Lumberjack the Monster (2023)
June 7, 2024 12:40 PM - Subscribe

[TRAILER] After Akira Ninomiya miraculously survives a brutal attack by an unknown assailant wearing a “monster mask,” he becomes fixated on finding the attacker and getting revenge. The lastest film from prolific Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike (Audition, 13 Assassins).

Starring Kazuya Kamenashi, Nanao, Riho Yoshioka, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Shota Sometani, Shido Nakamura, Reon Yuzuki, Minosuke, Keisuke Horibe.

Japanese title: Kaibutsu no kikori.

Directed by Takashi Miike. Screenplay by Hiroyoshi Koiwai. Based on the 2019 Mayusuke Kurai novel of the same name. Cinematography by Nobuyasu Kita. Edited by Naoichiro Sagara. Music by Koji Endo.

80% fresh on Rottej Tomatoes.

Currently streaming in Netflix. JustWatch listing.
posted by DirtyOldTown (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Here is a summary, loaded with spoilers of just the first fifteen minutes, to give adventurous people a sense of how bonkers this is...

First, the cops show up in force to a house where a middle-aged man answers the door. They tell him they need to come inside and investigate. He shouts to his wife to run. The cops find fifteen barrels with dead kids in them and one kid, still alive, reading a picture book about the legend of a lumberjack monster. The wife is there. She initially threatens to kill the kid with a scalpel, but when it becomes clear she isn't getting away, she slashes her own carotid, spraying blood everywhere as she dies.

Next a well-dressed man is driving at high speed on a mountain road, being followed. He executes a maneuver that causes the tailing car to crash and flip, leaving the man hanging upside down, his face studded with pieces of windshield. He casually approaches, not at all moving to help. He asks the man why he was following him and upside down guy says he works at a hospital and he noticed fake death certificates to hide bodies and he thought he could blackmail the hospital via this man and the law firm he works for, who represent the hospital. The lawyer considers this then picks up a piece of broken glass and slashes the would be blackmailer's throat, then walks away.

He visits a doctor friend at the hospital and tells him what he did. The doctor offers to help, since this man is covering up his unlicensed human experiments.

As he goes to leave, the lawyer is attacked by someone dressed as the lumberjack monster, but manages to fight him off. As the monster leaves, the lawyers eats a ¥5000 note and swears revenge on the monster.

This is the first fifteen minutes.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:45 PM on June 7

should I feel bad for wanting to see this film?
posted by elkevelvet at 2:49 PM on June 7

No way. It's a Takashi Miike.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:52 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]

Miike is the genius we need in 2024
posted by hototogisu at 5:22 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]

maybe it’s time for a Visitor Q re-watch.
posted by hototogisu at 9:55 PM on June 7

Miike makes so many movies its hard to keep up. I only just watched his Yokai War movies (which were pretty weirdly sexual for kids movies but y'know... Miike). I'll have to make some time for this one.
posted by Ashwagandha at 9:56 PM on June 7

A little bit disappointing after reading that 15 minute summary above, and expecting something more horror from that Guardian article. The opening scenes are the best part of the movie, but after that it's surprisingly staid. It's not really a horror movie, it's not really a revenge movie. It's sort of a police procedural about hunting a serial killer, except it's very light on any actual investigation. Things happen very quickly, with very simple deductions. There's a mysterious past involved, but it just gets explained partway through and isn't mysterious anymore. There's the lightest of musings about whether or not people can change from good to evil and/or evil to good, but that's also not particularly developed. There are indeed a few moments with the Lumberjack Monster that lean towards slasher horror, but they ridiculously brief and don't really add to the story. It seems to really want to be a character study, but there's not really much character to study, and nobody is developed enough for the ending to land. Miike, talented SOB that he is, elevates a pretty slim and trope-laden script to something watchable, but ultimately it's already fading in my memory, and I wouldn't recommend it as a Miike fan, horror fan or serial killer profiler fan.
posted by mrphancy at 11:21 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]

I completely get how you landed there, but it worked for me.

For my money, Miike is rarely someone whose actual filmmaking wows me. He's very competent and fluid, but his personality is in the the weird choices he makes, not his technical presentation. I guess I mention that by way of saying even his best stuff is often built with some stock parts. You don't make eight movies a year without a fair amount of autopilot.

On top of that, the last decade or so of his work is often done in such a way that you can clearly identify which parts of the script interested him and which parts he just sort of delivered so he could get to the good stuff. This one has a lot of that.

I think he's most interested in the storyline where Ninomiya had an implant that disabled his empathy, making him a perfect psychopath, but has that damaged, giving him an unexpected turnaround. I enjoyed this bit, so I had a much more positive view of the second half.

I completely and 100% agree with the assessment that this is not a horror and am baffled it is being touted as such.

This is late career Miike, and if you think the plot sounds cool and you want to see him do his thing (though as much as ever, in spots rather than in total) it's good.

For those unfamiliar with Miike, I'd say it's worth seeing if you like the current trend in Japanese and South Korean thrillers to incorporate bonkers sci-fi elements and melodrama.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:47 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]

I totally agree with everything you said, like 100%. Just wasn't my bag.

After sleeping on it, I think your very last sentence is the key for me: I'm just not the demographic for this sort of story. It's similar to American Horror story, which is is the sort of thing I should like on paper, but it's not REALLY a horror show. It's a soap opera dressed up as horror, and the crazy drama and dumb twists are the show. My wife loves it, I hate it. I don't like people in real life who just start drama for drama's sake, so I don't like it as entertainment. There are a BUNCH of TV shows like this, and they always sound interesting, but just wind making me irritable. Lumberjack the Monster strikes me same way. I wanted it to lean harder into everything, but I don't think that's the intent. But I can totally see the my wife's students (she's a high school teacher) excitedly telling her about this crazy ass movie they saw.
posted by mrphancy at 7:44 AM on June 8

Melodrama is the cilantro of filmic tones. Either it's inoffensive and maybe a little nice, or it ruins everything, and that seems to be settled on a purely genetic level.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:33 AM on June 8 [3 favorites]

With Melodrama it needs to be at 11 or why bother. To extend the coriander/cilantro analogy - you can use a leaf as a garnish but why would you? You never taste it, you can easily remove it. There needs to be enough of it to grab you and twist your insides. Make you stick out your tongue and say "gack". With melodrama it needs to walk the knife edge of ridiculousness. It is not for everyone but there can be no half measures (see Sirk's Magnificent Obsession).
posted by Ashwagandha at 2:30 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]

Polished, controlled Miike is less interesting to me than the insane punk fucking rock Miike of DOA or Ichi. (This isn't a matter of age or maturity; Miike has always made films in this mode, too, though they didn't used to look like someone spent actual money on them.) But I still enjoyed this a lot; I liked Toshiro, and I found Akira's journey to becoming a Real Boy fascinating. The film felt a little like a late period Argento movie to me, for better or worse, and I think it could have done with a bit more spice -- not necessarily more gore, but a little more suspense and detection. A nice Goblin score wouldn't have hurt anything, either.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:54 PM on June 8

The film felt a little like a late period Argento movie to me

posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:56 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]

I think I'm midway between DOT & mrphancy on this. Liked a lot of it, loved the idea, absolutely loved the Lumberjack design (omg where can I get that mask for Halloween????) but it felt a little too diffuse. Akira's past relationship with Sugitani, for example, seemed like more of a distraction. I get that it was to set up the idea that Akira has been a murderous sociopath for years, but the lack of any explanation of what the hell the two of them were doing felt like an unnecessary loose end.


How did Akira even know who Kenmochi was? Did I miss something about how Akira found out about him and his case? It seemed like a too convenient wrap-up that he just figured it out. I can see him figuring out that it was someone who also had a broken neuro chip, but not the particular identity.

I thought it was kind of funny at the end that the Toma Mansion still had most of their medical torture instruments still there. Like, wouldn't the cops have bagged that shit as evidence 30 years ago?
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:40 PM on June 9

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