ContactSales: King Records, Tokyo ([email protected])
Premiere: Yubari Film Festival, 22 Feb 2013. Theatrical release: Japan, 8 Jun 2013.
Produced by Booster Project (JP), Eleven Arts (US). Producers: Yamaguchi Yukihiko, Nakabayashi Chikako, Ko Mori.
Script: Asakura Kayoko. Photography: Kizu Toshihiko. Editing: Suzaki Chieko. Music: Morino Nobuhiko. Production design: Rachel Lee Payne. Art direction: D.J. Theriot, Nakamura Yuki. Costumes: Terra Stuart. Sound: Takeshima Naoto, John C. Taylor. Visual effects: Ishida Hajime.
Cast: Kim Kkot-bi (A-jung), Ohata Nanako (Erika), Adam LaFramboise (Henry, the elder brother), Julian Curtis (Victor, the younger brother), Amagi Chika (Takako), Abe Tomoyasu (Kenjiro), Kitamura Akihiro (Masanori), Shijimi (Hirono), Marty Hrejsa (Sean, the brothers' uncle), Tiffany Pulvino (woman in car), Andy Maloo (man in car), Michael Villar (shop owner).
It's a Beautiful Day クソすばらしいこの世界
Contemporary slasher horror
2013, colour, 16:9, 78 mins
Directed by Asakura Kayoko (朝倉加葉子)
By Derek Elley
Sat, 15 June 2013, 09:30 AM (HKT)
US-set, Japanese slasher movie deliriously pushes the borders of the genre. Asian and genre events, plus healthy ancillary.
California, the present day. On a deserted road in the desert outside Los Angeles, a couple (Andy Maloo, Tiffany Pulvino) are slaughtered by Victor (Julian Curtis) and his elder brother Henry (Adam LaFramboise), who kill and rob passers-by. On a suburban street in Los Angeles, South Korean student A-jung (Kim Kkot-bi) is picked up by her Japanese friend Takako (Amagi Chika) who has arranged a break in a remote rented house. Takako introduces her to the other Japanese students on the trip: rich kid Masanori (Kitamura Akihiro) and his girlfriend Erika (Ohata Nanako), and Kenjiro (Abe Tomoyasu) and his girlfriend Hirono (Shijimi). Takako's friends don't speak any English and are not very friendly towards A-jung; the sulky Hirono even treats her like a servant. Arriving at the remote house, the five Japanese immediately start drinking, smoking dope and partying hard; A-jung feels like leaving, but can't get a signal on her mobile phone to call a taxi. That night, around a campfire, the drunken Hirono starts insulting A-jung. Wandering off, Hirono is kidnapped by the two brothers, who are afraid she saw Victor disposing of the two bodies when she was peeing by the roadside earlier in the day. Back at the house, Erika is attacked by Victor; she manages to escape and he drowns in the swimming pool, but during the struggle something paranormal happened. Erika runs to the brothers' nearby house and kills their uncle Sean (Marty Hrejsa) when he tries to rape her; in the cellar Henry is busy torturing Hirono with an axe. Erika finally reappears at her friends' house - but suddenly starts speaking English and claiming she's Victor. It's only the beginning of a long night.
Whatever else it isn't, It's a Beautiful Day クソすばらしいこの世界 isn't for sissies. Writer-director ASAKURA Kayoko 朝倉加葉子's US-set debut feature mates Japanese splatter with US backwoods horror to produce an Asian-American hybrid that's a delirious trip to the outer reaches of the slasher movie. With a cast of largely unknowns — but crowned by South Korea's indie actress par excellence, KIM Kkot-bi 김꽃비 | 金花雨 — Asakura sets to her mission like a terrier to a bone. Starting with a seemingly placid sequence that rapidly turns anti-social, to a final act that plays with bodily transfer, the film adopts a blackly humorous tone that consistently goes several steps beyond the audience's comfort zone.
This isn't to do simply with the amount of gore on display: by the cartoony standards of, say, a NISHIMURA Yoshihiro 西村喜廣 extravaganza, Beautiful Day is restrained, with no fountains of blood and few flying bodyparts. Instead, Asakura's mordant humour seems to say: here's what you're expecting from a slasher movie, and now I'm going to push it one step further. The female characters consistently take more punishment than the men, and the violence consistently goes on just that little bit longer. But Asakura knows when to take a breather as well. There's not much regular plot but what there is makes sense on its own level, with none of the usual illogicalities the genre is heir to.
The cheeky subversion also extends to the characters. The Japanese in the film aren't just Asian versions of American slasher fodder; they're arrogant rich kids with no respect for anyone outside their Nipponese circle. Even more surprising for a Japanese movie, the central character is — gasp! — a Korean student (played by Kim) who's sympathetic and puts them all to shame. As well as underlining the fact that the film shouldn't be pre-judged because it's written and directed by a woman, Asakura seems to say her ethnicity also shouldn't lead to any preconceptions.
That said, the film doesn't gain much by being set in California. Though the location increases the sense of the Japanese students' isolation and vulnerability, and allows Asakura to tip her hat to a whole sub-genre of backwoods horror movies, Beautiful Day would work equally well in either a remote corner of Japan or another Asian country — and, apart from one scene in a Los Angeles street and some shots of the Californian mountains and deserts, could have been filmed anywhere.
In her first hardcore genre outing, after some memorable performances in films like Breathless 똥파리 (2008) and Sunshine Boys １９９９，면회 (2012), the cute but offbeat-looking Kim brings a likeable naturalness to her role of the hard-working, practical A-jung, for whom her sojourn overseas isn't just an excuse to party and blag a foreign paper-qualification. Kim succinctly sketches a complete character with the minimum effort, and proves she can act in English rather than just say the words. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the two Japanese in the cast who also have English lines: as A-jung's friend, AMAGI Chika 甘木ちか is awkward when speaking English and, in a role that later requires perfect English, OHATA Nanako 大畠奈菜子 is simply indecipherable. Both actresses urgently need to be re-voiced, especially Ohata, as this weakness harms the film dramatically.
Aside from Kim, none of the other Asians — drawn from US and Japan-based actors — get much of a chance to register as characters. Best of the lot is Shijimi しじみ (former AV actress MOCHIDA Akane 持田茜), who provides some passing nudity and throws herself into the role of the group's bitch-on-wheels who meets a suitably horrible fate. As the two main Caucasians, Adam LaFRAMBOISE and Julian CURTIS are fine as the backwoods brothers, with the former chewing the scenery as a racist, axe-wielding psycho.
Co-produced by Ko MORI 森浩太郎's LA-based Eleven Arts, the film looks good on a budget, with d.p. KIZU Toshihiko 木津俊彦 bringing some simple poetry to daytime landscapes and spooky menace to nocturnal scenes. At under 80 minutes, Beautiful Day doesn't push itself farther than the material can stetch, and even manages to set up the possibility of a sequel as well. The English title comes from the song It's a Beautiful Day to Be Alive, used ironically at several points.