Friday, May 8, 2009

REVIEW: The Man Behind the Scissors

ハサミ男 (Hasami otoko)

Released: 2005

Toshiharu Ikeda

Hiroshi Abe
Kumiko Aso

Etsushi Toyokawa
Terumi Niki
Kenjiro Ishimaru

Running time: 124 min.

Reviewed by Bob Turnbull

Something is askew right from the opening minutes of Toshiharu Ikeda's 2005 film "The Man Behind The Scissors". It's not just the fact that a school girl has just been killed with a pair of scissors by a man and his younger female companion. It's pretty much everything: the music, the framing, the editing...It's all putting the viewer a bit on edge. Which is pretty much what you should be doing in a film about a disturbed serial killer.

Nothing is readily apparent...Why did this man kill this young school girl? Who is the woman with him? Why does she reluctantly find him new victims? Why does she keep trying to kill herself? And why does the man sit there calmly and dispassionately during her failed suicide attempts? The story plays out by slowly dropping hints and details as to what might be going on and if it doesn't totally keep you guessing until the end, it certainly keeps you engaged. Particularly when short scenes from earlier in the film get replayed with either a different context the second time around or perhaps from a different angle or depth. This helps bring into focus certain points of view and drives the viewer's curiosity.

The story drifts between our murderous couple to the police detectives struggling with the evidence. Things really heat up when the newest target of the couple is found dead by the hands of a copycat. A high ranking police psychiatrist joins the team and they begin tracking many different leads such as a second pair of scissors found at the copycat killing, possible ties between the dead girls and the backgrounds of anyone involved. The scenes with the detectives are hit and miss as they occasionally show the detectives as foolish, naive and slightly bumbling (jumping to conclusions, running around in panic mode, etc.), but they do occasionally make some small discoveries and find connections between facts which was somewhat refreshing (having seen one too many "useless cops" films). However those sections of the film are the least compelling by far. Meanwhile, the killers are also running their own investigation to find the copycat.

The almost constant score is a mix of alternating atonal saxophone and repetitive almost industrial sounding rhythms. It's not as annoying as that might sound and is a continual reminder that things aren't quite exactly what you think they may be. The police antics and a bit of an overly long and slightly messy ending prevent the film from becoming a top flight serial killer film, but it's still very much worth seeking out. As more of a psychological study than a bloody thriller (this is not the same as Ikeda's older "Evil Dead Trap"), it has a way of keeping you off balance that is pretty satisfying.

Read more from Bob Turnbull at his blog.

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