Human sacrifice, severed limbs, crazy locals and mummification. I guess it’s that time of the month again. Welcome to the wonderful world of Japanese cinema. Kenta Fukasaku (Yo-Yo Cop Girl, Battle Royale 2) is back behind the camera for his fourth feature, working from a script by Tetsuya Oishi (the Death Note movies), based upon a novel by Nobuyuki Joko. It’s a familiar tale of love and loss, with emphasis very much on the loss of limbs, and you know, not loving that loss very much.
Shiyori (Nao Matsushita) has just split up with her boyfriend, so her best friend Aiko (J-Pop star Ami Suzuki) suggests a relaxing break in the mountains to get away from it all. I'm pretty sure this is going to end well. Two locals from Ashikari Village are there to greet the girls when they arrive, complete with arched backs, crooked teeth and native dialect. You would expect the alarm bells to start ringing, but no, these girls aren’t even spooked by the creepy scarecrows that watch over the village. They’ll probably be regretting that later, mummified dead girls may keep the crows away but they don’t exactly make for good Facebook albums.
After a dip in the spa, Shiyori returns to her cabin, only to discover a ringing phone on the floor. A guy called Mononobe warns her of trouble, screaming at her to get the hell out before they chop off her leg. Shiyori is horrified by the nature of the call; this was clearly not the kind of break she was hoping for. It turns out that the local residents and certified crazies have been sacrificing young girls for years, chopping off their legs so that they can’t escape. I’m pretty sure none of this was mentioned in the brochure either.
Multiple time frames will keep you glued to the screen as Kenta Fukasaku does his father proud with a feast of relentless action, dark humour and chainsaw wielding heroines. His follow up to Kinji’s Battle Royale was of course, underwhelming, never nearly frantic enough to please such a large cult following. The same can be said for his take on Yo-Yo Cop Girl; both films certainly had their moments but never truly captured the spirit of the source material. Not so X Cross, here we have a hearty portion of crazy shit, served up with a side order of anarchy and a bottle or two of the red stuff.
Nao Matsushita is good in the leading role, but her character isn’t entirely memorable. She plays the token horror victim with a high moral ground and low common sense. It’s Ami Suzuki who gets to have all the fun; Aiko is the wildcard of the piece with a penchant for easy guys, maniacal ex-girlfriends and high-powered chainsaws. She has her own problems to contend with when she comes face to face with Reika (Maju Ozawa), giant scissors and a need for revenge are the order of the day here, and Reika comes on like a cross between Little Bo Peep and Freddy Krueger.
She’s a mesmerising creation and her scenes are by far the most enjoyable of the entire movie. “Have you ever seen the true face of Hell?” she asks inquisitively of her capture, brandishing a pair of blades that would put pay to Rapunzel’s mane in no time. Kenta cuts loose with a stylish flurry of kick ass action and devilish humour. Snip, snip, snip indeed.
I wasn’t expecting much from Kenta Fukasaku’s latest, but with X Cross he has directed the best film of his career. Destined to become a firm favourite among Japanese movie fans, X Cross really does mark the spot. Creepy concepts, lofty performances and polished delivery combine for a bloodstained romp that demands to be seen. This is what Japanese cinema is all about, so go on, break a leg. AW