A Review of Unearthed Films’ Latest, ‘A Record of Sweet Murder’ (2014)

Kôji Shiraishi, the provocative mind behind the films Grotesque, Carved, and The Ring vs. The Grudge finally found a loving and nurturing home at Unearthed Films for his 2014 feature, A Record of Sweet Murder. Delivering on their promise of one new release a month, the distribution company enthusiastically added this exceptional piece of cinema from the Far East to its catalog of brazen, independent and often extreme titles. Personally, I very much enjoy Asian genre films, so when I learned that one of my favorite distribution labels got to snag a film from Shiraishi, well… I squeed like a little school girl.

Sangjoon (Je-wook Yeon: Fly High 2009) has recently broken out of a psychiatric institution and subsequently murdered 18 people in a heinous crime wave. Desperate, he reaches out to journalist and childhood friend, Soyeon (Kkobbi Kim: The City Of Violence 2006). Certain demands must be met though, so along with her Japanese cameraman, Tashiro (played by director Kôji Shiraishi), they set off alone to a deserted apartment building to meet the disturbed escapee.  

“If that camera stops, you die!” screams Sangjoon.

A Record of Sweet Murder is shot all in one cut and pretty much all in one location. It successfully conveys the cramped, uncomfortable, and uncontrolled environment the characters are forced to engage in, and because of this, I was immediately invested into the outcome. Sangjoon is literally unhinged, and throughout the course of the film, I began to feel some sympathy for him. Je-wook Yeon delivers an impressive performance that swayed between a madman and a pathetic soul. We learn that he has been institutionalized for several years, carrying around a deep emotional wound that stemmed from a traumatic childhood accident, an accident Soyeon also witnessed. Luckily for Sangjoon, his one time friend and reporter is a highly compassionate individual. All of this, accompanied with the constant threat of violence, ensure that the pair of journalists stay put, as the troubled man tries to explain why he murdered so many people.

The tension mounts slowly and effectively in Koji’s film. When Sangjoon sounded off about his murder spree that he swore was guided by the Hand of God and what his plans for the future were, the tone shifts dramatically. Reality begins to spiral out of control, even for Toshiro and Soyeon, and soon an unfathomable series of events unfold in the small apartment, events I chose to leave out because I feel your enjoyment of the film may suffer a bit if I give too much away.

Unlike Koji’s previous works, which some may describe as unrepentantly violent, A Record of Sweet Murder brings almost a delicate sense of balance to his filmography. Don’t get me wrong, it also showcases some classic Koji; the third act is a strange, violent, and sexual affair, but it doesn’t leave you with that. As if the filmmaker was offering not only us, but himself, a palate cleanser, A Record of Sweet Murder ends on a surprisingly bittersweet note that I applauded.

You can purchase your copy of Koji Shiraishi’s A Record of Sweet Murder hereo,r if you’re going to be at Days of the Dead in Las Vegas June 7th-9th,  you can catch this one there! It will be the Midnight screening on Saturday the 8th.

About Danni Winn

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