Director: Hiroki Yamaguchi

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Hellevator Even children are frequently geniuses at art or music. I've marvelled at a child prodigy on piano or violin, or been bowled over by a child's execution of the visual arts.

But that same genius of a kid, when attempting the art of fiction, will without exception be merely precious & at best show promise of writing skill if he or she keeps at it long enough.

Although twenty-something film directors aren't quite any longer children, they're often still on the learning curve where storytelling acumen has not caught up with their visual & film-scoring genius.

The youth of the writer-director of gore-FX science fiction film Hellevator (Gusha no bindume, 2004) shows in the plotting (or lack of plotting). It is a typical case of an immature director being visually innovative & original, but lacking the mature storytelling ability to match their visual art.

Fortunately for young directors, where science fiction cinema is concerned, a lot of it is irrational junk to start with, & visual genius can actually be enough to place a film above the average.

HellevatorThe title Hellevator was imposed by the English language DVD distributor & the earlier English language distribution title Bottle of Fools is vastly more accurate.

The imposed title makes it sound likely to be a really ultra-cheep film about a killer elevator, something like The Lift (1983) or The Shaft (2001) if not just some nickel-plated thrillers like The Elevator (1974) or Blackout (2007). But if the film gets rented with such low expectations, then a happy surprise could well be in store.

In a future dystopia deep underground, the honeycomb of levels are ascended & descended in giant elevators that function more like commuter trains than elevators.

Journeys can be quite lengthy. The society has dwelt underground so long, under such totalitarian conditions, that nobody even remembers that there is such a thing as an above ground, & "Level Zero" is a mystical conundrum.

HellevatorTo some extent then this dystopia resembles that of THX 1138 (1971).

Though obviously made with a small budget, the evocation of a contained dystopia is pretty darned convincing.

The budget-saving factor of having most of the film take place inside a single commuter elevator works surprisingly well because we do have a fairly good sense of the entire world through glimpses.

This is a retro future that has developed an advanced but non-digital technology. The elevator driver in her bizarre uniform standing at the elevator's complicated controls is rather like Buck Rogers hybridized with Terry Gilliam, one of the director's avowed influences being Gilliam's Brazil (1985).

HellevatorAn accidental fire causes the elevator system to shut down & our commuters are trapped between levels.

Two psychopaths who were on their way to disposal get the better of their guard & the bloody mayhem that follows provides the bulk of the film's action.

Our protagonist is a schoolgirl with psychic powers (Luchino Fujisaki). She flaunts the law at risk of severe police action by smoking cigarettes, taboo in the closed environment.

From illegal smoking, she accidentally started the fire that killed many citizens & brought the elevator system to a hault. She has a disturbed past that could well have landed her in line for disposal should she ever erupt again, so that it is problematical that she may well be able to out-psycho the psychos she is caged with.

Though one wonders what a mature storyteller could've done with the convincing s-f environment, nevertheless, as slasher gore-fests go, this is a pretty damned good one, with actors who perform the absurd material with such conviction & relish that they totally sell the material.

The last quarter-second of the film is not really that big a surprise, but it is quite a stunt to provide a twist that lasts for the blink of an eye. I'll certainly be looking for what this twenty-something filmmaker does next.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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