Yamagata Scream / 山形スクリーム
Funnyman Naoto Takenaka (Shall We Dance?) has patently phoned it in with his new comedy, Yamagata Scream. There are some delightfully broad characterizations of contemporary Japanese stereotypes – schoolgirls (the nerdy, the alienated, and the totally kawaii), unrequited sensei, buffoonish local boosters, aging punk rockers – but the film sags and falls as more and more gravy is added to the already thin plot. The lowbrow comedy pits a quartet of high school girls, reluctantly brought on a summer vacation to a provincial village in Yamagata, against a team of unrequited samurai warriors. Rapacious developers and boneheaded locals accidentally unleash these avengers, who proceed to zombify most of the village in a dark night of goofy gore-filled encounters, endless chase scenes and lots of screaming. Definitely in the Scary Movie summer dimwit fun movie category, Yamagata Scream typifies the genre without adding much in the way of innovation or smarts. The new convention of samurai-returned-from-the-dead is served much better in smaller films like Raise the Castle.
Originally published in EL Magazine, August 2009