Welcome to Knockout Horror. We are kicking the week of with a review of brand new horror movie. Today we will be taking a look at Netflix J-Horror Remember Member. I believe this movie is also known as Re/Member which is a pretty awful name. Let’s be real, that’s pretty common with J-horror and anime. The names never hold up very well to translation. This was, originally, going to be a Quick Fire review. I really didn’t enjoy this movie. I ended up ranting too much, though, so it quickly became a full review. Re/Member is pretty awful. In fact, this is one of the few movies I would have turned off half way through. The only thing that stopped me was the fact that I watched it to review.
Make no mistake here, I am a huge fan of Japanese horror. At one point, it was pretty much the only horror my partner and I would watch. It has waned in recent years. The wave of fantastic J-horror is long in the past. This is disappointing for fans of the genre. Still, if it returning means that we are subject to movies like Re/Member, I hope it stays dead. My only hope is that Netflix commissioned this with a specific style in mind. Anyways, let’s take a look.
Re/Member follows the story of six high school children. Each of them falls asleep only to wake up at midnight in their school. Confused, the group have no time to figure out what is happening. A strange entity begins pursuing them through the school. The group are killed off in gruesome ways, one by one. The next morning, the murdered students wake up. The day has not progressed, everything at school is the same. Meeting up in the hallway. They all come to the conclusion that they must solve the mystery of the dream world. If not, time will be stuck looping continuously.
So as you can probably guess from the above synopsis. This is a time loop movie ala Groundhog Day. I have always thought the Groundhog Day phenomenon was closer to horror than drama. I mean, how horrific would it be to repeat the same day for years? Estimates have Bill Murray repeating that one day for over 33 years in Groundhog Day. Crazy stuff. Now imagine if every single one of those days featured a painful death. It would be pure torture. It is a great basis for a horror movie. In fact, I imagine it would be difficult to fuck it up. Well, Re/Member is here to prove me completely wrong.
Happy Death Day did a fantastic job with this concept. It worked as both a comedy and a horror movie. Tree accumulates injuries over time which really adds to the horror. She could eventually die, ending the cycle completely. Re/Member basically does the same thing only with far lower stakes. Each night the kids are murdered. Each day they wake up fresh and relaxed with no injuries. The events are completely lacking in consequence. Good luck becoming invested in the horror element here. The movie attempts to ramp up the stakes later on but it falls painfully flat.
Trips to the beach and anime style comedy interactions undermine the tension. The kids here are having a thoroughly good time. This is, basically, a video game complete with unlimited lives. A rogue-like if you will. There is absolutely no reason to become invested in their struggles. There are more consequences driving to the store than these kids face in the dream world. This really only speaks to some of the issues here, though.
Re/Member is not at all a traditional J-horror. Don’t go into this movie expecting slow burning tension that you can cut with a knife. You will find none of that here. This is J-horror for the Netflix and Crunchy Roll generation. The days of Audition and Noroi: The Curse feel so very long ago. This is about as close to a live action anime as you can get. I get it, this movie is based on a Manga and Anime known as Karadasagashi. Still, it becomes a big problem very early on. From the camera cuts to the way the group interact. Re/Member takes everything that works in anime and wastes it. For all the over-the-top anime style live action stuff that Japan kinda gets right. The Machine Girl, Tokyo Gore Police, Ichi The Killer et al. Re/Member is an example of how spectacularly this approach can fail.
Split shots abound. People move into frame comically in a manner stripped straight from a Shōnen anime. Characters have exaggerated expressions. The camera zooms on trivial details like a character clicking his fingers. The bookish Shôta jumping on a desk in the library to shout effusively prompts eye rolls. It reminded me of “Prison School” only not funny and a bit painful to watch. Scrunched up facial expressions that are comical in animation. Look uncomfortable in real life. Action sequences fall foul of similar issues. Slow moving humans looks cumbersome jumping over tables. Quick camera cuts to add flair feel redundant and simply don’t work.
The way the characters speak bears mention, as well. It is far removed from the usual manner in which Japanese people speak. It is Japanese for white people. There is an emphasis on slang, slow speech patterns and an anime style delivery. I have watched hundreds of J-horror movies. Many featuring school age casts. I have never heard the word “Baka” shouted with so much inflection. It is done repeatedly here. It is as if whoever commissioned the movie pointed to K-On! and said “that but horror, please”. This speaks to another issue with Re/Member. The horror steps aside continually to give way to boring slice of life stuff. Anime puts a heavy emphasis on slice of life stuff. The fact of the matter is, though. When they do, they do it in a hilarious manner. Here, it is just plain boring.
As a lapsed fan of anime, this was all pretty awkward. I quit anime a good while ago when Seinen stuff became less and less common. Shonen is boring and repetitive. I have little interest in engaging in the same story recycled with slight changes. Despite this, I have watched enough anime to know a fair whack about it. I don’t want to give the impression I am a bagging on this movie for the anime style. If it was done well, I would have loved it. The thing is, anime tropes don’t always work well in live action. This becomes more clear as the movie crawls through its 100+ minute runtime. Re/Member insists on including tropes that are normally used to pad out a series. This becomes a massive ball and chain.
There is a beach scene featuring a fight with random “thugs”. It plays out like an 80’s music video but without the tongue in cheek. Talk of school committees and eating fruit sundaes feels ridiculously out of place. It leads you to wonder whether you are actually watching a horror movie. Re/Member is like a Persona game without the likeable characters and decent gameplay.
It doesn’t help that the group don’t feel like friends. Attempts at reflecting their newfound camaraderie are completely unconvincing. If you took everything the 2017 version of “It” did right. And did it all completely wrong, this is what you would have. This is just a group of random people. Their interactions don’t feel authentic or genuine. There is no reason to invest in them as a collection of friends. On top of that, there is no reason to invest in them as individuals. They are all so underdeveloped. Anime characters actually have a lot more individuality than these characters.
With this being said. I think this movie has a market for certain people. Anime fans who don’t mind repetitive Shonen style content will probably enjoy it. As I said above, it is like a Persona game without the fun and likeable characters. People who enjoy anime and aren’t big horror fans may enjoy it. It is tropey enough to feel familiar if you are a fan of that kind of stuff. You will need a serious tolerance for repetition and boring set pieces, though. This isn’t Darker than Black or Monster. It is far closer to the worst Shonen action anime you can think of.
Stepping aside from the similarities with anime. We encounter a whole bunch of issues with Re/Member simply as a horror movie. Pacing is a huge issue. This is an incredibly slow movie. Once the kids work out what they have to do. It becomes scene after scene of predictable and repetitive copy and paste content. The backstory is far more interesting than what is happening in the present. The backstory is barely leaned into, though. An interesting antagonist quickly gives way to something utterly farcical. I have never seen something as terrible looking as the creature in Re/Member.
Jim Henson’s Creature Workshop could make a better monster with the hair shed from Miss Piggy’s ass. It is so laughably bad. I know silly looking puppetry is something Japan has done for years. But this doesn’t feel like that. It doesn’t feel like a slightly silly looking Kaiju. It feels like the filmmakers ran out of money. Went into the broom closet and glued something together out of old coats. The way the monster moves is hilarious. It is clearly just being swung around by a human operator. It couldn’t look worse.
This speaks to a bigger issue with Re/Member. It just feels really cheap. Shooting locations are limited. Cinematography is dull and uninteresting. Practical effects are, for the most part, extremely average. It all just feels like it was put together with so little care. Even minor details like blood with a pink hue begin to really annoy you. The basics aren’t even done well. When you throw in the ridiculous character decisions and plot holes. It all becomes a bit annoying.
Even the horror falls into painful use of tropes. Slow motion action scenes and people wielding chainsaws feels all too familiar. Characters are murdered in ways that you have seen thousands of times before. They make stupid decisions. They react obviously. If you think something will be waiting around the corner. You can bet your ass there is something waiting around the corner. It has all been done before. Re/Member literally adds nothing new to the horror genre. It sure as fuck takes a lot from it, though.
An utterly by the numbers ending wraps things up. You will see it coming from a mile off but it is no less annoying. It still manages to squeeze in a few moments of toe curling stupidity from a character, though. Post credits hint at a sequel that I really hope never materialises. It’s all just so disappointing. The concept is fine, the anime stylings would be fine too if done well. Everything here is just so purely executed. It makes the movie an absolute chore to get through.
Acting is okay, I suppose. Literally every single character in Re/Member plays like an anime trope. This really undermines each and every performance. Gravity is stripped from every scene by the actor’s requirement to play to type. Kanna Hashimoto is okay as Asuka. What are you supposed to be able to say about her performance, though? She has one moment that hints at character depth. The rest of the time she is playing a quiet, shy, anime girl. Gordon Maeda, as Takahiro, and Fûju Kamio, as Atsushi, basically play the same character. They are sporty and like basketball. One just happens to be a bit more aloof and more troubled than the other.
Mayu Yokota, as Rie, is the well liked and sensible class president type. She is… okay, I guess? Maika Yamamoto, as Rumiko, is the popular girl with the older boyfriend. The Rise Kujikawa, from Persona 4, if you will. She does… fine? Kotarô Daigo, as Shôta, is the nerdy kid with a hidden eccentric personality. He really gives it his all, to be fair, but I hated the character trope. The actors here didn’t have much to work with. Their characters lacked depth. On top of that, the script offered them virtually nothing to help them develop.
One thing of note is that, literally, every actor here looked older than their intended age. That was a bit strange. Scenes where makeup wears off stand out. The camera reveals the slightly drawn faces of actors in their twenties. Still, that is the least of Re/Member’s problems. It is a painfully boring J-horror with an anime leaning and a terribly designed monster. What more could you want?
Remember Member (Re/Member) is a Japanese action horror movie desperately attempting to channel the energy and style of anime. The result is a movie that feels like it will only appeal to younger anime fans. Only those with a tolerance for boring slice of life bullshit, tedious and repetitive horror, and underdeveloped characters will find anything to like here. Re/Member is slow, the anime style presentation and character interactions feel awkward, and the story repeats itself ad nauseum.
A somewhat interesting plot quickly gives way to both horror and anime tropes. Boring characters lack a reason to feel invested. Lower stakes than most people face in everyday life make it impossible to care. This is a movie with so many problems. By the time you have finally made it past the first half of the movie. Your reward is one of the most terrible monster designs I have ever seen. The sad thing here is, the source material (Karada Sagashi manga) is actually decent. Characters retain injuries, they are better developed, it is far more serious and the story engages in less tropes. What a shame.
If Re/Member is a hint of what is to come from J-Horror. I think one of my all time favourite sub-genres should just stay dormant. Go check out Battle Royale, Suicide Club, Marebito, or literally any other J-Horror instead. Hell, I would even say Grotesque is worth a watch over this. Better yet, go check out the original anime and manga series. All I can hope is that I quickly forget Re/Member.