The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer

The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer

The Student Voice of Fordham Lincoln Center

The Observer


‘Lumberjack the Monster’ is a Wild Campy Mess

A psychopathic, vengeful lawyer learns to emote in this Japanese horror crime thriller by director Takashi Miike
Before the “Lumberjack the Monster” Netflix release on June 1, the film premiered in North America at the Japan Society on May 6

Famed director Takashi Miike is a somewhat controversial figure in Japanese cinema, known for films “Audition” and “Ichi the Killer.” His work is notorious for the excessive use of violence and gore. In particular, the ending of “Audition” has named it as one of the most disturbing movies out there. So when I went to see his latest release, “Lumberjack the Monster,” I was expecting a suspenseful thriller mystery with crazy, over-the-top gore. This film was much more tame, yet it still had some of Miike’s wild, bizarre flair. 

“Lumberjack the Monster” (Kaibutsu no Kikori) had its North American premiere on May 6 at the Japan Society located in east midtown Manhattan. The screening, done in celebration of the film’s Netflix release on June 1, was a collaboration with the Tribeca Festival’s “Escape from Tribeca,” a program that highlights underground and genre cinema. The film first premiered at the Sitges Film Festival last year, and is an adaptation of author Mayusuke Kurai’s 2019 novel of the same name.

The story follows lawyer Akira Ninomiya (Kazuya Kamenashi), appearing in a gory introduction. A ruthless and manipulative man, Ninomiya won’t hesitate to eliminate anyone to get his way. He’s supported by his friend, Kuro Sutigani (Shota Sometani), a creepy brain doctor who likes to operate on unwilling subjects. 

The two are content with their psychopathic tendencies — that is until an ax-wielding, scarecrow-looking serial killer attempts to bludgeon Akira’s head and take his brain. The killer, later named “The Brain Thief,” fails and gets away. Akira swears revenge before passing out. Then, in a surprise to both the audience and Akira himself, he later wakes up in the hospital to find that the attack disabled the previously unknown neurochip planted in his head.

“Neurochip?” Akira confusingly asks the doctor. “What is a neurochip?” 

Before “Lumberjack the Monster,” I wasn’t familiar with Miike’s work. I didn’t expect this out-of-pocket turn of events. Up until that scene, the film’s serious and suspenseful tone — a tone the trailer matches — put me on edge for upcoming gruesome, grim moments. This tone persists throughout the film and clashes with the ridiculousness of the plot, providing the audience with some campy entertainment. 

Soon after he starts his quest for revenge, Akira quickly discovers a horrifying consequence of the neurochip damage: it gives him emotions. His heinous intelligence-gathering methods become useless once he starts feeling bad about them. It’s interesting to see how Akira processes those unfamiliar feelings. As Kuro points out, those feelings won’t wash away Akira’s sins. How would a once cold-blooded killer react if he suddenly began feeling remorse? 

All the characters have solemn drives, delivering their lines with either a formal demeanor or motivated by revenge. Underneath it is a hilarious mystery.

But more significantly, Akira’s reactions to his feelings make for some hilarious scenes. At times, these newfound emotions overwhelm Akira, and he has to hit pause on his mission to awkwardly stand there with a blank face and process. These moments are backed by slow, dramatic camera pans and suspenseful music, but the situation itself is so ridiculous that you can’t help but laugh.

Along with Kuro, the supporting cast also includes the cool, collected Ranko Toshiro (Nanao) and the sweet Emi (Riho Yoshioka). Ranko is a detective trying to catch the Brain Thief. While she isn’t a murderous psychopath like Akira, she isn’t above bending the rules to solve the case and deliver justice. Emi is Akira’s fiancee, unaware of his true psychotic manipulation and nature.

All the characters have solemn drives, delivering their lines with either a formal demeanor or motivated by revenge. Underneath it is a hilarious mystery. The film came together nicely and had the audience at the Japan Society laughing throughout.

However, there were times when the film’s self-awareness wasn’t always present. Even with the gore, the movie never stepped into the excessively bizarre surrealism of other Miike films. Specifically the long meandering, yet dramatic conversations became a tad confusing as a result, and I wasn’t sure whether to take the dialogue seriously or not. 

The comical melodrama of the film convoluted the underlying metaphor the movie tries to push. The film’s title, “Lumberjack the Monster” is the name of a fictional children’s book that Akira is familiar with, and what the serial killer based their costume on. The macabre, folk tale-like story is about a hideous, cannibalistic monster who dresses up as a lumberjack to fool and eat the village people. 

The book is brought up many times, but I wasn’t really sure how it connected to the events of the film. Does the lumberjack monster represent Akira? If he does, does that mean Akira welcomes his newfound emotions? Was the message that “maybe being a psychopath ain’t so bad after all?” Even with the exposition-riddled climax, the film doesn’t give satisfying answers to these questions. Doing so would have added some depth to an interesting story.

“Lumberjack the Monster” overall was a bizarre, but fun ride. Despite the tone, it’s ridiculous that it’s difficult to take the film seriously– the ambiguity falls flat. When it works, it creates some pretty priceless moments. Keeping all aspects of the movie in  mind, I’d gladly watch it again on Netflix.


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About the Contributor
JULIA JARAMILLO, Arts & Culture Editor
Julia Jaramillo (she/her), FCLC ’25, is an arts & culture editor at The Observer. She is an English and new media and digital design double major with a concentration in creative writing. In her free time, she loves writing, playing video games and trying new cafes around the city.

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