Review by: Monkey Fist
SCUM Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
It’s 9:30pm on a Friday night and the lads at SCUM decided to catch Takashi Miike’s latest flick, Lesson of the Evil, which was screening to an almost empty house at Shaw Brother’s Balestier Cinema (incidentally, a cinema with some resonance for local Kung Fu fans).
I’m not sure about the rest of the lads but I went in with rather high expectations given Miike’s track record for delivering the goods (see Audition and Ichi The Killer for good examples of Miike classics). In the end, the film felt like drinking a flat can of Coke that’s been left in the refrigerator for five days.
The film’s opening was pretty good – a teenager arms himself with a knife and slowly approaches his parent’s bedroom, where they discuss turning him into the police for a series of murders. The uninterrupted pace and setting of the scene was disturbing and it still lingers. Unfortunately, it goes rapidly downhill thereafter.
Fast forward to present time. We are introduced to popular new English teacher, Hasumi (Hideaki Ito). The shinsei’s charm and dedication earn the students’ affection and his colleagues’ respect for his imaginative crisis-solving skills.
When a group of girls approach Hasumi with news that one of their classmates, Miya (Mizuno Erina) is being sexually assaulted by their gym teacher (Miike regular, Yamada Takayuki), Hasumi provides advice that seemingly solves the situation. However, when he then sleeps with Miya himself, we begin to see the cracks behind that ‘goody two-shoes’ grin.
An incensed parent, convinced his daughter is being bullied and dissatisfied with Hasumi’s lackluster response to the accusations, dies in an inferno not long after. We discover that while projecting an image of well-groomed success, Hasumi actually lives in a dilapidated house on the outskirts of town, where he revels in electrocuting a group of crows that seem to appear in every Miike film.
Soon Husami’s inconsistencies arouse the suspicions of a nerdy physics teacher, Tsurii (Fukikoshi Mitsuru), who begins to dig around Hasumi’s past — revealing frightening truths. Takashi Miike doesn’t delve too much into Hasumi’s psyche but we do get glimpses of the underlying madness and how it all intertwines with the opening scene of the film.
The second half of the movie erupts into a roller coaster ride of sheer violence and gore as Hasumi goes on a berserk killing spree with the Kurt Weill classic Die Moritat von Mackie Messer/Mack the Knife playing in the background. Frankly, the choice of music is a good idea but not when it’s played repeatedly for the last hour of the film!
The plot is rather straight forward and based on a 2010 novel by Yusuke Kishi. As with most of Miike’s flicks, the violence is gratuitous and in view of recent real-life mass shootings, rather questionable. In my opinion, if you’re looking for something gritty and suspenseful this weekend, do check out Miike’s earlier film, Audition.