Takashi Miike is a remarkable and prolific director. Over the last few decades the Japanese auteur has been at the forefront of a unique kind of creepy sadistic body horror, that is frequently shocking yet strangely addictive. Personal favourites are Visitor Q, Ichi the Killer, Audition and his very sinister TV series MPD Psycho. If you’re interested in a women sadistically torturing her potential suitor, seeing someone sliced in half, or watching the most dysfunctional family ever, then these could be for you too.
While many directors have been keen to break out and prove themselves beyond genre constraints for a long time Miike has seemed remarkably content, though would periodically halt the geysers of blood for the odd piece of family entertainment or an uplifting tale of the human spirit such as the Bird People of China. More recently with the likes of The Great Yokai War, Ace Attorney and 13 Assassins, you get the sense that Miike is making a more concerted attempt to achieve mainstream success. That way he can continue to make his weird and violent stuff.
Over Your Body is really quite a peculiar construct. It’s the tale of the production of a 200-year-old play with the real lives of the participants strangely mirroring the plot they’re enacting. Takashi takes great delight in blurring the boundaries between the two worlds, where at some points you can no longer tell the difference. It’s here he comes to the fore, shooting the action like its some kind of violent hallucination.
The play itself, Yotsua Kaisan is filled with murder betrayal and greed, yet the couple both in and outside the production, played by Ebizo Ichikawa and Ko Shibasaki, are engaged in their own jealousy and betrayals as well. Whilst the relationship issues spill out into the play – not something that we haven’t seen before, Miike takes things in a typically unexpected direction. Yet he does this with a sense of restraint that we rarely see in his hands. Up to a point. There are a few typically bloody and disturbing Miike moments in the final act though, in fact not unlike Audition it’s almost like he just flips a switch and the blood (and weird wrongness) starts flowing.
However that’s not what makes Over Your Dead Body so compelling -it’s actually his ability to build tension, slow boiling an almost claustrophobic sense of dread to a truly fantastical conclusion. Miike has always had something of a surrealistic relationship with narrative, and in the final third here he doesn’t disappoint.