A wonderfully twisted Japanese affair.
by Nav Qateel
Nami (Kumi Takiuchi) and her big sister are completely ignored by their unconventional parents. Nami’s wealthy father is only interested in his wife, but she’s only interested in doing philanthropic work, leaving Nami feeling unhappy. When her mother abandons the family in order to go abroad to help starving children, Nami’s depressed father has the strange Akko-chan move into the home as his mistress. Her father and Akko-chan lock themselves away most of the time, and after her big sister walks out to live with her boyfriend, a very lonely Nami is left to her own devices. Eventually Akko-chan leaves and her dad commits suicide, and thanks to a large inheritance, a grownup Nami lives in relative luxury with a strange obsession. Nami watches other lonely people. She spies on them from a distance, calling them “solitarians.” The more oddball the solitarians are the better, with Nami keeping a record of everything they do in her diary. When one of her solitarians is helped by a young Christian woman who sits and reads the Bible with him the normally happy, grinning Nami decides to put a stop to it.
Kumi Takiuchi was fantastic as the adult Nami, with her almost permanent toothy painted-on grin. That smile was in stark contrast to the look of sheer hatred Nami adopted when things weren’t going her way. However, the evil look was saved for the third act. The prolific Takashi Sasano plays the elderly Mr. Shiomi, a solitarian that Nami has taken a special interest in. Nami likes to see the end results of lonely old “virile” men with nothing left to live for. There’s a reason for everything Nami does but you’ll have to find that out by seeing the film for yourself.
Where Greatful Dead bettered a lot of other films in its class was that we were left in no doubt about everything that had happened. Each thread of the story was neatly explained by the end, giving a real sense of closure, unlike so many other Japanese filmmakers that seem to enjoy the confusion of their highly ambiguous efforts.
The final act is where the film kicks into high gear, as Nami takes off the gloves and gets out the knife and hammer. She also drafts in help from another of her solitarians, with a promise to let him “touch” her. Although Greatful Dead is indeed a horror, it’s also so much more, and to simply label it thus is to do the film a disservice.
Eiji Uchida ‘s Greatful Dead (AKA Gureitofuru deddo) epitomizes this genre of Japanese film, and does so extremely well. We’re given an interesting protagonist in the shape of Nami, both as a schoolgirl deliberately knocking over milk or assaulting a fellow student as she tries to get her parent’s attention, and then as a grown woman who will go on to commit horrific acts of violence.
Like with most good films, Greatful Dead has something to say. It’s part social commentary and part barb at consumerism. It additionally took a stab at this strange obsession the public have with reality and other voyeuristic TV shows, where we quietly intrude on people’s daily lives.
If you’re a fan of films like Miike’s Audition, only with a lot more bloodshed, then Greatful Dead is a must-see.