From one of this generation’s award-winning Masters of Horror, Takashi Miike, comes this blood-splattered, thriller about an unconventional teacher, who has some brutal ideas when it comes to educating!
Lesson of Evil centres on popular high school teacher Seiji Hasumi (Hideaki Ito); a charming individual who is well-liked by both his pupil’s and colleague’s. Unbeknown to them, Hasumi is not all he seems. He’s harbouring an anti-social personality disorder which results in psychotic tendencies.
After a few classmates ‘mysteriously’ disappear, the students become suspicious, while Hasumi takes every day high school issues such as bullying and irate parents into his own murderous hands! Disturbing secrets surrounding Hasumi’s past begin to tumble out on screen, giving us a new, calculated and complex villain within the genre.
Based on Yusuke Kishi’s 2010 novel, Lesson of Evil supplies a commentary on the difficulties of high school life and takes an uncomfortable look at inappropriate relationships between students and their teachers.
Like the majority of Miike films, Lesson of Evil gets right under the skin. However despite the film’s later bloodshed, Miike manages to invest us into the story and Hasumi as the antagonist, in a psychological way. Beginning as a slow burner, Miike (who also wrote the screenplay) sets up the events and characters incredibly well, balancing a grim tone while keeping an element of dark humour throughout to a disturbing effect.
Lesson of Evil is deemed as Miike’s “Battle Royale” and it’s evident to see the comparisons in terms of a high school massacre plot however this film does hold its own by incorporating the teacher as the real threat among the students typical teenaged problems.
The direction is superb; Miike’s Cronenbergian influences shine through in terms of the use of deep red and blue lighting which heightens the film’s dramatic nature. The lighting conveys intensity but at the same time creates a very stylistic aesthetic.
“Mack the Knife” or originally the German version “Die Moritat von Mackie Messer” is aptly played at various points in the film. It’s a disturbing murder ballad that has been popularized through various cover versions and suitably works as a theme for Hasumi’s crimes that take place mostly off-screen adding in more of that viewing discomfort. “Mack the Knife” is likely going to continue playing in your head, long after the films end.
Hideaki Ito plays Hasumi with a devilish charm in an utterly compelling performance. He leaves the audience frequently on edge, in suspense of what despicable action will he undertake next. Hasumi is a frightening villain. Metaphorically a monster, the scariest aspect is that Hasumi is placed in a position of trust and power and abuses that position beyond brutality. That’s what makes Lesson of Evil so effective, if you can’t trust your teacher then there’s no hope in trusting anyone else in society, undoing any sense of security founded in childhood.
Takashi Miike proves that he can merge a well-constructed thriller into a gory, splatter-fest successfully. The subject matter is harrowing but it’s something that horrifyingly does happen. Despite being difficult and open to a wave of criticism, Miike is brave to take on an issue that has had a universal impact. As several reviewers have previously stated, including Jonathan Barkan of Bloody Disgusting that the film “overstays its welcome”, I wholeheartedly agree that the run-time needed to be reduced as it begins to get ever so repetitive as it splatters its way towards the nail-biting climax. An overkill of suspense perhaps.
Lesson of Evil, is raw, gritty and dark portrayal of a serial killer that is as highly entertaining as it is disturbing. It’s now available on DVD/Blu-Ray in the UK.
For the UK premiere of Takashi Miike’s next offering, “Over Your Dead Body”, head to the Abertoir Horror Festival this November (11th-16th) in Aberystwyth, Wales. http://www.abertoir.co.uk/2014-festival/films-3/168-over-your-dead-body