January 2, 2014

Movie Review: Black Rat

Sometimes when flipping through choices on Netflix a snazzy poster can go a long way. It reminds me of the days when I would by an album (well, CD) based on how cool the cover art was, one of my favorite discoveries was Sepultura (that Arise art was pretty awesome). Anyway, I came across a little movie sitting oh so very lonely in my queue, its poster seemed quite inviting with a schoolgirl wearing a big rat head and holding a bat with the title, Black Rat, scrawled next to her. Hey, it's only 75 minutes long, so if it was bad it would not be a large investment of time.

The film is awfully simple and the resulting movie is not great, but it is certainly entertaining and definitely had my attention. On top of that, it was directed by Kenta Fukasaku, son of Kinji who directed the excellent Battle Royale. Kenta previously directed Battle Royale II following the unfortunate death of his father. The screenplay was handled by Futoshi Fujita who previously worked with Kenta on the anthology film Kill.

As Black Rat opens we are told about a number of rats and how they danced together, a sort of folk tale. Each rat description happens to coincide with the characters in the film. After this introduction we see a girl practicing a dance on the roof of the school. She finishes practicing, picks up the rat mask and puts it on. We then see her standing on the edge of the building before jumping to her death. This is all done with no dialogue and when paired with the music choices is rather eerie and chilling.

The time shifts to the next day (I think). We learn the girl who died is names Asuka. Six of her friends receive texts to meet at a specific classroom at the school at midnight. Any veteran of horror films should know that is a bad sign and you probably should not go. Well, they go, most of them anyway. As they try to figure out why they got this message, a girl wearing Asuka's rat mask enters the room. She does not say anything, but proceeds to write their names on the blackboard and communicate via previously written messages in a notebook.

All hell begins to break loose when the rat girl (maybe it is Asuka?) says she is there for vengeance and she is going to kill them all. The friends freak out and run. They are not able to get far as the doors have all been locked and they are unable to get away. The masked girl stalks and attacks one after the other. She never says a word, but is always ready with a notebook message, each one tailored to each person and each one questioning their motives and relationship to Asuka.

Black Rat is filled with flashbacks that take us back prior to Asuka's death and see her interacting with her friends. How they ignore her or just flat out do not accept her. In the presence we get some bloody beat downs as they are forced to examine themselves and their relationship.

The movie is about bullying, acceptance, and revenge. It is not exactly a great one or really all that deep, but it is certainly enjoyable. I like how they all realize what they did and what they could have done better as well as the reveal of the killer. The bottom line is that it is an enjoyable trifle whose only desire is to entertain. The acting is decent and it moves quickly to avoid disappointment. Also, to its credit, the flashbacks are used rather effectively and help build the story in and around the present action.


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