Media Blasters DVD packaging sells Sodom The Killer (2004) as a horror film from Ring writer Hiroshi Takahashi , who is making his film directing debut, but it shouldn't be classified as a horror film at all. If one describes the basics of the plot, as the back cover DVD description does, it might sound like another sobering, ghost haunting, curse related, supernatural horror tale belonging to the J-horror glut that has been tiresomely regurgitating across Asia the past ten years. The execution, however, is totally comic and purposefully relishing in its budgetary cheapness and nonsensical scripting.
The film begins three hundred years in the past. Lord Ichibei Sodom is getting married. Before his bride can utter her vows she is coughing up blood and keels over dead. Her two maids, Katherine and Therese, are instantly suspected of witchcraft, thrown down a well to die, and with their last breath the two vow a lifelong curse on Sodom and all his descendants. When they are proven to be innocent, Sodom is smitten with blindness (well, he can see everything but people- sorta'), rage, and becomes a supernaturally powered force for evil.
Much of this opening sequence feels like a straight horror film, but the hints of what's to come are also present. First, the simple sets and costuming are obviously not straining for any kind of period realism. The way the scenes bluntly transition from detail to detail, also isn't straining for any naturalism or logic (the maids innocence, for example, is explained by an old woman who just walks into the scene, almost like a stage play).
Flash forward to modern times and we meet Ichiro Sodom, again, getting married, doomed to repeat the past, this time thanks to his psychotic jealous sister (the decedent of Katherine) spiking the bridal sake, killing most everyone, and transforming Ichiro into the demonic Sodom. Here the film really takes off into bizarro territory. Well, admittedly, I did gloss over a brief bit where Ichiro is 10 years old with his buddies, all played by the adult actors in short pants.
Basically it is an offbeat comedy tale of a madman set to destroy society and resurrect his love. Dragging around a coffin containing his dead bride, Sodom uses his powers to pick up acolytes, commit some dine and slash, kidnap two scientists, one who specializes in the fear center of the human brain, the other the nervous system, sets up a fake psychic research institute, and sets about a series of operations to trigger some black magic chaos that will conjure his love from the afterworld. Literally and karmically standing in his way, is the decedent of Therese, now a shoot happy cop hot on his trail.
Sodom and his gang decide to derail a train. After we see some Styrofoam rocks on some train tracks, the train crash is shown via an obvious toy train blown up and crudely rear projected into the background.
One of the scientists tries to get out a carrier pigeon warning to the police about Sodom. The bird is clearly fake, suspended on wires, added fx noise is clearly a human dubber doing lame bird sounds. It crashes in a field where two badly wigged, retard?, crazy?, guys beat it down, roast it and eat it, before splashing around in a drainage canal.
Therese chases the gang. Instead of using a stunt person on the back of the car, for the outside shots, it is clearly a tragically limp dummy and, for the interior scenes, a plastered cut-out of the actress.
Yes, even Ed Wood would have cringed, but clearly Hiroshi Takahashi is just having fun with his debut.
I'm a huge lover of films that play with many different tones, but Sodom The Killer sort of fights with itself. The plot screams for the treatment imbued with the pizzazz of mod, psychedelic 60's Japanese and Euro films, but it cannot live up to that because it is a low budget DV film. While Takahashi tries to turn that to his advantage by employing cheap fx for comedies sake, he also employs serious strains in the story that brace against the silliness. The turns, for me, felt puzzling. Every moment I'm ready to chuckle, suddenly the film has characters peering off with pensive stares backed by melodramatic music or bit of more stone-faced horror execution. Rather than feel like a fun marriage of genres, I instead felt like the initial idea didn't fit the production restraints, so they pumped it up with some silliness, and ended up with a less digestible, supernatural, goofy comedy, comic book sci fi film.
Sodom The Killer has no shortage of imagination and it is certainly an entertaining little oddity. I just cannot pin the focus, the intent. If they were aiming for a comedy, why all the drama and genre moments? Lets say you judge it on the humor alone. All of the comedy is purely randomly silly or poking fun at the fact that they had no budget. Thats it, no pointedly funny puns at the fantasy or horror trappings that the film also embraces. I think I could watch it thirty times and I'd still only have a guess at what they set out to accomplish. Maybe none of it matters and they just wanted to make a hard to pin movie. Mission accomplished.
The DVD: Media Blasters.
Picture: Non-Anamorphic. Standard fullscreen. Well, it is a DV film with all the DV frustrations. There are many sequences that look great and show off just how impressive digital video can be, yet, the film also shows just as much evidence concerning the drawbacks. Technically, the transfer is marred by the drawbacks of a budget DV production and the source has signs of aliasing, blurriness, and some scenes with noise and slight pixelation.
Sound: 2.0 Japanese Stereo. English subs. Again, any drawbacks in the audio department can be chalked up to the production restraints, like some obvious dialogue that had to be post dubbed. The subs are okay but not flawless, like timed-for-a-blink text translations.
Extras: Trailer (+more). --- Premiere footage (27:05). The cast and main crew on stage presenting the film, mostly delivering polite, cheery anecdotes.
Conclusion: Sodom The Killer is an interesting oddity, one of those films that didn't win me over and I doubt I'll revisit, yet I was entertained and glad I got to see it. Imagine The Abominable Dr. Phibes directed by an acid-tripping Blake Edwards on a budget of whatever change you have in your pocket. Combine a curio film with a basic, middle of the road DVD and you've got yourself a rental.