It was almost a year ago now that Shout! Factory announced they had acquired the rights to Takashi Miike’s Over Your Dead Body. Since that time however, no release date has been announced which is kind of a bummer if you’re in North America. For those of you that are Region Free, Australian-based Eastern Eye did release the film on DVD last month and I decided to check that out because I’m impatient. And I must say this movie is insane.
The film follows a theatre troupe in the middle of rehearsals for the performance of a 200-year-old play. The play deals with murder, betrayal and vengeance. Miyuki Goto (Ko Shibasaki) and Kosuke Hasegawa (Ebizo Ichikawa) are not only a coupe in real life, but are also cast as the lead couple in the play. Soon their real lives begin to mirror that of the play and the line between reality and fiction is heavily blurred.
To say too much about the plot of Over Your Dead Body would be to ruin it. The gist of it is that Kosuke’s character in the play turns out to be a terrible husband, living a life of lies behind the back of Miyuki. Eventually this bleeds over into real life. The deception in Over Your Dead Body doesn’t just lie with the characters however, as Miike plays tricks on us, the audience. For much of the film we have no idea what’s real and what isn’t. Is what we’re seeing happening in the play or is it happening in real life? Perhaps it’s just happening in the minds and fantasies of the characters? Or is it possibly all of the above? The majority of the time it’s never quite clear and constantly keeps you guessing and questioning everything unfolding before your eyes. It’s quite brilliant.
There are some things that happen in Over Your Dead Body that you can’t un-see. While it’s not an overly graphic movie, it makes every bit of blood and gore count. At one point a girl gives herself an abortion of sorts while in the shower. I don’t look away often in movies, but this is one where I had to turn my head, at least a little bit. That didn’t really help much because it’s actually the sound in this scene that gets you. That is something I will never be able to shake. Even as I type this I can hear and see the scene playing over again in my head.
Over Your Dead Body is haunting, graphic, gruesome and beautiful all at once. It is Miike. For as visually stunning as the film is, I think real beauty is the way the story unfolds. Because Miike essentially removes the line between reality and fiction you’re never quite sure where the movie is going to end and as a result it keeps you on your toes. It’s refreshing not to see the finish line from the start. I wouldn’t say Over Your Dead Body is a masterpiece, but it’s close to it. My one issue with the movie, and it’s fairly minor, is that it does take a little bit to get going. I’d say the first half hour or so is a tad on the slow side, but once it kicks things into gear it never looks back. Miike creates a weaving tale that blends two worlds together to deliver a twist of an ending.
Over Your Dead Body is currently available on Region 4 DVD from Eastern Eye.