• Hana-Dama: The Origin



    Released by: Olive Films
    Released on: January 19th, 2016.
    Director: Hisayasu Sato
    Cast: Sakuragi Rina, Nakamura Eriko, Aasda Shun
    Year: 2014
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    The Movie:

    Directed by the infamous Hisayasu Sato, the man behind Lolita: Vibrator Torture and Splatter: Naked Blood to name but two of his multiple entries in the underbelly of Japanese sex films, Hana-Dama: The Origin deals less with pink film ideologies and more in the real world issue of bullying. Sort of.

    The movie revolves around Mizuki (Sakuragi Rina), a high school student who is constantly bullied by many of her peers, though classmate Aya (Nakamura Eriko) is definitely the ringleader. Early in the film Mizuki, the new girl at school, is stuffed into a locker at the back of the classroom and left there for so long that she has to urinate on herself. The teacher is either not paying attention or is willfully turning a blind eye to all of this,

    And from there it gets worse for poor Mizuki. The other girls in the class are just plain relentless in their torture of her, the only sympathetic one in the whole school seems to be Kirie (Maika Shimamura) – the slow girl who speaks to others by using her stuffed rabbit. The boys in the school are no better, one of them is constantly trying to get racy pictures of the female students while the teacher may have her own seemly feelings towards some of the girls. Things are bad here and Mizuki’s home life offers her no reprieve. Eventually, these strange and perverse circumstances push Mizuki as far as she can be pushed, and from there? Well, at that point a giant flower blossoms out of her head and it all hits the fan.

    Really, the last chunk of this movie takes the fairly sordid first two thirds and turns them on their collective head. The perversions and cruelty shown by Mizuki’s peers definitely come back to haunt them as the movie proves that, once again, Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned! The story’s revenge angle doesn’t play out the way something like I Spit On Your Grave does but more like something akin to Carrie. The strange ‘plant from her head’ angle is definitely out there, wacky even, but Sato plays it all pretty straight and as bizarre as things get, the payoff is pretty intense.

    The performances are alright here. Nakamura Eriko is good as the principal bully, tormenting her classmate with the right amount of nastiness. Maika Shimamura plays Kirie with the right amount of distance between her character and the rest of the cast to effectively set her up as an outsider of sorts, and it works. Sakuragi Rina is sympathetic enough in the lead role, playing Mizuki as perplexed by the way in which she’s been forced into seclusion to a large degree. Once she ‘blooms’ and the character changes, things go very much over the top and her performance attends to this aspect of the storyline well. As the relationship between Kirie and Mizuki evolves it’s interesting to see where the actresses take things.

    As to the film’s effects, they’re gooey, gory and gross – but that’s how they should be. Hana-Dama: The Origin is certainly not a film for all tastes, but if you appreciate the stranger side of Japanese genre films with a healthy dose of very dark humor mixed in, you might want to check this out.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Hana-Dama: The Origin arrives on Blu-ray from Olive Films in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and while this is very definitely a legitimate HD transfer, there is some softness seemingly inherent in the picture indicating that maybe it was shot with a lesser camera. Colors look alright but never pop the way you want them too while black levels are decent. Detail varies from scene to scene but color tweaking and contrast blooming are all used here for various artistic reasons so it would seem realism wasn’t necessarily all that important to the filmmakers.

    The Japanese language DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo track does a fine job of handling everything that the movie throws at it. There’s a fair amount of depth here and the dialogue is properly balanced against the score and the sound effects. The optional English subtitles are clean and easy to read.

    There are two main extras on this release, this first of which is a fifteen minute featurette entitled Backstage And Behind The Scenes which is, as you could probably gather from the title, a compilation of footage shot on set during the production. It’s not particularly in-depth but it does offer a glimpse into what it was like to have worked on the movie. More illuminating is the twenty minute Interview With Director Sato Hisayasu And Cast wherein Sato and the principal cast members discuss the intentions behind the film, the different characters that populate it and a fair bit more.

    Outside of that we get a trailer, menus and chapter selection and as this is a combo pack release, a DVD version of the movie is included alongside the Blu-ray disc.

    The Final Word:

    Hana-Dama: The Origin fails as any sort of proper social commentary but as an out there horror picture? It’s weird enough that a certain segment of the cult film community should get a kick out of it, particularly the film’s gonzo finale. Olive’s Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack release would seem to provide a pretty accurate representation of the source material and in what is an all too uncommon practice for the label, there are some extra features thrown in here too.
    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!