Signal 100 - New Release Review
Director: Lisa Takeba
Starring: Kanna Hashimoto, Yûta Koseki, Toshiki Seto, Shouma Kai, Shidô Nakamura
Written by: Watanabe Yusuke
Produced by: Keiichi Hashimo, Kenzô Ishiguro
Cinematography by: Sôhei Tanikawa
Original Score by: Jin Nakamura
A group of high school students are forced into a game where they are hypnotized to commit suicide on an unknown command.
Having originally hit the festival circuit in 2019 with a fleeting cinematic release in it's native Japan in early 2020, Lisa Takeba's super gory 'Signal 100' finally gets a US release exclusively on Screambox and if you're a fan of Japanese classic 'Battle Royale' then you don't want to miss this one.
Based on the 2015 Japanese Manga series written by Arata Miyatsuki and Shingure Kondô, 'Signal 100' follows a classroom of 36 students who have been hypnotised by their maniacal but weirdly calm class teacher into committing suicide if they fail to avoid any of the triggering signals (of which there are, you've guessed it 100 in total). He does this by making them watch a highly sensory DVD full of pulsating images and sounds. Some of the signals are very simple behavioural things like crying or drinking from a bottle and some are more elaborate like touching a sexual organ or physically attacking a classmate. They also can't leave the school grounds or ask for help at any time as they are also two triggering signals that will force them to kill themselves.
The only way for any of them to break the hypnotic "spell" is to be the last remaining survivor. The group must then work together to find a way around this cruel, heinous factor. Part survival horror part social experiment, it's a super original idea that mostly works but it's far from perfect. Either way I found it really difficult not to have fun with this one and ultimately, as a fan of 'Battle Royale', I was down for all the carnage that ensued.
I don't want to mention 'Battle Royale' too much in this review but it's kind of hard not to see it's indisputable influence through almost every act of the entire film. There's the blatant visual influences; the location and characters etc. And of course the actual plot is quite similar too, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. But there is also the thematic influences. The idea of friendship and loyalty and working as a cohesive unit in order to find a solution. It's all here in 'Signal 100' as it was in Kinji Fukasaku's iconic film over 20 years ago.
The student's situation is as frighteningly abhorrent as it gets but things really start to heat up when we discover that a particular student is manipulating the others into killing themselves so he can be the last survivor. This was a nice little twist but I wish it had dragged out a little longer onscreen.
Despite the emotional and moral resonance of the film, we know why we are all here. Show us those kills. Rather unsurprisingly there is a lot of blood and gore and with a few exceptions it's not too over the top either. It's quite realistic at times. There's one scene in which a girl breaks her own neck. She literally turns her head right around like Regan from 'The Exorcist', which is obviously a bit ridiculous. This made me snort with laughter but it's actually still a heartbreaking scene because of the reaction from her classmates. Speaking of the kills, there's some really inventive ones. One guy engulfs a working lightbulb into his mouth and his head burns up and almost explodes. But mostly all the suicides are committed using knives or broken bottles or the characters smashing their heads into the wall or ground. It's pretty gross but very entertaining.
I think my main gripe with the film was the ending. It was a little predicable. In particular the entire final sequence. I won't get into spoilers but it really felt wholly unnecessary. Other than that I have very little negative comments. The cast are all great and there's some gorgeous shots throughout the film too. One that sticks out is when a girl slices her own throat and it sprays all over the covered windows. She's bathed in sunlight from outside that's bleeding through the thinly weaved curtains and all we see is the silhouette of her shaking head as she bleeds out before falling to the ground.
The film wastes no time in starting straight into the story so perhaps a little more setup would've let us warm to the characters a bit more but if you enjoy copious amounts of blood spraying and violent kills, then this will be right up your alley.
- Gavin Logan
'Signal 100' is available to stream exclusively on Screambox right now