One of the more unique entries in this years Japan Film Fest Hamburg (JFFH), A Beast in Love (2020) is the latest film from the mind of Koji Shiraishi. Prolific in horror, having explored a multitude of sub-genres throughout the years, Koji Shiraishi is most known for his entries into ‘mocumentary horrors’ such as Noroi (2005), Karuto (2013) and A Record of Sweet Murder (2014).
What is it?
Set in a quiet countryside bar, an eccentric woman (disguised as a man) turns into a cutthroat killer – attempting to kill each and every patron. Her goal? To win the heart of her crush who also found his way to the locale populated by peculiar individuals.
A lively rendition from the modest cast works with the story’s bizarre tone, featuring an outstanding performance from Shohei Uno and Shunsuke Tanaka. Shohei Uno gives an aggressively energetic display as the crossdresser (as referred to in the film). Additionally, Shunsuke Tanaka’s capability to switch from timorous to ferocious is impeccably smooth; his character, Chuya Nakata, reminiscent of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde – always terrified of turning violent towards those around him. Overall, the performances across the cast act as the perfect allure to the chaos that Shiraishi is able to craft.
The cinematography exhibited is striking in its implementation, mixing a use of open wide angles and tight close shots to capture both background ambiance and character reactions. Furthermore, the film brilliantly utilizes a luminous colour palettes to make the visuals pop. Bright and oversaturated, in a complimentary sense, the visual flair is utilized from the opening credits- backdrops always awash in light and paint.
An astonishing soundtrack accompanies the film. Offering a diverse mix of genres, each scene is perfectly scored to capture the mood – frenetic or nuanced depending on the scene. In the same manner, an interlaced composed score compliments the overall flow, particularly through the tense and action pact moments.
Darkly comedic in undertones, the obscure situations play out in a serious fashion, further enhancing the bizarre factor and therefore (for myself at least) the overall success of the humor. However, there are moments that push to the extreme, including moments that are borderline gross-out, for those who really enjoy when comedies that push the limits of good taste (golden shower, anyone?).
What Didn’t Work?
The opening of the film is abstract and lacks any explanation. For this reason, the beginning is confusing to a degree – the group lacking any reason or belonging. Although these details fill in naturally, it is rather slow in pace at first and can be off-putting. Thankfully, the overall narrative is not difficult to grasp as key information is clarified towards the end of the second act.
Where Can I Watch It?
Viewings of A Beast in Love (2020) will be available online during JFFH. Available from August 18th to September 1st, tickets will be available via their website.
There is no denying A Beast in Love is a provocative piece of cinema. It is quite different from the usual films released by Koji Shiraishi but still taps into what he knows best. That is, a intelligent mystery that is able to hold appeal in audience interpretations while avoiding any plot-holes that would, under a lesser filmmaker, sink the film.
Personally, the extreme nature of the film coupled with its ludicrously dark humour made for a highly enjoyable watch – I found myself laughing throughout. However, the film feels limited by runtime and I did find myself wanting more of certain aspects. Regardless, anyone checking this one out is certain to have a good time if you are willing to embrace the chaos!
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Hey there, I’m Jim and I’m located in London, UK. I am a Writer and Technical Director here at Grimoire of Horror. A life long love of horror and writing has led me down this rabbit hole, allowing me to meet many amazing people and experience some truly original artwork. I specialise in world cinema, manga/graphic novels and video games but will sometime traverse into the unknown in search of adventure.