The Movie Waffler New to Shudder - TAG | The Movie Waffler

New to Shudder - TAG

tag review
A schoolgirl finds herself trapped in an increasingly deranged loop of violence.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Sion Sono

Starring: Reina Triendl, Mariko Shinoda, Erina Mano, Yuki Sakurai, Aki Hiraoka

tag sion sono blu-ray

Japan boasts a diverse national cinema which spans multiple genres, but if you asked the average westerner what image pops into their heads when Japanese cinema is mentioned, it would likely be the central image of Sion Sono's Tag - a high school girl, her ludicrously skimpy uniform soaked in blood. Japanese genre filmmakers, and perhaps Japanese men in general, have an obsession with schoolgirls that we in the west find more than a little dodgy.

tag review

opens with a Japanese pervert's wet dream, an entire school bus filled with a gaggle of giggling schoolgirls, all clad in uniforms more befitting the employees of a Tokyo strip club than those enrolled in an institute of learning. Just as the girls' incessant screeching gets particularly annoying, they're all decapitated when an unseen force rips the roof off their bus. The only survivor is Mitsuko (Reina Triendl), who finds herself chased by some kind of force in the wind, visually presented by a flying camera, Evil Dead style. All around her, unsuspecting schoolkids are chopped in half by this invisible terror, but Mitsuko manages to make it to her school.

There Mitsuko is shocked to discover that all her friends are alive and well, and have no idea what she's babbling on about when she tries to explain the horrors she just witnessed. The school morning kicks off as usual, and Mitsuko begins to think she may be going a little loony, until a teacher violently attacks a student, and a bloody battle breaks out between the school's staff, armed to the teeth with guns and explosives, and the terrified schoolgirls.

tag review

The misleading voiceover that accompanies the trailer for Sono's film creates the impression that Tag is a Battle Royale style romp in which Japan has declared war on its schoolgirl population - which could be a postmodern commentary on the schoolgirl's place in Japanese culture - but that's not the case here at all. Instead, Mitsuko finds herself in a loop, awaking in a series of different bodies, all female, constantly menaced by violent aggressors.

The gloriously over the top Final Destination style set-pieces that open the film (complemented by a propulsive score from Susumu Akizuki and Hiroaki Kanai) sadly give way to a series of less interesting sequences that collectively play like a loose tribute to Japanese female led genre cinema, as Mitsuko - embodied by several different actresses and clad in a variety of fetish outfits - battles her teachers, who similarly keep regenerating in various guises.

tag review

Hardcore devotees of such Far East fantasy will likely embrace the madness, but everyone else will begin to suspect Sono is making all this up on the fly, and the film's ultimate explanation resembles the type of ending a schoolboy might slap on his short story assignment when he finally reaches the designated word count.

Tag is on Shudder UK now.