Fantasia Film Review: Lesson of the Evil

(Source: Toho Company)

(Source: Toho Company)

Shinko Academy looks like a normal japanese high school. Hasumi is the beloved English teacher, well respected and admired by his students. Too bad for them that he’s out to kill them.

Takashi Miike directs Lesson of the Evil. This slasher movie adaptation of the novel “Aku no Kyoten” (“Lesson of the Evil”) by Yusuke Kishi, starts out very slowly as we discover there’s more than one thing wrong happening at the local high school. A female student is blackmailed for sexual favors by the martial arts teacher. A male student willingly enters a sexual relationship with the art teacher.

Hasumi (Hideaki Ito) is slowly revealed as a predator as well, as he first helps Miya (Erina Mizuno) who’s been sexually harassed. Unfortunately, the girl falls for him and he quickly takes advantage.

He also has to deal with an extremely tense and overbearing parent that believes his daughter is being bullied. After a mysterious arson burns down the parent’s house (with said parent inside), the police get tipped onto Hasumi by quirky physics teacher Tsuii (Mitsuro Fukikoshi playing the most creepy and introverted teacher you probably had). He shares his suspicions with cheating ringleader Keisuke (Shota Sometani). Of course, they don’t know Hasumi has the entire school bugged and has heard everything.

As the corpses pile up, Hasumi starts becoming unraveled. We are then exposed to his visions of what used to his partner in crime back when he was making a life in the US. Eventually, everything goes down the drain as he thwarts every plan against him, eerily having different versions of the song Mack The Knife as background music.

I had already seen Takashi Miike’s excellent offering Shield of Straw. There’s no comparing the two movies at all. In this one, it’s just exploitation cinema at its core. Hasumi is a very charismatic, but ultimately murderous sort. The fact that he has no empathy for his students doesn’t seem like a big deal until he starts taking lives. Finally he will go in a killing spree with a shotgun on school grounds as the music – and his ex-partner’s voice – plays in his head. Unfortunately, the scenes in which we’re supposed to be listening to an english speaker are jarring as it seems they couldn’t find native english speakers for those roles. Perhaps it’s meant to sound bizarre since it’s coming from his head.

As pure entertainment value, it’s very black humor. Blood does indeed fly but we rarely see body parts. Perhaps slasher films are not my thing, but I couldn’t abstract myself from the setting. Give me a slasher flick at the offices of some Wall Street greedy types and I’m in (hey someone make that movie please). Can’t bring myself to fully recommend it, although I will say Hideaki Ito does bring Hasumi to life – albeit to bring death to everyone else.

That will do for now.

Coming up:

(Sources: 2013 Fantasia Film FestivalLesson of the Evil)

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