Lumberjack the Monster review – an explosion of horror strangeness from a master of the art

Estimated read time 2 min read

The vintage year of 1999 has been back in the critical conversation recently for its quarter-centenary; it was the year of The Sixth Sense, The Matrix, Fight Club, American Beauty – and there can hardly have been more brilliant and more disturbing film of that time than Takashi Miike’s demonically inspired horror-satire Audition, a nightmarishly violent parable of sexual politics and national malaise which launched his reputation in the west as a master of the macabre and the extreme.

Perhaps Miike has never quite equalled that hideous display of cruelty and fear, or perhaps it is truer to say he never again brought these things into such a sharp dramatic focus. But he certainly has kept up an extraordinary productivity and his latest movie – unveiled at last year’s Tokyo film festival and released without fanfare on Netflix – has a typically gonzo freakiness, in that characteristically Miike style of throwing everything into the mix.

Lumberjack the Monster is a case of monster v monster. There’s a serial killer going around attacking people with an axe and removing their brains. In a Miike film, we would expect no less. A brilliant forensic profiler called Toshiro (Nanao Arai) is on the Lumberjack’s trail. But this killer finds that one of the people he attacks is quite as inhuman and monstrous as he is. This is a lawyer called Akira (Kazuya Kamenashi), who miraculously escapes from the assault; Akira has his own secret history of violence, having already murdered his fiancee’s father to inherit his law firm, and carries out creepy experiments in league with a corrupt surgeon. Akira sets out to hit back at this “Lumberjack the Monster” – but their encounter may be due to the fact that they were both child victims of a notorious child-abductor who implanted “neuro chips” in her victims.

The movie as a whole is entirely crazy and operatically over-the-top. Despite the “whodunnit” aspect of the Lumberjack’s eventual unmasking, there is not much here of the kind of narrative plausibility that another type of drama might feel constrained to include so that audiences can invest emotionally, and therefore feel more intimately disturbed. Like so many Miike films, this is a firework display of strangeness, alienation and nihilism. It’s quite a spectacle.


You May Also Like

More From Author