UK Release Date: 20th November 2017
Runtime: 85 minutes
Director: Sion Sono
Writer: Sion Sono
Starring: Reina Triendl, Mariko Shinoda, Erina Mano, Yuki Sakurai, Ami Tomite
Synopsis: A young girl finds herself at the centre of a gory nightmare that sees her switch identities with each horrific event.
If you’re ever in search of deeply warped and unusual cinema, it’s always worth venturing into the world of Asian horror. Sion Sono has spent his career carving out a position as a subversive and transgressive filmmaker. His latest film Tag, adapted from a popular novel, is another in his long line of tough, hardcore movies. It’s a potent and blood-soaked fantasy tale, laced with surrealism and repeated deep dives down a rabbit hole of Lynchian nightmare.
There’s plenty here for the gorehound crowd from the very first moment. Within five minutes of the film’s title card appearing, there are more dismembered corpses lying in puddles of viscous bodily fluid than in a decade of Saw movies. Sono revels in regular interludes of CGI arterial splatter, amplifying the tension of his bizarre premise to create a world so unusual the audience can never get comfortable.
The film sees schoolgirl Mitsuko (Reina Triendl) run away from a brutal wind that tears her classmates’ bodies in half, only to find herself welcomed into another school by stranger Aki (Yuki Sakurai), who seems to already know her. After a series of increasingly unusual and violent massacres, Mitsuko finds herself transformed into bride-in-waiting Keiko (Mariko Shinoda) and lauded long-distance runner Izumi (Erina Mano). The surrealism mounts en route to a finale that uproots Mitsuko’s world with a killer final twist.
Triendl’s wide-eyed, innocent performance proves a great centrepiece for the story as her bewilderment reflects the way everyone watching the film feels. She’s a naive and impressionable woman, which makes her the ideal avatar for a world without men. Sono provides Tag with a smart feminist subtext about the way men manipulate and commodify women, right up until his barmy ending, which packs a serious punch.
That ending, though, can’t match the sheer potency of the surreal upside-down world communicated throughout the rest of the movie. The inherently episodic narrative structure initially feels as if it might run out of energy, but it ultimately provides the space for each chapter to cross over with other chapters and invade their stories with unsettling effect. The repeated image of the sole “male” character, appearing with the festering head of a boar, is enough to run a chill down the spine whenever he appears.
Sono draws his audience into his world of darkness, with a devilish sense of humour and a constant sense of unpredictability in every scene. Tag works hard to make its torrents of blood seem justified and, with the help of some killer performances and a consistent narrative thrust, he succeeds in crafting something that leaves behind a memorable impact. Its sci-fi infused finale perhaps over-reaches itself a little, but it hangs together enough to sustain its chill after the credits roll.
Just a trailer on the disc I had for review.
Pop or Poop?
Sion Sono has produced something special with Tag, which consistently knocks the audience off balance with its nightmarish visions of a surreal world. Its commentary about a world of women manipulated by male puppet masters is sophisticated and witty. The film is frequently punctuated by horrific violence and images that are genuinely shocking and transgressive, building to a twist that pays off everything that has come before.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
Tag is available on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK from November 20, courtesy of Eureka Entertainment.