Arya's In-Flight Asian Film Festival

incitemill

The Incite Mill - 7 Day Death Game
Director: Hideo Nakata
Japan

It's not easy to maintain a reputable career, particularly in the same genre, when your breakout film is considered one of the most influential movies of the modern era and remains one of the best horror movies of all time. Ever since Ring, Hideo Nakata has tried his hands at different things here and there, but keeps coming back to ghost stories like Dark Water and Kaidan. Nakata knows how to make a derivative formula work to his advantage. In contrast, The Incite Mill is an attempt at a psychological mystery that falls apart in every attempt at suspense.

The problem is that Nakata is very good at creepy imageries and prolonging the unknown, but the threats in this movie are all tangible and present. Borrowing elements from Agatha Christie, Battle Royale and 2001: A Space Odyssey to name a few, the movie pits ten unemployed strangers against each other in a mystery game that promises them high pay. They have to stay locked in an underground compound for seven days. In Christie fashion—the film even references Ten Little Indians directly with a creepy Saw-like Native American doll giving them morbid instructions—they start dying one by one. What's worse, each of their bedrooms is equipped with a random weapon (minus, unfortunately, a cheery girl exclaiming, "This one is SUPER lucky!"), so every time someone dies, it's Clue time, with both the guesser and the accused getting double pay.

Cool premise, isn't it? There are so many ways Nakata (and screenwriter Satoshi Suzuki) could've taken this, with the worst being the generic slasher route, and yet that's the one they took. It's sort of fun to watch while it lasts just to see who's going to freak out next, like some kind of bastard mix of Saw and Big Brother, but it mines minimal suspense from the rules, makes no commentary whatsoever on the financial motives of the participants, and is just full of over-the-top characters making decisions that make no sense. And what, exactly, is the purpose of adding a HAL clone to watch over the house ominously, other than to take the movie to the realm of science-fiction and break what little human-human tension it has by adding a potential robotic menace?

As the protagonist, Tatsuya Fujiwara basically plays the exact same role he did in Battle Royale—the girl-smitten pacifist wimp who bawls and begs for everyone to calm down and stop playing the game. Unlike Battle Royale, however, which uses his personality to raise a question of the extent of human empathy, The Incite Mill seems to be just a half-baked commentary on mean-spirited game shows that's not even anywhere near as scary as an episode of Joe Millionaire.

US release unknown.



Feb
05
2011
Arya Ponto • Contributor

As former Editor of JPP, Arya likes to entertain peeps with his thoughts on pop culture, when he's not busy watching Battle Royale for the 200th time. He lives in Brooklyn with a comic book collection that's always the most daunting thing to move with, and writes for Artboiled.com.

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