EJ Moreno on the wildest work of Japanese director Takashi Miike…
With over 112 directing credits to his name, the word prolific doesn’t even begin to describe Takashi Miike. His films range from extreme horror to family-friendly romps; there’s no shortage of entertainment here.
For this list, we will focus on a collection of the most shocking and insane movies from Miike’s filmography. You’ll see a bit of his best work, his most confusing work, and the must-see features from one of Japan’s most infamous filmmakers.
Let’s look at the eight craziest Takashi Miike movies…
The City of Lost Souls
Takashi Miike can often be described as a pensive director. He takes his time to build scares, introduce characters, and slowly lure you into his dark worlds. The City of Lost Souls is far from that; it’s a hyper-caffeinated action film like no other. While it feels like an homage to Tarantino and spaghetti westerns, not even those films can such how bizarre it is to see Brazilian-Japanese, Mario, and a Chinese hairdresser, Kei, downward spiral into hell.
The City of Lost Souls feels like Miike doing a comic book movie in many ways; the boldness of the choices helps make it stand out amongst the pack. While it’s not as vile or shocking as others listed here, you can’t deny how crazy it all feels. Prepare for a cockfighting scene that will stay with you for years.
For its wicked finale and visceral, shocking moments, it’s a surprise to see Audition place so early. Simply put, Audition is Miike at his most digestible, and this is still a hard pill to swallow. The slowest burns, you feel the sense of dread build up more and more until you’re confronted with one of the most wicked finales in cinema history. Miike helms one of the best horror films ever here, something his director peers call an absolute masterpiece.
It’s still amazing how normal this all feels when you compare it to other Miike entires. That’s not to speak ill of Audition, which this writer considered his first venture into extreme horror decades ago, but it’s a polished and refined feature that makes sure to remind you of Miike’s skills. The less you know about Audition, the better, but prepare to be enamored with the Asami Yamazaki character as much as the characters in the film.
The Happiness of the Katakuris
The man who directed Audition also made a vibrant comedic horror musical just two years later. Yes, The Happiness of the Katakuris is the opposite of almost every Miike film you’ll typically find, but it’s also one of his most bizarre. Don’t let the more friendly exterior fool you; the grim story and gonzo filmmaking style remind you this is one of the wildest directors ever.
One thing that Miike does right in almost all his films is twisted family dynamics, which is another excellent example. Happiness of the Katakuris blends elements of zombie movies, absurdist comedies, and classic Japanese cinema to bring something deliriously over-the-top to life.
Fudoh: The New Generation
One of Miike’s more obscure projects, Fudoh‘s overlooked status doesn’t make it any less crazy. The artful qualities of the film carry you through any of the more obscene comments, proving Takashi Miike as a trip sitter of sorts. He can take you on trippy twisted journeys, guiding you through it all but making sure you take it all in. You get that with Fudoh: The New Generation, even though this is his earliest work included here.
Yes, even as a younger filmmaker, we’re seeing someone who understands the power of shock and awe. Fudoh is a bit more than that; we get good dramatic moments and even a tinge of Miike’s darkly comedic side. Out of all of the films included here, this serves as a perfect place to start when you are venturing into the twisted world of one of Japan’s wildest minds.
Dead or Alive
For many die-hard Miike fans, Dead or Alive is a top-tier entry for the filmmaker. Dipping back into the yakuza world, we see elements of Miike’s work coming together to make this go above and beyond. The no-holds-barred perverse film is all the beautiful things you come to know and love from the filmmaker, but it feels so different here. Something about Dead or Alive feels like a filmmaker in his proper form.
Think of it like Miike’s Pulp Fiction or his own The Shining. Are they probably better films in these directors’ filmography? Sure, but there’s something about these pieces that encapsulates what we love. Dead or Alive is the most Miike movie that exists, for good and bad.
Ichi The Killer
There are no words that can describe Ichi The Killer. The best way to capture its essence is by saying it’s a mix of everything you love about Miike. Ichi features yakuza drama, insane gore, out-there comedy, and strange family dynamics. Much like Dead or Alive, this is another example of Miike putting all his signature elements into one project, making this much more enjoyable.
Out of the top three craziest Takashi Miike movies, Ichi The Killer is the one you can watch and probably enjoy the most. While it does get pretty gross, and the shocks are aplenty, this is a pretty easy film to recommend. Also, keep an eye out for Tadanobu Asano delivering one of the best Japanese movie performances as the twisted Kakihara. You can see where people like Nolan and Ledger got ideas for their Joker from this performance.
I’ve spoken about Visitor Q quite a few times on Flickering Myth. Whenever it’s time to bring up disturbed or shocking movies, this is an easy movie to point to for a prime example of outlandish shocks. Even when it stacks up to other films from Miike, there’s not much that can touch this. Visitor Q hits every taboo and offends everyone but still presents a must-see story. You won’t believe the things they attempt here, and you can’t believe Miike still makes films after this.
In a filth epic that stands next to Salo or Pink Flamingos, Visitor Q isn’t for the faint of heart. The family at the film’s center is unlike anything you’ve ever seen, and the titular visitor makes for one of the more intriguing characters included here.
I’ve seen Gozu roughly four times, and it confuses me more with each viewing. Just when you wrap your mind around one of the film’s most absurd moments, it slaps you in the face with something even more shocking. If you take the work of David Lynch and dip it into a giant bucket of LSD, you’ll get close to what Miike crafted in this 2004 movie. Trying to explain this movie would take hours, and it’s better if you walk in with just the general praise of its WTF qualities.
G. Allen Johnson of SFGate once said that the film “is for Miike freaks only,” and they were 100% correct. If you can make it through every other movie on this list and craze more insanity, Gozu is the perfect overdose of exasperating incoherence. Prepare for one of the strangest movies, and you still won’t be ready for the final act of this Miike classic.
What are your favorite Takashi Miike movies? Let us know on our social channels @FlickeringMyth…