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Film Review: Tokyo Home Stay Massacre (2020)

SYNOPSIS:

Three American late teens travel to Japan to escape a sad past and have some fun but end up trapped in a house with a demented Japanese host family who plans to offer them to their gods in a sick ancient Japanese ritual.

REVIEW:

A directorial debut of Kenta Osaka and Hirohito Takimoto, Tokyo Home Stay Massacre tells a tale of three American tourists, John (Alex Derycz), Sarah (Diana G.) and Spencer (Will Harrell) travelling in Japan. In their search for budget accommodation, the trio opt to stay with a local family. However, what promises to be a lovely visit in an authentic Japanese home setting, turns into a living nightmare as the host family are quickly revealed to be a group of eccentric psychopaths with a penchant for human sacrifice.

On paper Tokyo Home Stay Massacre has all the building blocks of a nice little gore fest. After all, the premise of classics like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is not much more complicated than that. All you need is a couple of unsuspecting travellers far away from home and out of their element and the stage is set for some serious bloodshed. This of course is also true of Tokyo Home Stay, but unfortunately, unlike the various cinematic gems that have preceded it, it fails to deliver even a hint of the charm, atmosphere or indeed the gore of those that came before it.

The biggest problem with the film is the distinct lack of a coherent plot. The basic scenario is simple enough and as the film only runs a meagre 75 minutes, there isn’t very much room for particularly profound plotlines. This would be fine if the main focus would be in pure gore, but alas, that is not the case. Instead there is a definite attempt at a story, I just cannot for the life of me tell you what it is. Part of this is due to the fact that none of the Japanese language parts are supplied with subtitles, making you miss out on rather large parts of (what I can only assume is) important dialogue.

At first, I thought this was a stylistic choice, designed to add to the feeling of confusion and alienation of being thrown into a strange and unfamiliar environment, but after the characters start performing some rather lengthy monologues clearly involving key information on the quickly escalating situation, I came to the conclusion that it’s more likely due to a mistake or just pure laziness. So, people are kidnapped but I have no clue why and neither can I shed any light on the rather strange family dynamics, what is the function of the two neighbours who pop by  on more than one occasion or indeed the two hammer wielding police officers that suddenly appear to torture one of the unlucky victims. Absolutely no clue.

There is also a serious problem with the tone of the film or rather lack thereof. One minute it seems like a serious attempt of something actually suspenseful, the next it jumps into full over the top gore mode with echoes of films like Meatball Machine or Tokyo Gore Police, but never really executing either idea properly.

The suspense only lasts for a hot minute before being ruined by the acting and the special effects do not come anywhere near the great works of Yoshihiro Nishimura and his bat shit crazy effect design. In fact, the rather long sequence with the aforementioned police officers involves a lot of violent attacks with various different weapons, with bodies going through windows and blood flying all over the place, has got to be one of the worst examples of fight choreography I’ve ever witnessed. Much of the action takes place off camera, making the whole thing an incredibly frustrating viewing and even when people seemingly get completely mutilated, with CGI blood flying here, there and everywhere, miraculously no one ever has a single wound on them (despite being covered in fake blood).

The acting is another issue altogether. I am sure I’ve seen something as wooden as this before, but I am not sure where or when. The dialogue is stilted and bears no relation to actual conversations that real live human beings might have.  The characters react to situation in ways that make little to no sense and even when they do, the timing of them is always a beat behind. Alex Derycz deserves a special mention here as his dramatic histrionics and completely illogical responses to the events surrounding him are in a league of their own. Only one doing a semi decent job in their role is Miyatani playing the head of this unconventional household. With his unrelenting smile, he makes for a genuinely creepy character that brings an honestly intimidating energy to the screen.

I get the feeling that Tokyo Home Stay Massacre should not be taken overly seriously. With that in mind, I feel slightly bad having just slated is much as I have. However, serious or not, the film just simply isn’t very good. If you want to see some truly hammy acting together with moderate bloodshed and low production values, maybe give it a go. Just keep in mind that you can also find all of those things in numerous other films that fare much better in story, gore and well, every other department.

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