While Over Your Dead Body conceptually represents everything that has made Takashi Miike one of the most exciting genre directors of the decade, its execution lacks the same infectious essence that turned films like Ichi The Killer and Audition into Japsploitation cult classics. Writer Kikumi Yamagishi blurs the realms of fantasy and reality together into a sinister tale of life imitating art, but as Miike blends the stories into one hazy fever-dream, the allure of deception morphs into cerebral confusion and questions galore. While the film comes with vested intrigue, the punchy metaphysical nature of Over Your Dead Body becomes a marginally incoherent exercise in romantic depravity. Miike weaves a tragically gory love story, but the novelty of parallel storytelling wears thin as Yamagishi’s plot becomes more contrived and convoluted with every mysterious scene, right until the curtain falls on another ultra-violent Takashi Miike head-scratcher.
Over Your Dead Body revolves around a theatrical production based on “Yotsuya Kaidan,” a classic ghost story. Featuring the lovely Miyuki Goto (Ko Shibasaki) in a starring role, she pulls some strings to get her lover Kosuke Hasegawa (Ebizo Ichikawa) cast in another major part despite his unknown status. It’s not long before two other actresses, Rio Asahina (Miho Nakanishi) and Jun Suzuki (Hideaki Ito), develop feelings for Kosuke, and a strange love triangle starts to form. As passions are carried off-stage, the actors find themselves stuck in a blurred state of reality that warns against dipping your pen in company ink – if ya know what I mean.
Visual captivation is something Over Your Dead Body doesn’t struggle with in the least, as Miike constructs a magnificent rotating stage for his theatrical characters to perform on. Just as the lives of these cursed lovers become intertwined, the actual production itself displays a seamless transitioning of scenes represented by characters walking along a giant circular disk that morphs each setting right before our very eyes. Dark skies give way to luscious foliage and glistening sunlight, much like the relationship between Kosuke and Miyuki. The immersion of method acting always becomes an interesting topic when analyzing how art can mimic life and vice versa, yet Yamagishi explores the same relationship between art and life simply through temptation – something that Miike translates into meaningful physical manifestations.
It’s Yamagishi’s unbalanced love-quadrilateral that wastes an extravagant erotic thriller that’s prime for Miike’s talents, as it finds itself hung up on blurring fantasy and reality. While it first becomes easy to keep Kosuke’s dual lifestyles distinguishable between “real” and “fake,” as the treachery intensifies, so does the clear line defining both worlds. There’s always a mystical beauty to Miike’s work, but there’s also a continual story that builds and builds over time before erupting in volcanic fashion. Over Your Dead Body is a more plodding affair that never secures a strong foothold, as characters tangle their sexual desires in a muddled, choppy fashion. Kosuke’s desires never rise above those of a childish idiot, putting a quick stop to anything that might be deemed as “thrilling.”
Miike’s physical visions are still as twisted as ever, though. No matter what material the maestro works with, audiences can always expect massive amounts of blood brought upon by unconventional methods. Over Your Dead Body is no different, going the route of decapitations, botched abortions and a slew of other gruesome visuals that play right into the exploitation category. Since Kosuke’s story flips from reality to fantasy at the drop of a hat, Miike can unleash dreamy outbursts of gore that are worthy of the most artistically psychotic praises.
Over Your Dead Body feels too soulless to be one of Miike’s better efforts, despite brushstrokes that paint entire domiciles a sticky blood-red. Miike’s characters typically stand out with more vibrancy and life, even when sinisterly dark, yet Kosuke never really elevates himself above being a convenient plot point. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of the filmmaker’s sadistic side bursting through, but such a sensual thriller has no right to become so unfortunately tiresome. Miike’s visual prowess is on-point once again, but his control of pacing leaves audiences trying to assemble a puzzle that’s noticeably missing a few pieces, scrounging for continuity while marveling at extravagant setpieces gone to waste.
Over Your Dead Body is a convoluted spectacle that sees Miike's visual prowess wasted on a puzzling story about life imitating art.