Movie Review: Kill Devil (2004)
A teenager wakes up on a deserted beach, sometime in autumn. He doesn’t remember who he is or how he got there, but the blanket he was under indicates he wasn’t on that beach by accident. He’s wearing a strange metal wristband with the name “Shougo” on it, so that’s what people call him.
Shougo soon meets other amnesiac teens, some reasonably friendly, and others lethally unfriendly, especially “the scythe man.” Shougo and the others stumble around the island looking for the reason they’re there, and someplace safe.
Then about fifteen minutes in, we’re told exactly what is happening, not in dialogue, but a straight-up voice-over. It seems that Japanese scientists have isolated the “murder gene” that causes some people to flip out and casually kill others. Sixteen teenagers who carry the gene were brought to this island, and had their memories wiped as part of an experiment code-named “Kill the Devil.” (We never learn the precise goal of the experiment.)
This 2004 Japanese film is transparently following in the footsteps of Battle Royale with the young people being coerced into killing each other for the benefit/entertainment of adults. It’s not nearly as good; the amnesia gimmick means that we learn little to nothing about any given character before they die, and most of them do.
There’s also a samurai sword duel in the middle of the movie that has nothing to do with anything else.
If you liked Battle Royale or The Hunger Games, but thought there was too much plot and character development, this might suit your needs. The US DVD release comes with a trailer and alternate ending; don’t watch either before the main feature as the trailer spoils one of the few actual surprises, and the alternate ending won’t make sense at all (not that it does much anyway) without seeing the rest of the movie first.
In addition to R-level violence, there’s some side-on male nudity.
After this point, I will be discussing SPOILERS for Kill Devil.
It’s a bit difficult to say what the theme of the movie is, beyond “grownups suck.” Perhaps the futility of trying to overcome your genetic destiny; or a warning against being so invested in a certain outcome of your scientific research that you rig the experiment until you get the outcome you want.
The ending of the film is a downer, with all the teenagers dead, and most of the adults getting away with their actions. And then there’s a stinger at the end of the credits that’s foreshadowed in one line in the rest of the movie, involving a character we’ve never seen before and leaves you asking “why?” Perhaps it was meant to be a sequel hook.
The alternate ending is just like the regular ending except that the last teen killed suddenly rises, goes into a dance routine, and then several of the other teen characters join him for a big dance number. Then the others vanish, the last teen lies down dead, and fade to black. (Same stinger after the credits.) Given that several members of the cast were members of the Diamond*Dogs dance troupe, this may have been the original intended ending.
Both the ending credits and the trailer show a still of what is apparently a scene deleted in the US release in which two of the characters do a rap. I am mildly grateful that this was not included. The trailer also gives away the stinger.
Again, not particularly recommended, unless perhaps you are a fan of the Diamond*Dogs dance troupe, or one of the actors in the cast list.