Over Your Dead Body (2014)
Director: Takashi Miike
Starring: Ebizô Ichikawa, Ko Shibasaki, Miho Nakanishi, Maiko, Toshie Negishi, Ikkô Furuya & Hideaki Itô
Released by: Scream Factory
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
From the director of Audition, Over Your Dead Body centers on an accomplished actress (Ko Shibasaki, 47 Ronin) starring in a stage rendition of a legendary ghost story. After getting her lover cast as the male lead, rehearsals for the play, focusing on a troubled relationship and a supernatural presence, begin taking shape offstage as well. When the line between reality and fantasy become heavily blurred, the young thespians find themselves consumed by the darkness.
Focusing on the exhaustive rehearsal process of a stage play, Over Your Dead Body begins promisingly, inviting viewers into the beautiful and dramatic narrative of its mock production. Weaving a tale of an abusive relationship, samurais and apparitions, Director Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer) spends considerable time establishing the characters of his play within a film before revealing their complicated lives offstage. Successfully landing her lover a leading role in her latest opus, Miyuke’s (Shibasaki) relationship with Kousuke (Ichikawa) is anything but ideal. Struggling to cope with the heavy subject matter of her role, Miyuke finds her onstage drama suffocating her once loving relationship with her costar. Meanwhile, Kousuke secretly takes comfort in the sexual company of Miyuke’s understudy as the supernatural elements of the play begin taking hold of the actors’ lives.
Considerably slow-building, Over Your Dead Body remains fixated on the visual splendor of its faux stage play while, Miyuke and Kousuke’s relationship dilemmas increase and become intertwined with the play’s grim narrative. In its final act, Over Your Dead Body supplies unsettling footage of Miyuke attempting to claw at her womb with kitchen utensils for a fetus making the scareless first hour nearly forgotten. In addition, the eerie awakening of a prop baby and Miyuke’s deformed transformation similar to that of her stage character gives the film added chills. Effortlessly blending the realms of nightmares and reality at the expense of its runtime, Over Your Dead Body may not be Miike’s finest hour, yet successfully achieves a haunting tone by its conclusion.
Scream Factory presents Over Your Dead Body with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. A product of the digital age, flesh tones appear lively and well-detailed with the dimly lit sets of the film’s play offering healthy black levels. That said, nighttime sequences of intimacy between Miyuke and Kousuke suffer slightly with foggier appearances and hints of digital noise. Beyond these minor grievances, Over Your Dead Body makes a spirited debut on high-definition. Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, the Japanese dialogue is delivered sharply with moments of hushed tones never suffering. Meanwhile, the film’s haunting score by Composer Kôji Endô (13 Assassins) and its glass-shattering sound effects are prominently prioritized enhancing scenes of suspense. In rare Scream Factory form, special features are limited to only the film’s Trailer (2:03).
Director Takashi Miike’s latest effort takes its time painting a picture of a troubled couple eventually overcome by dark forces. Although its narrative is intertwined with the drama of its supernatural play, scares and nightmarish imagery are reserved until the film’s rewarding final act. While its pace and lack of frights can grow tiresome, Over Your Dead Body maintains some of J-horror’s best qualities. Continuing to expand their horizons to all facets of terror, Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release awards viewers with a strong audio/visual presentation although, supplements are noticeably scant in comparison to past releases.