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Battle Royale – more for giggles than for scares

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A human head flies through the air and lands on the ground. The people on the screen start yelling, tossing themselves to the sides. I can’t blame them; the head has got a grenade in the mouth. Me? I giggle.

I used to describe myself as a squishy when it comes to violence on the screen, believe it or not. For years I’ve been avoiding the most gruesome horror and violent action movies knowing that unless I cover my eyes during the gory parts, they’ll make me feel nauseous. And what’s the point of watching movies with your eyes closed?

Since I picked up movie blogging, I’ve began to push my boundaries, challenging myself to watch movies that I know will make me feel uncomfortable. If I didn’t, I know that I’d miss out a lot of really good movies, but I’d also lock myself out of the conversation in the community.  Instead I’ve decided to grow a thicker skin and so far, so good. You can stomach more than you think if you make an effort and Drive ended up among one of my favorite movies last year.

But I don’t think I can attribute my cool reaction to Battle Royale to my skin being thick. There’s something else to it.

The theme of this movie is creepy, no doubt. There’s this future where the government for unclear reasons want to make a statement and keep people under control by arranging a yearly game where a number of teenagers are sent to a limited area where they fight each other until only one person is alive – the winner of the game. Sounds a bit familiar, huh? The difference is that it’s a school class that has been randomized to go there, not representatives from districts. And there are more of them, about 40 from the start.

But for how repulsive the idea is, the execution is so over-the-top that it never really gets scary. I didn’t scream of anxiety once; I just giggled at the absurdity of it. I didn’t watch real people that I knew and cared about; I was watching a video game or a comic book. Think the scenes in Monty Python where they chop off the arm of a soldier and he continues to run about fighting, the blood splashing from the arm. Not that scary.

I giggled as the cute girl with the ponytails cut the throat off her friend with an axe, I giggled as the kids looked through their packages to see what kind of weapon they had gotten (everyone had a different one) and one of them got a pot lid. Tough luck! 🙂 The only deaths that didn’t make me giggle were the suicides, and there were quite a few of those too. But they were soon forgotten. More slaughtering was waiting. More giggles.

I don’t know if this is how I’m meant to react. At IMDb it’s presented as an action, thriller and sci-fi movie, not as a comedy or satire. I wouldn’t rule out that the original intention was dead serious. I couldn’t take it that way though.

I still can’t wrap my head around what kind of a film this is. Perhaps I shouldn’t bother trying. It’s one in its own kind, it was entertaining in a weird way and I won’t forget it anytime soon.

And would you believe me if I told you that the director Kinji Fukasaku was 70 years old when this movie was shot? Just… wow. It’s time that I ditch some of my prejudices about elderly people.

Battle Royale (Batoru rowaiaru, Kinji Fukasaku, JA 2000) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

May 14, 2012 at 7:28 am

Posted in Battle Royale