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'As the Gods Will' Toronto After Dark 2016 Review: Survival of the bloodiest

October 19, 2016Ben MK

After The Hunger Games and the YA franchises that followed it, moviegoers may be burnt out on films about young people battling it out for survival. However, if you can stomach yet another such tale, cult filmmaker Takashi Miike's latest bloodbath has some gruesome little surprises in store.

Like Battle Royale and its sequel, the story follows a group of high schoolers who are forced to compete in a series of cruel and unusual games, where the penalty for losing is death. This time, however, it's not the government that's antagonizing the teens, but a parade of traditional Japanese children's toys come to life, including a malevolent Daruma doll and a giant maneki-neko, not to mention floating kokeshi dolls and wicked matryoskha dolls.

The film follows Shun (Sôta Fukushi), a gloomy teenager who takes his dull life for granted. All that changes when, one day, a Daruma doll appears in his classroom and starts exploding the students' heads in a deadly game of "Red Light/Green Light." Shun survives, but his relief is short-lived, as he and his classmates, girl next door Ichika (Hirona Yamazaki) and pyscho outcast Amaya (Ryûnosuke Kamiki), soon discover that things are just getting started.

In what follows, the teens are subjected to round after round of games like "Kagome Kagome" and "Kick the Can," each with a morbid and bloody twist. But even as their numbers dwindle, the mystery behind just who or what is behind their predicament remains frustratingly elusive. Similarly, viewers will find themselves trying to deduce what Miike and writer Hiroyki Yatsu's endgame is all the way until the end credits, but they'll have no better luck.

Adapted from the manga of the same name, As the Gods Will is the perfect fit for Miike's devilish sensibilities. After all, this is the same director who brought us such twisted classics as Ichi the Killer and Visitor Q; and here he seizes the opportunity to take his trademark style to ridiculous new heights, reveling in over-the-top set-pieces while also indulging in zany humor and exploring themes such as the nature of evil, humanity and religion.

With no shortage of off-the-wall imagery — such as dolls that shoot death rays out of their eyes and giant floating cubes hovering over Earth's major cities — the end result is a film that mainstream audiences will most likely find too bizarre to even contemplate. However, for viewers who have a penchant for blood-splattered gore and cartoonish violence, As the Gods Will is a deliciously tasty treat that's simply too enticing to resist.

As the Gods Will is receiving its Toronto premiere at Toronto After Dark 2016. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 57 Mins.

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