CATEGORIES Drama, Foreign Language, Horror, Theatrical Reviews, Cinematical Indie, Philadelphia Film Festival, Reviews, Cinematical
You want a movie that'll really test your limits for Japanese genre weirdness? Here it is: Torico's Wicked Flowers, or as I like to call it: "What Saw 5 might look like if it were co-directed by David Lynch, Rod Serling and the Pang brothers." Here the target is not merely a group of slacker teenagers, but the the generation as a whole. Yes, all you Xbox-addicted, bong-smoking, living-off-your-parents'-income S.O.B.s ... director Tirico has something he wants to say to the whole lethargic lot of you, and he'll use lures like pretty girls and free video games to get you in the front door.
Here's the simple synopsis: An aimless young guy eats some poisoned pizza, logs into a mysterious online video game, and awakens to find himself in a "real life" video game, where the contestants and the prizes are real -- but unfortunately so are the kills. The kid's given a bunch of crazy rules about dice rolls, puzzle solutions and his competitors, and then it's off to the grungy playing field full of dead bodies and, well, some really weird hosts. Plus, everyone's poisoned, a bunch of machine-gun-toting freaks populate the scene ... and there's this really creepy automated bunny rabbit who tells you what game level comes next.
The more convoluted synopsis goes like this: Wicked Flowers is all sorts of bizarre. In addition to the somewhat conventional "people trapped in a warehouse" concept, we're often interrupted by Kabuki-style digressions that are clearly meant to represent "level bosses" of some sort. Occasionally Wicked Flowers will simply cut to a stage filled with giants, midgets or crazily-contorted women who shriek their words. These frequent interstitial pieces might strike you as very creepy or exceedingly goofy, but they're fun to look at either way. As far as their collective importance to the main plot ... meh, the screenplay's actually pretty silly.
But there's a lot of interesting ideas and amusing moments littered throughout Wicked Flowers. The filmmakers' tongue-in-cheek swipes at an especially lazy generation may come across as broad and somewhat obvious, but without that subtext the flick would be just another overseas Saw ripoff -- plus the material allows Tirico to assemble a surprise ending that's pretty clever, even if it's not really all that surprising. The project's seriously low budget comes across in just about every scene, and the frequent interruptions of downright weirdness do start to grate just a little bit, but there's still enough in Wicked Flowers that's worth checking out -- provided you dig Japanese indie flicks in which "trapped and doomed" jockeys for position with "garish and bizarre."
Borrowing themes from teen-suspicious imports like Suicide Club and Battle Royale, first-timer Torico isn't about to let a low budget get in the way of getting some extreme stuff up on the screen. And by that I mean extremely violent ... and extremely weird. If Wicked Flowers winds down a bit here and there and starts to run in a few circles (and it does), you need wait only a few minutes for something patently strange to show up and assault your eyeballs. There's also a welcome sense of surreal humor and a few simple surprises tucked in amongst the insanity. Wicked Flowers is not for all tastes, obviously, but you've probably figured that out for yourself by now.