Monday, November 5, 2012

Black Rat (live action movie), via Crunchyroll

Black Rat is a Japanese horror movie. I'm sorry my first published post in a while is for something so bad. My only excuse is that I wasn't feeling well and felt like watching something that wouldn't take much thought and could be viewed in one sitting. This fit the bill.


Six supposed friends (more on this later) receive email from Asuka, a friend of theirs who killed herself a short while ago. The email instructs them all to meet in a particular classroom at midnight. Four of them arrive as instructed, and they are met by a girl wearing a bloody rat mask. The girl seems to potentially be Asuka, because Asuka died wearing that same mask, which she had made in preparation for a modern version of a traditional rat dance she had planned to do with her friends.

The person in the rat mask explains, in writing, that vengeance will be had. To underscore her meaning and seriousness, she drags the bloodied body of one of the missing six friends into the classroom. The other four friends run from the person in the rat mask, only to be chased down, captured, made to participate in a "penalty game," and killed when they fail the game. As they try to survive, the big question all the friends are wondering is "Who is the person in the rat mask?" Is it really Asuka, back from the dead and out for vengeance? Interspersed throughout the movie are scenes from the seven friends' past, during the period just before Asuka killed herself.


The short version: this is a terrible movie. And not in a “so bad, it's good” kind of way. I can't even recommend making fun of it with a group of friends. It's just plain bad.

The movie's most glaring problem is that it makes no sense. Why does this group of seven people associate with each other? It's stated that they're friends, but they don't seem to have much in common, and several of them don't even seem to like each other.

Asuka was friends with Misato, a timid girl with strict parents. Supposedly, Asuka was dating one of the other friends, a tough delinquent-type guy, although I had a tough time imagining the two of them talking to each other outside of school. The delinquent-type guy was fooling around with Saki behind Asuka's back. Meanwhile, another guy, who I think was named Kenga, was secretly in love with Asuka. A nerdy guy attached himself to the delinquent-type guy, sorta kinda hoping to hook up with Saki. Then there was a random studious girl tacked onto the group. All these people were part of the group of seven “friends.”

I suppose I could see these people talking to each other and getting together if their class was composed only of them and if they never associated with anybody outside their class. I don't know, maybe this would be considered plausible to a Japanese audience. It wasn't plausible to me. I could see separate cliques within the group and no real reason for those cliques to interact, and yet the movie expected me to believe that they were all “friends,” or at least that Asuka and Misato considered them to be friends.

If they had behaved in ways that made sense, I think the “friends” could have overpowered the person in the rat mask early on, after she made it clear she was unhinged but before she started brandishing a weapon. Either that, or at least a few of them could have escaped while the rest were running from or being killed by the person in the mask.

Even if I'm nice and assume that fear made them all act like complete morons, the movie had other problems. I could understand why the friend who unmasked the person in the rat mask would decide to beat that person. I couldn't understand why the friend would put on the rat mask before going after the former wearer of the mask. And it wasn't just one person who did this – at least two people did this. I think maybe viewers were supposed to see the mask as being demonic in some way, but the reason for that was never explained.

True, Asuka died while wearing the mask, and this wouldn't be the first horror movie to make something evil because it was associated with a person who died. However, the dead person was usually consumed by negative feelings directed at others. According to at least part of the movie, Asuka didn't blame any of her friends for pushing her to suicide. Actually, I'm still not exactly sure why she killed herself. Did she kill herself because her boyfriend left her for Saki? Or because others kept telling her that they hated her habit of smiling all the time? Or because her friends were all refusing to participate in the modern version of the rat dance she'd planned? The movie never says. All those reasons would provide an okay backdrop for some beyond-the-grave rage, but the only thing Asuka said for sure was that she blamed herself for...something.

This is just a mess of a movie that couldn't figure out what it wanted to do, and the final reveals weren't very satisfying. One character appeared out of nowhere, after, as far as I could remember, getting not a single prior mention – the story needed her, so she popped into being. Another character killed after showing no murderous tendencies. I'm not much of a fan of slasher movies, so I may not be the best judge of this, but not even the deaths were very interesting. The writer tried to liven things up a bit with the penalty games, and it just fell flat.

All in all, even if you're just looking for something to make fun of with your friends, there are better movies out there. Go watch one of those.

  • A Blood Pledge (live action movie) - I haven't seen this, but it's another horror movie (Korean, rather than Japanese) that can currently be watched via Crunchyroll. A group of friends swears to commit suicide together one night, but the next day only one of them is found dead.
  • Scream (live action movie) - Another horror movie featuring a group of friends getting killed off by a masked psycho.
  • Terror Train (live action movie) - Another horror movie featuring a group of students being targeted by a masked killer. The students were apparently responsible for some kind of prank. This one has Jamie Lee Curtis.
  • Prom Night (live action movie) - Wow, Jamie Lee Curtis was in a lot of movies starring masked killers. In this one, the students being targeted were responsible for the accidental death of a child.

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