Seven Souls in Skull Castle

Tonight I saw a movie which is probably the most refrackulous thing I’ve watched in ages.

Its Japanese title is Dokuro-jo no shichinin, and it’s actually a recording of a stage production, deliberately intended (so the blurb for it said) to be a blend of cinema with live performance. That much is comprehensible.

But the plot, you guys. The plot.

It just —

These characters —

I — I have no way to describe it that wouldn’t be full of spoilers. Which you probably don’t care about because the number of you who will ever see it is minuscule. But I can’t tell you why Tayu’s crew of prostitutes are so awesome. Or who exactly that one dude turned out to be (though I can say that I turned to my sister about ten minutes prior to that reveal and said “if he turns out to be X, I am going to laugh my ass off.” Of course he was X.) I just —

Okay, look, here’s an example. The story takes place in 1590, eight years after the death of Oda Nobunaga. There’s this guy who’s set up shop in Skull Castle in the Kantou region, calling himself Tenmao, the Demon King of the Sixth Heaven. (This story: it is SUBTLE, yo.) It turns out that he, along with several of the other characters, used to be one of Nobunaga’s retainers, and hasn’t really gotten over his lord’s death. I believe the technical term for his state of mind would be, hmmm, how do they put it, oh yeah — bugfuck crazy. So one of his former comrades-in-arms goes to Skull Castle, and something like the following conversation ensues:

TENMAO: See this mask on my helmet? It was made from the skull of our dead lord!
FORMER COMRADE IN ARMS: That’s a little crazy, dude.
TENMAO: That’s funny, coming from you. I happen to know those beads you wear are made from our dead lord’s bones!
FCIA: . . . okay, that’s true. <caresses bone necklace>
TENMAO: And this drink in my cup is made from our dead lord’s blood!

Whereupon he drains the cup, kisses his former comrad-in-arms, and spits the blood into his mouth, which turns out to be drugged, so FCIA also goes what you might call bugfuck crazy.

It is kabuki on crack and cranked up to eleventy-one. It also dodges the Smurfette trap (three of the seven heroes facing down Tenmao are women), swings wildly between broad comedy and rather grim drama, features some kind of amazing stage fighting, and has a character who basically figures out how to turn the fact that he can’t make up his mind which side he’s on into his superpower.

I am so buying this the instant it’s available on DVD. And then I am going to inflict it on everybody around me.

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