While Hollywood horror producers seem content to turn Asian horror into a set of cliched scares involving ghost girls and paranormal curses, Eastern filmmakers themselves are experimenting with new directions. That's certainly the case in Death Note, an enjoyable J-horror reboot. It's based on a popular manga about a notebook that allows idealistic law student Light (Tatsuya Fujiwara) to kill people simply by writing their names in its pages. Fiendishly unusual, it's an offbeat time-waster that genre fans will definitely want to make a note of.
Banish all thoughts of Ring, The Grudge or any other Japanese horror movie of the last ten years. Directed by Shusuke Kaneko - who was once responsible for the giant monster chaos of Gamera - this is less a scare-machine than a goofily entertaining thriller. Like the manga original, it follows power-crazed Light as he goes from using his notebook to kill deserving criminals to murdering the innocent. Light's goaded into his kill spree by the God of Death; a lolloping CGI ghoul in rock star clothes, who appears out of nowhere and offers advice while munching on apples. Weird, huh?
"MORE DAFT THAN DEADLY"
Meanwhile, the cops on Light's tail are being helped by teenage slacker genius L (Kenichi Matsuyama), who embarks on a chess-like battle of wits with our anti-hero. More daft than deadly, Death Note is executed with bags of cult flair, Kaneko nailing the manga's hyperstylised visuals in live-action, while lead actors Fujiwara and Matsuyama effortlessly exude teen cool. Despite clocking in at over two hours it ends with a gob-smacking cliffhanger that'll either frustrate or completely intrigue. Tie-in videogames, novels, an anime series and a movie sequel are already out in Japan – so if it hooks you, there's plenty more to come.
Death Note is out in the UK on 25th April 2008.