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Lesson of the Evil - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Aku no Kyoten

Japan 2012


Takashi Miike

Hideaki Ito
Mitsuru Fukikoshi
Takayuki Yamada
Fumi Nikaido
Erina Mizuno
Sakura Hayashi
Kento Hayashi
Shota Sometani
Takehiro Hira

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Lesson of the Evil

Story: Seiji Hasumi (Hideaki Itô) is an English teacher at a high school and very popular with the students. Hasumi doesn't just solve the problems of his students, but also takes action against organized cheating during tests. When one day a female student of his asks him for help as she is sexually harassed by another teacher he soon has found a solution for that as well. After that the student starts having an affair with Hasumi who for the meetings with her uses the apartment of a colleague who he blackmails as he has found out that he is in a homosexual relationship with a student. When a father makes waves because of his daughter being bullied he is suddenly found dead. After that another student vanishes as well and the police begins their investigation. Meanwhile, a teacher who can't stand Hasumi because of his popularity has found out something and alluding to it informs the police about it: There have been strange suicides at the school Hasumi has been at before. Hasumi seems to be a ticking bomb only waiting to go off.

Review: Opinions will differ greatly when it comes to the controversial "Lesson of the Evil". For some it will be a very entertaining gore flick in which a teacher goes on a killing spree, for others it will we exactly the same, but an inner averseness will be present the whole time, because you will look for social criticism or a message behind the events in the movie to no avail. In respect to actual gun rampages at schools the movie might even seem a product of bad taste, but director Takashi Miike is well known as the problem child of Japanese cinema and thus he is free to deliver such a movie antime he wants. "Finally deliver such a movie" some will say as Miike returns to his roots after a wave of more commercial works and he proves that he still has got what it takes.

Lesson of the Evil - Film Screenshot 11

There will be some Miike fans who might have feared that the director has become soft over the years after his last works "For Love's Sake" or "13 Assassins". Here, he proves the contrary and returns to his works of gore like "Ichi - The Killer", although "Lesson of the Evil" isn't that violent after all; then again Miike has set the bar very high for himself. This time he has also written the screenplay which is based on a horror novel by Yûsuke Kishi. His story is divided into two parts, though. During the first half we get a psychological thriller and in the second half a bloody carnage involving a shotgun. The problem arising from it is pretty obvious.

Lesson of the Evil - Film Screenshot 12

The two different halves don't fit together. At first you are in the dark about everything. Hasumi is a very charismatic teacher who takes the time his students need from him and so you can't believe that he is supposed to be the same person we are shown in some flashbacks. But more and more scenes are shoved into the movie in which typical clichés of a serial killer are made use of - living in a remote house, doing pull-ups naked in a dimly lit room or off-the-wall halluzinations - and you are made to suspect the worst. Then there is the constantly recurrent song "Mack the Knife" from Bertolt Brecht's "The Threepenny Opera". What is a real killer without such a song? However, it is certainly used one time too many.

The focus during the first half is too inaccurate, actually there isn't even one, and as a viewer you are very much struggling to find out who is actually important in the movie besides the teacher. Sadly, the answer is: no one. As a result the demise of several individuals doesn't touch us at all. The only positive aspect are the flashbacks which let us read more into Hasumi's psyche. Still, soon realization sets in that evil is simply evil because of it being evil. There are no reasons for any of the teacher's doings. Nevertheless, Hideaki Ito ("Cross Fire") apparently has a lot of fun playing the role of the psychopath and this fun is also rubbing off on the viewer, that much has to be admitted. Then the carnage begins...

Lesson of the Evil - Film Screenshot 13

...and this can be fun, too. Unfortunately, there are only few moments where we can see black humor shining through. At least there is enough of it that the numerous executions are bearable, but those who hope to find a socio-critical message behind all the shocking scenes as in "Battle Royale" will be very disappointed at the end. Moreover, the students are all acting so dim-witted that you don't even want them to survive. A man on a killing spree couldn't wish for easier victims, there is no fighting spirit in anyone of them, only hysterically screaming girls - and with this I refer to the boys... The massacre has something explorative about it and appeals to the baser human instincts, maybe that is why it is so entertaining - more than it should be - but at the end everything is still very shallow and you are left behind with a very bad aftertaste. I always appreciate it if a filmmaker works outside of the norm and also offends good taste occasionally, but this should be tied to a certain aim. This aim is simply missing in "Lesson of the Evil". If it weren't it actually wouldn't be a bad movie...

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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