X-Cross (Japan 2007)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 1/2/10
Director: Kenta Fukasaku
Cast: Nao Matsushita, Ami Suzuki, Maju Ozawa

Director Kenta Fukasaku continues to improve as an eccentric filmmaker, and with "X-Cross" I can almost begin to forgive him for the awful "Battle Royale II" (2003). "X-Cross" is a Japanese horror film that plays out like a video game, deriving inspiration from both the "Fatal Frame" and "Clock Tower" series. It's interesting to note that one of the villains mimics Scissorman from the "Clock Tower" games, and that "Clock Tower 3" was the last thing that Fukasuku's father, the legendary Kinji Fukasaku, directed before he died. This surely can't be coincidence. Anyway, the film revolves around the adventures of two young women who visit a remote hot springs in the mountains. Unfortunately, the hot springs at Ashikari Village are home to a religious cult that likes to cut the legs off of pretty young women. The village also attracts a maniacal and seemingly super-human killer named Reika who wears loligoth clothes and wields giant scissors as weapons. The villagers are after Shiyori (pretty Nao Matsushita) while Reika is out to get Aiko (Ami Suzuki) over a past dispute. The plot twists all over the place, becoming more absurd with each new turn, but it never fails to be entertaining. Only in the last twenty minutes does the film run out of steam and fall flat on its face.

Fukasaku definitely likes the weird stuff, and this film is full of it. Creepy mountain villagers, ancient sacrificial rites, bizarre serial killers, lots of hidden agendas, and lesbian undertones mix to become a strange hybrid of suspense, horror, and romance. The film looks great and the atmosphere is appropriately dark and moody. The actresses are cute and capable, and do a great job at being both scared and fighting back. Cell phones are the primary narrative device, which is a little annoying, but they do a good job of creating tension and isolation for the characters. While the lead characters and the villagers are believable, the scissors wielding Reika is completely unreal. She's a juggernaut of vengeance who possesses super-human strength and her scissors are unreasonably large and destructive. She can also change her wardrobe and hair style at will to fit a particular situation, which is a pretty neat trick. Curiously, Aiko also achieves super-human status when she challenges Reika with a chainsaw, which results in a deliriously wonderful fight. Like all of Kenta Fukusaku's films, the execution and intent are deadly serious, but you can't take the end result seriously. A fun and quirky horror outing that fans of wacky Japanese cinema should thoroughly enjoy.