Saturday, September 2, 2017

[Review] Death Note

This decade, director Adam Wingard has helmed some stellar horror hybrids like You're Next and The Guest. But then there was last year's humdrum Blair Witch rebirth, and now this year's Death Note (which can be viewed on Netflix). The film is based on a popular Japanese manga & anime series, which I'm not familiar with, so I can only go by what this film itself conveys. And what I see is an awful piece of work and a horrendous waste of time that falls way short of being both a worthwhile conspiracy thriller and a high-concept genre piece.

Light Turner (Nat Wolff) is a high school student who finds himself on the end of bullying. One day, he finds a mysterious notebook that has a beady-eyed demon (voiced by Willem Dafoe) attached to it. The demon sort of looks like what would happen if the tree creature from A Monster Calls bred with a sea urchin. Anyway, turns out when you write someone's name in this notebook, they'll automatically die! Sometimes in Mortal Kombat fatality fashion, depending on what you specify. When Turner starts taking out society's worst, a stealthy organization zeros in on his trail.

With all its camp, moody teen melodrama, and gruesome kills, this film comes off like a sour and deranged concoction of Final Destination, bargain bin Donnie Darko and "13 Reasons Why". Flaws litter just about every department, and you'd have to reach to find any redeeming qualities. The plot is severely rushed. The dialogue is stilted. Nat Wolff's lead performance is never that convincing or even interesting. Its love story couldn't be any more banal. And sometimes the shifts in tone are so jarring that I almost wondered if I accidentally sat on the TV remote and Netflix switched to something else. It's one of those movies where just when you think it can't get any worse; it does.

I gave it a chance, because Adam Wingard has proven to be an exciting filmmaker, and a couple of my current favorite actors--Shea Whigham and Lakeith Stanfield--show up, but if anything, they just feel frustratingly wasted. This thing is such an overstuffed mess. Like a head exploding. An idea that should've been crumpled up and tossed in the trashcan...then set on fire.

( 3/10 )

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