Review: ‘Alive’

Gorehounds expecting a splatter rate in "Alive" commensurate with helmer Ryuhei Kitamura's rousing 2001 debut "Versus" are in for a scare of another kind: Adapted from the popular comic by Tsutomu Takahashi, pic finds Kitamura more concerned with lavish production design, super f/x and (gasp!) talk.

Gorehounds expecting a splatter rate in “Alive” commensurate with helmer Ryuhei Kitamura’s rousing 2001 debut “Versus” are in for a scare of another kind: Adapted from the popular comic by Tsutomu Takahashi, pic finds Kitamura more concerned with lavish production design, super f/x and (gasp!) talk. Item will still live it up at specialty and adventurous mainstream fests, with cult ancillary a given.

After surviving an execution for murdering the guys who raped his g.f., hard-boiled Tenshu Yashiro (Hideo Sakaki) is made part of a secret government experiment held in a sealed-off room. Our hero must do battle with something called the Displacer, an alien organism that moves from body to body depending on strength of individual killer instincts. Also enmeshed in the web of conspiracies are sisters Yurika and Asuka (Ryo, Koyuki). There’s precious little of the imaginative, grisly mayhem that made “Versus” such a roller-coaster ride; Yashiro doesn’t mix it up with his cellmate until a half-hour in, and the “Matrix”-like martial arts displays don’t arrive until the 76-minute mark. Tech credits are eye-popping, with Takumi Furuya’s frantic digital camera careening along every inch of Yuji Hayashida’s imaginative sets.

Alive

Japan

Production

A Suplex production, in association with Napalm Films. (International sales: The Klockworx Co., Tokyo.) Produced by Hidemi Satani, Taizo Fukumaki. Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura. Screenplay by Kitamura, Yudai Yamaguchi, Isao Kiriyama, from the comic by Tsutomu Takahashi.

Crew

Camera (color, DV-to-35mm), Takumi Furuya; editor, Shuichi Kakesu; music, Nobuhiko Morino, Daisuke Yano; production designer, Yuji Hayashida. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Midnight Madness), Sept. 7, 2002. Running time: 119 MIN.

With

Hideo Sakaki, Ryo, Koyuki, Jun Kunimura.
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