TIFF 2013: Why Don’t You Play In Hell?

I don’t typically get out to as many Midnight Madness films as I would like, but try for at least one each festival. The atmosphere of a midnight screening is so wildly different from the rest that you do yourself a disservice to pass it up completely. The laughter, cheering, and screaming are all louder, everything seems more outlandish and perfect.  We saw Almost Human in an evening screening, and while the crowd did appreciate it the response was much more subdued than I know it would have been just the night before.  And some movies, like The Green Inferno,  almost seem made for Midnight Madness. The newest feature from Shion Sono is the epitome of this style – wild, shocking, bloody, hilarious!  As Colin said before it began, they would need a special clean-up crew just to collect all of our jaws from the floor. He was not wrong, I think I forgot mine in the theatre. 

whydontyouplayinhell_07
Sono is no stranger to shocking subject matter, being the mastermind behind Suicide Club, and he clearly expects that his audience would be disappointed with nothing less but the most outlandish violence that can be put on screen.  Why Don’t You Play In Hell? is ostensibly the story of a group of amateur filmmakers who are willing to die if it means they can create the greatest movie ever!  Their plot intersects with the conflict between two rival yakuza clans and their collective obsession with mob daughter Mitsuko.

whydontyouplayinhell_02
For reasons best left unspoiled it is imperative that Mitsuko star in a feature film immediately, despite the escalating violence between the clans causing constant interference.  Throw in Koji, a wimpy teenage boy obsessed with Mitsuko since she was a child star, a yakuza boss obsessed with samurai culture, and a grumpy police inspector and you have a volcano ready to erupt. It is decided that the final yakuza showdown will be the backdrop for Mitsuko’s feature debut (but no guns, only swords!), with yakuza filling the crew roles.  Enter the film-making buddies, the self-titled Fuck Bombers, and the cameras are ready to roll!

whydontyouplayinhell_05
Why Don’t You Play In Hell? is filmed frenetically, and almost seems like a crazy manga come to life. Random flashbacks, dream sequences and physics-defying bloodbaths let you know immediately that nothing is to be taken seriously. Even the ending runs right off the page, leaving you wondering “what did I just watch?”  The comedy is sharp and goofy and no expense was spared on the blood – the final battle makes Kill Bill look like The Princess Bride. Limbs are thrown around, a little girl surfs on a lake of blood, and through it all people cannot stop singing a song about brushing your teeth!  I think it is safe to say that this is one of, if not the, weirdest movies I have ever seen.
whydontyouplayinhell_06
It’s not perfect though.  The various sub plots are all given a lot of time to develop, and frequently the pace slows too much and it dips into melodrama.  The Fuck Bombers are held together for years by the faith that their big break will come, despite having never gotten past filming a trailer. Their struggle is one of true friendship and trust through adversity, but gets too much focus when there are things like murderous housewives to watch.  And as things continue to escalate the plot matters less and less and finally is just an excuse to get everyone in one room killing each other. It certainly could have been tightened up a bit, but ultimately I still found myself having the time of my life.  Why Don’t |You Play In Hell? is meant purely to be fun and funny, and hits both marks. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a hilarious, mind-blowingly extravagant gorefest.

Director Shion Sono inviting us to the screening

Director Shion Sono inviting us to the screening