28th Jan2015

‘Greatful Dead’ Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Kumi Takiuchi, Takashi Sasano, Aira, Itsuji Itao, Kkobbi Kim, Hôka Kinoshita, Kenji Matsuda, Wakana Sakai, Taro Yabe | Written by Eiji Uchida, Etsuo Hiratani | Directed by Eiji Uchida


In films that have a twisted edge, if a child grows up dysfunctional you know that somebody is likely to die. Greatful Dead is a twisted tale that brings slapstick humour to Japanese horror, looking at what happens when a child grows up without getting the attention she craves.

Nami (Kumi Takiuchi) is anything but ordinary, even though her sister would like her to be. As a child all she wanted was the attention of her parents, but with a mother who travelled the world to save needy children (though not her own) and a father who commits suicide soon after the mothers departure all Nami gets is a fortune to live on and peaceful solitude. Obsessing over lonely people she names as “Solitarians” and hunting them down, she spies on them watching their every move. The most prized Solitarians are old lonely people who die alone and one day she finds one. An old man (Takashi Sasano) perfect for her obsession it’s not long before she turns into a fully fledged stalker and build her life around observing him.

Nami is an interesting character because she has lost all sense of normality, the “ordinary” that her sister loves is something that she detests. To her the people who are lonely are perfect and are there for her to voyeuristically obsess over. The old man who becomes her victim is perfect for her, and it’s interesting that as we watch her watching him it’s not done in a dark way but almost cute as it brightens up her life. Watching him gives her pleasure, and her actions highlight the fact that she is very much one of the people who turn into her obsession, and maybe one of the loneliest of them all. The problems come when one day the old man agrees to read the bible will well-meaning visitors who want to bring him back to the “ordinary”. Giving him hope and reconnecting with his family this smashes Nami’s fragile world apart and brings on the violence.

Watching Nami as she attacks those around the old man who give him hope shows just how she sees him in her life, he is a possession or a pet to be controlled and to be enjoyed, but only by her. Her destruction of his life not only makes you pity him but you can’t help but pity her too. Her childhood has twisted her view on reality to the point that her world revolves around her and must run by her rules. Everything is a game and to ruin the game is something that can’t be accepted.

It is interesting that Eiji Uchida directs the film in a way as to not make Nami’s world too dark. The battles she and the old man go through are more slapstick in style and darkly humorous. The fact that Nami is killing people without little thought of the repercussions leading to the old man going to war with her does feel silly, but this lighter feeling in tone detours the film away from where it felt it was going, to be just another slasher. Instead Nami is not a monster that needs to be destroyed, this is a woman that you care about and pity, she isn’t really evil she just doesn’t realise what she is doing wrong. This of course is insane but in many respects so is Greatful Dead, and that is what makes it so enjoyable.

Greatful Dead is easy to recommend to fans of twisted Japanese movies. While it may not go to the extents of films made by the likes of Takashi Miike it still has an edge to it that will keep the fans of the macabre hooked till the end. Darkly funny but with a strange feeling of twisted lightness Greatful Dead is yet another Japanese film that proves that movie geeks have much more choice than what Hollywood throw out at us, we just have to hunt out hidden gems like this one.

Greatful Dead is available in the UK on DVD and Blu-ray now.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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