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Jason Widgington [Celluloid 10.23.16] horror cult

At this point in the game, wildly prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike – 100 directorial credits in 25 years! – could pretty much phone it in and his fans will still fawn over whatever he commits to celluloid. With such a vast body of work, one could justifiably expect varying degrees of quality in his output. But whether it’s slinky horror like Audition or gross-out action like Ichi The Killer, or even the musical teenaged romance of For Love’s Sake, each one is unmistakably a Takashi Miike film. As The Gods Will is no different.

Based on the Japanese manga Kamisama no Iutoori, written by Muneyuki Kaneshiro and illustrated by Akeji Fujimura, the film begins– quite literally – with a bang, as a classroom of high school students are locked in and forced to play a deadly game of Red Light, Green Light where a living daruma doll blows up anyone it catches moving. During this scene we learn that one of the students, Shun (Sota Fukushi), has wished for God to make his life less boring, and boy-oh-boy does his wish come true. Only the strong and cunning will survive this and the subsequent deadly versions of children’s games, until a select few emerge as the ultimate winners. But what have they won, exactly?

Parallels have been drawn to such films as Battle Royale and The Hunger Games trilogy, but As The Gods Will differs in that it doesn’t exactly pit the characters against each other in a kill-or-be-killed situation as much as it pits them against a series of situations that need to be solved and only the ones who solve them emerge as survivors.

Battling against such things as a giant cat that kills and eats the students until they can figure out a way to shoot a bell through a hoop on its neck or a snowboarding polar bear who demands a human sacrifice for each question it asks that is answered with a lie by one of the students, our group of potential survivors is whittled down to an inevitable few until the end, which is admittedly confusing and leaves a lot of questions as to the how and why of everything we’ve watched over the last one hundred and ten minutes. This is all unquestionably in service to an eventual sequel, which will hopefully explain a few things.

With an obvious nod to the de-sensitization of society to violent images in the news media, As The Gods Will moves from overt goriness to more of a horrific fairy tale as the film progresses, but it never loses its entertainment value, even if it ends without fully explaining itself and leaving the audience to wonder how it all ends. Miike and cinematographer Nobuyasu Kita (13 Assassins) paint the screen red with lush blood and viscera, and the visual effects by Kaori Ahtagaki (Lesson of the Evil) are as realistic as they are over-the-top.

In the end, As The Gods Will will frustrate many viewers wondering what the hell they’ve just seen and why the questions posed during the film weren’t quite answered, but it will leave just as many viewers satisfied at how fun, bloody, and absurd a film it really is. And really, who can ask for more than that from a Takashi Miike movie?

Recommended Release: Battle Royale

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