Reviewed by Andrew Kasch
Starring Japanese school girls and not one single ghost!
Directed by Kenta Fukasaku
Take The Wicker Man and 80’s slasher movies, blend them with a survival horror video game and a hefty dose of martial arts, and you’ve got X-Cross – a bizarro slice of cult cinema that could only come from Japan. For those who find Sam Raimi movies “slow-paced,” this demented slice of midnight movie bliss may just be your ticket.
Directed by Kenta (Battle Royale II) Fukasaku from a script by Tetsuya (Death Note) Oishi, the film follows two Japanese school girls on vacation in an isolated hot springs village where things aren’t quite what they seem. After encountering several strange locals, the pair soon realize they’ve run afoul of an entire town’s worth of bloodthirsty cultists – and they demand a sacrifice. As dumb luck would have it, a patchy-eyed scissors-wielding slasher also stumbles into town after the two friends are quickly separated, using their cell phones to stay in contact while each one tries to survive the night.
If it sounds over-ambitious, that’s because it is, and it’s sometimes difficult to get your bearings amidst all the chaos. But it hardly puts a damper on the entertainment value. Fukasaku’s inventive direction and eye-popping visuals make for one wild ride at the movies – logic be damned! X-Cross also takes the non-linear route by showing the same events through the perspective of each girl. It’s a gimmick but a cool one that helps ratchet up the sense of paranoia and weirdness that fills each moment.
Hybrid movies don’t always work, and this one bounces from intense horror to slapstick comedy to kung fu fightin’ more often than you can count, but all the elements blend together nicely. The action scenes are beautifully staged and choreographed, the running gags are suitably funny, and there are even several tension-filled moments that deliver on the scares. Avid video gamers will also recall the Clock Tower series, which seems to be a huge influence here (fitting since father Kinji Fukasaku directed the third game just before his death).
It would be criminal to say any more since it’s best to go into this film with a clean slate. But after all these years, slasher junkies and fans of Japanese cult cinema finally have something to scream about. X-Cross is a unique spin on the genre and delivers a delirious balls-to-the-wall rollercoaster of a movie … without a single Asian ghost in sight.
4 out of 5