exam cheating in the high-school and this creates some major turbulence among both students and faculty alike. A number of methods are employed by the staff in order to cut out all of this bad behaviour, but nothing seems to work. The students are far too astute. While the authorities scratch their heads and brood over how they're going to solve the problem, Seiji Hasumi already knows exactly how to remedy the dilemma. A sleek pair of leather gloves and a break-action shotgun.


There's an art to contrast and one which is heavily applied in this film. There are some detailed and visually stunning shots throughout with an emphasis on colour and mood. You'll notice that most of the film is drenched in sullen grey, unusual for a Miike film, which are usually quite colourful throughout. It works, however, as it provides a somber tone, even in some of the more violent scenes. Grey appears to be the static of the first half of the film, but just when you think that's all you're to expect...WHAM! The movie slips on a technicolor dreamcoat splattered with blood and muscle tissue. 

I do not have a broad enough vocabulary to discuss the more technical aspects of production, so I'll leave it at simply the colours that seem to set the temper the film.

I will however ask that you keep an eye out for Miike's cheeky nod to American Psycho, which appears somewhere towards the end of the film.

Sounds and soundtrack

I'm of the opinion that, sometimes, the best soundtrack for a horror film is complete silence. Lesson Of The Evil is very similar in that way. Where colour sets most of the tone, sound seems to take the back-seat. However, I'm also of the opinion that if you're going to use music, you should use it at the right time to arouse the desired effect. This film does exactly that.

"Mack the Knife", a classic, is performed by a musician named Rob Trow and this serves as the main theme for the movie. It's upbeat and yet becomes so very, very dark with the context in which it is being used.


The themes in Lesson of the Evil cannot go ignored. There are many references to American culture throughout the film and it isn't unreasonable to note the intentional mirroring of American high-school massacres. Frightened students frantically racing through the halls of their school while being pursued by a Sociopathic English teacher wielding a shotgun that speaks to and guides him in an American accent. With the current gun ownership controversy in the States, this is most definitely social commentary from the mouth of a snide, grinning Miike.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, Miike attacks social norms and cultural perception. Perhaps it can be said that Lesson of the Evil is loaded with one bullet for Japan and one for the USA.

Close reading aside, this is a fun movie. It entertains, baffles and frightens you in ways that only a Miike flick can. It's not for the faint of heart, but if you've the heart for it, prepare to have it blasted right out of your chest.

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