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Release Date: 11 July 2015 [Japan]
Director: Sion Sono
Writer: Sion Sono [Screenplay] - Yûsuke Yamada [Novel]
Cast: Reina Triendl - Mariko Shinoda - Erina Mano



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Posted April 5, 2016 by

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Tag Review:

Ah, Japan, the land of many things totally and awesomely weird which has left a giant, undeniable mark on the pop culture landscape forevermore. Beyond the two most obvious Japanese influences … anime and video games, the country has steadily become a place where many fascinating movies are born. Love them or hate them, Japanese films have a flavor that is unique to the culture of the people making them, and though most people don’t even know what movies Japan makes, many know the (typically) bastardized American counterpart. THE RING, THE GRUDGE, PULSE, ONE MISSED CALL, and GODZILLA among many others all originally flickered on screens in the land of the rising sun. If you broaden the spectrum a little to Asian cinema, then even more movies like SHUTTER, THE DEPARTED, FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, SHALL WE DANCE, and so many more are remakes or eerily similar versions of Thai, Korean, and Chinese films respectively.

This brings me to TAG RIARU ONIGOKKO, a 2015 Japanese horror-fantasy film that’s equal parts gory, giggly, strange, and poetic. The film centers around Mitsuko (Reina Triendl), a young, Japanese schoolgirl who is facing fate in the form of shifting realities and an ominous wind that’s represented by some fluttering CG leaves. When we meet Mitsuko, she’s a starry-eyed, wannabe poet on a bus full of classmates out on a school trip. Soon the wind rips through the scene and begins a rollercoaster of nightmares for the young girls. This start is sudden, gory, and glorious and immediately sets up the surrealist nature of this movie. Mitsuko runs from the wind all the way back to her all- girls school where she finds that nothing she just experienced was as it seemed. Or was it? Tag jumps calmly between realities until it all comes together at the end in a confrontation with a villain who has a macabre, albeit confusing, agenda.

There’s no easy way to describe Tag. It’s sort of like SUCKER PUNCH, except a lot more coherent, but a lot less CG slathered or stylistically pretty. It’s all about the surrealism, the possibility of what alternate realities might offer, and sacrifices necessary to change reality. There are a lot of interesting themes in Tag, and if I’m making it sound like some deep, pretentious art film, it’s not. Tag only giggles and runs away from most of these concepts to keep the movie simple, straightforward, and moving at a brisk pace. Director Sion Sono (LOVE & PEACE, THE WHISPERING STAR) unleashes some really nice storytelling and visual skills, even if he does spend a lot of time showing Mitsuko and friends running. I mean, A LOT.

Tag is a strange little film with some interesting concepts and chances are if you already like Asian cinema, you’ll enjoy this one. For those new to Japanese movies it’ll be hit-or- miss because their brand of storytelling is a little off-beat when compared to typical Hollywood fare. I wouldn’t call it a groundbreaking or “must-see” film by any stretch of the imagination but it hit two important points for me when it comes to movies: it was intriguing and entertaining.


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Ruben R. Diaz
Freelance Contributor

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