iSugio

It’s a Beautiful Day – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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The famous “slasher” horror genre has often found itself distanced from the realm of Japanese cinema during the last decade, with countless, recent horror films deciding to instead subscribe to the elements of the supernatural – in essence that of the Japanese Horror, or “J-horror”, phenomenon – in order to tell grisly tales of ghostly revenge or unnerving haunted houses. While the phenomenon is certainly reflective of Japan’s astute creativity to transform the normal to that of the notable, the saturation of the J-horror genre has led it to become rather redundant in its tiresome exercises of horror fare, leaving much to be desired in terms of what the Japanese film industry can once again do to reinvigorate their interpretation of the horror genre. Director Kayoko Asakura’s Western debut film It’s a Beautiful Day is a film that attempts a return to the slasher genre, presenting a film whose title is certainly ironic to say the least, especially considering that the film depicts one grueling experience for that of its colorful cast of characters as well as its viewing audience.

It is not that It’s a Beautiful Day is a bad film per se – it is just that it has trouble deciding what it ultimately wants to be. At its foundational level it is still a simplistic outing as horror film, but Asakura – who also wrote the screenplay – slopingly moves from focusing on backwood racist killers to that of conceited study abroad Japanese college students in one overall jarring swoop, leaving a rather superfluous narrative in its wake. Save for one major exception, it still very adherent to the conventions of the genre itself, easing us as viewers into a framework that includes each character getting killed one by one, with the psychotic murderers really showing no real reason behind their killings. It is this by the numbers approach that oddly respects the superficiality of the genre itself but also hinders much of its potential to be noteworthy considering that is does bring about some interesting elements throughout the film.

One such example of Asakura entertaining such an element is the concept of bodily transferences, with characters seemingly gaining control over another’s body, hence putting a unique perspective on the traditional “who is the real killer” notion. The film plays around with this aspect rather fondly in the beginning, bringing about a rather surprising twist that rearranges our initial understanding of the film and how we could possibly reevaluate the narrative as a whole. One can see that once this element is introduced as a viable aspect of the narrative itself, it had a promising allure that could have potentially turned the entire film in an entirely new and unique direction. Unfortunately, the film never truly follows through with it in a plausible manner, instead delegating much of it towards an inane conclusion that does not fully deliver on it as a concept of evil being transferable from one individual to another and instead unintentionally deteriorating into comical fare that will certainly raise an eyebrow or two in disbelief.

Another disregarded element is that of the film’s apparent social commentary, which weighs in rather heavily in the beginning of the film. The dynamics of international students studying abroad and the diverse perspectives encompassing their hopes and future are nicely explored here, with the protagonist A-joong, portrayed here by the exceptional Korean actress Kim Kkobbi, providing a practical take on education versus that of the party hungry Japanese students. The film provides an equitable balance between the two ideologies, with A-joong’s willingness to do well in school and get a good job because she wants to help her mother financially offering the film some emotional investment, even if it is quickly tossed aside to make way for inevitable bloodbath that ensues.

Despite many of its rather obscure narrative choices, the film still does relatively well considering that it is essentially a slasher film at its core. This means that blood does indeed flow throughout, although not nearly in the manner in which one would expect. Asakura prolongs much of the film’s more violent moments, focusing more on the sadistic nature of the antagonists and their joyful implementation of bodily torture upon their victims. Whether this is bashing one’s head on the front of a car repeatedly, to slowly chopping limbs off for the sake of having length of appendages appear “even” in their eyes, the film is surprisingly gruesome considering its rather low budget. We never truly learn how or why these sadistic individuals are killing people, but then again, it could be a homage to the faceless killers of the slasher genre in and of itself.

Overall, It’s a Beautiful Day does some rather surprising things with the slasher genre, even if it does result in a film that is rather convoluted. While a majority of films that are classified under the slasher genre are on the extremely light side when it comes to narrative, It’s a Beautiful Day at least provides some backing for which we can view these characters as more than mere torture fodder, letting us slightly into the world of international students and some of their interpretations on the educational system itself. This approach somewhat elevates the film from being completely laborious to sit through, but It’s a Beautiful Day is seemingly marred by its own abundance, leading much of the film to be a patchwork of ideas that initially start off well, but do not exactly go much of anywhere else.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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