Karaoke Terror (2005)

Starring Ryuhei Matsuda, Kayoko Kishimoto, Masanobu Ando

Directed by Tetsuo Shinohara

Karaoke Terror (aka The Complete Japanese Showa Songbook) is a precious little ultraviolent satire, adapted from the novel by author Ryu Murakami (whom you might recognize as the director of Tokyo Decadence, and writer of Audition). Karaoke Terror is in one sense, a commentary on the generation gap that divides japanese youth from their control wielding elders (ala Battle Royale), and to a lesser extent, the idea that violence begets violence (an eye for an eye leaves lots of gooey eye juice on your favorite shirt).

The story revolves around a group of middle-aged, divorced women who share a shallow friendship based solely on the fact that they share the same last name Midori, and naturally…an interest in karaoke. Their world clashes with that of a tight group of brash young teens, who are the archetypical slackers; they hang out, eat junk food, spy on their stripper neighbour, and of course, discuss the finer points of masturbation at every turn.

When one of the Slackers senselessly murders one of the Midoris, a brutal cycle of violent revenge is set off that escalates quickly, and ends bloodily. Director Tetsuo Shinohara graphically depicts the evolution of warfare as the two groups use everything from knives, to guns, to surface-to-surface missiles on each other. With each murderous reprisal having a popular song from the Showa Era (1926 – 1989) as an unlikely, but strangely appealing, score.

While the premise may sound outrageously absurd, the film performs an elaborate shell game on the viewer, weaving comedy, quiet softness, and an almost surreal juxtaposition of shots. It effectively disarms you, misdirects you, and then presents you with what you least expect. And if you’re like me, and have ever wondered what it would be like to tie a knife to a broomstick and shank someone in the carotid artery at high speed from the seat of a moped, then you’ll be more than satisfied with this little gem.

3 out of 5

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Jon Condit

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