X-Cross is a fun little thriller that sends two young urban girls into the wilderness to run a gauntlet of weird cultists and a vengeful, colourfully dressed woman.
Shiyori (Matsushita) is suffering a serious case of a broken heart and so she heads to Ashikari village in the country to recover at some hot springs with her best Aiko (Suzuki). Little do they know that their relaxing time will turn into hell as they get stalked by a stranger in gothic-lolita outfit named Reika (Maju Ozawa) and their log cabins will come under siege from the local population who are a cult with a fetish for cutting off the left legs of women. Shiyori and Aiko will have to work together via their mobile phones to escape.
Noboyuki Joko’s horror novel is adapted for the screen by some big names with Tetsuya Oishi (Death Note/One Missed Call) writing the script and Kenta Fukasaku (Battle Royale 2) directing. The plot is delivered in non-sequential order and split up into chapters as it flashes between the Aiko and Matsushita. This free flowing of events gives the film a feeling of energy and fun while also giving a degree of mystery to events.
The films atmospherics, plot, and characterisation are set up efficiently. Within the first five minutes we witness a woman being placed up on crucifix by a lunatic cult and then subject to a leg removal. Then we cut to Shiyori and Aiko as they drive along fog wreathed roads up to Ashikari village. In a brief conversation we get the reason why they are heading to the remote village and witness split develop between the two due to their different personalities – Aiko is a care-free person who has cultivated a shallow personality to avoid being hurt while Shiyori is a gentle and quiet girl. This becomes important to the mystery later especially as the threats mount up.
With the girls firmly nestled in the creepy village and luxuriating in the waters of the hot springs the scene is set for the creepy cult to torment them as they are split up, placed under siege and chased.
“Get the hell out! They’ll cut off your leg!”
It starts off low key with one local with a creepy tittering laugh asking, “Dear guest, were you able to clean your legs?” His wandering hands almost brush up against our girl’s legs but the threat subsides for a moment that will see the girls argue and then split up. Then the tension ratchets up with a full-on siege as the entire village comes out to greet Shiyori and her lovely legs. The cult is made up of seedy looking guys who hobble around dementedly after the girls, waving their flashlights menacingly and pulling bizarre faces but it is more noise than visceral terror and if Shiyori could run at a decent pace she would have no trouble evading them. In an information dump given by a character we get the cult’s cruel history and the threat they present to the girls but they are not as demented or as amusing as Reika.
“Have you ever seen the true face of hell?”
She can only be described as the goth-loli T-1000. Reika is one determined girl who wants revenge on Aiko and chases her through the village with a giant pair of scissors before engaging in an epic fight in a lumber yard in a battle that is studded with moments of tension but is generally fun. Her constant appearances and Aiko’s puzzlement and subsequent disbelief as to why she is being persecuted provide a lot of laughs.
Matsushita plays Shiyori as the innocent – not quite a damsel but never as assertive as Aiko, she’s lovely to watch and serves as the emotional pin of the story. J-rocker Suzuki who plays Aiko is amiable fun and convinces as a superficial good-time girl. My favourite actress was Ozawa who fully lets her inner-psycho out. Perhaps it is the combination of a wardrobe of frilly dresses and a tool-kit of deadly weapons but she is having a lot of fun being a great villain.
The film could have been played straight and resulted in a flimsy tale but writer Noboyuki and director Fukasaku have taken the tongue in cheek route and inserted likeable heroines a cult that turns out to be goofy and Reika who is one of the most gleefully demented characters in J-horror history.
Japanese: エクスクロス 魔境伝説
Romaji: XX (Ekusu Kurosu): Makyo Densetsu
Release Date: December 01st, 2007(Japan)
Running Time: 90 mins.
Director: Kenta Fukasaku
Writer: Tetsuya Oishi (script), Noboyuki Joko (original novel)
Starring: Ami Suzuki, Nao Matsushita, Maju Ozawa, Kyoji Kamui, Shoko Nakagawa