By Dave B.
I’ll admit that for the first three-quarters of Tag (Riaru Onigokko) (2015, currently on Netflix), I had almost no clue what was happening in the Japanese-language, quasi-horror film. The heroine, Mitsuko is a quiet student at an all-girls high school who enjoys writing poetry. While on a bus trip with her classmates, a supernatural wind gruesomely kills everyone on the bus except for her. During her attempt to escape the wind, she is apparently transported to an alternate reality where none of the events that she recalls happening that morning actually occurred. Throughout the movie, Mitsuko is transported to several other alternate realities where, each time, her friends are brutally slain in a variety of unexpected ways.
Tag is a difficult film to discuss without giving away important spoilers, but I can say that several plot points make the film confusing, at first. For example, Mitsuko’s entrance into the alternate realities isn’t obvious. And she often inhabits a different body and becomes a different age when she enters a new reality, kind of like the TV show Quantum Leap, but without a machine making the leap happen. Further, the film is infused with a melancholy aura that is hard to attribute to any specific event. I spent most of the movie confused (which I understood since the movie is chaotic) and sad (which I didn’t understand at all, at the time).
The main thing to keep in mind when watching Tag is that despite the onscreen chaos, the movie will make sense. There is a lot of extremely bloody and violent action in Tag that I thought was gratuitous as it was happening, but looking back at it, was definitely appropriate and probably understated compared to what it perhaps should have been. The scenery and camerawork in the film are fantastic. And the most appealing thing to me about Tag is its message (which I can’t reveal without spoiling the movie). It’s not a message that a lot of people will necessarily support, but that doesn’t take away from its validity.
Tag isn’t a perfect movie. It has some pacing issues, particularly early on. There’s about 15 minutes of dialogue near the beginning of the second act that is necessary, but probably could’ve been presented more efficiently. But overall, the film takes an uncompromising look at Japanese (and global) society and forces viewers to acknowledge some harsh realities about how certain dynamics are and how we respond to them. I definitely recommend this movie and if you watch it, I hope that you’ll reach out because I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY want to talk about it.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.