Japanese cinema has brought us many mentally unhinged protagonists over the last few decades. Whilst Nao Ômori became iconic as Ichi The Killer, and director Takashi Miike has continued to be fascinated by sociopaths and psychopaths, it’s often female characters who have a longer-lasting effect. Leading ladies and female killers have been a prevalent since the ’60s, but it wasn’t until Miike unveiled Eihi Shiina to the world in Audition that a new breed of female leading ladies was born. In Eiji Uchida’s Greatful Dead, Kumi Takiuchi brings another element altogether to madness.
Young Nami (Takiuchi) desperately seeks attention from her parents. However, when her mother leaves to look after poor children in Africa, her father only becomes even more distant. When her older sister leaves to pursue a normal life and her dad commits suicide, she finds herself all alone. After inheriting a fortune on her 20th birthday, Nami takes up a new hobby – watching ‘solitarians’ (people driven mad by loneliness. She becomes obsessed by an elderly ‘solitaraian’ (Takashi Sasano) and begins to follow his every move. However, when a young Christian couple convert him to the religion, her metal state becomes frayed to a murderous degree.
Greatful Dead differs from many of its contemporaries by having a strong social message. Eiji Uchida takes on themes of consumerism, a rapidly ageing population, mental health and religious indoctrination. Kumi Takiuchi bested 500 other actresses to get the role, and she’s a revelation in her acting debut. Greatful Dead is an entertaining romp and cautionary tale which blurs the lines between comedy and horror.
Greatful Dead is released on DVD and Blu-ray by Third Window Film on January 26.