REVIEW / FANTASY HORROR
DEATH NOTE (R21)
100 minutes/Available on Netflix/3.5/5 stars
The story: Seattle high-school student Light Turner (Nat Wolff) happens upon a copy of Death Note. Writing a person's name in the supernatural notebook while picturing his face will result in his death. Light uses his newfound power by killing criminals around the world using the moniker Kira. He eventually attracts the attention of L (Lakeith Stanfield), an eccentric but brilliant detective who is determined to unmask Kira and bring him to justice.
As far as Hollywood remakes go, this version of Death Note will not leave you itching to scribble director Adam Wingard's (Blair Witch, 2016) name into any tome.
It starts off hewing quite closely to the premise of the Japanese manga and 2006 live-action film of the same name, but with several tweaks along the way.
Light is in high school and at the mercy of bullies, making the idea of Death Note even more appealing.
The notebook is also a way for him to impress the cheerleader Mia (Margaret Qualley). "Please tell me this isn't your poetry journal," she quips, but soon becomes his eager accomplice.
The gore quotient has also been upped here. While most of the deaths in the earlier movie are by fuss-free heart attacks, Light comes up with bloody and gruesome ends for his victims here, including decapitation.
Veteran actor Willem Dafoe is well cast and proves to be both seductive and menacing as god of death Ryuk, by turns nudging his charge along and threatening him.
And in a nice bit of colour-blind casting, black actor Stanfield (Get Out, 2017) plays the role of L.
Where the remake really starts to come into its own is when the story takes a major deviation from its source material.
The battle of wits between Light and L becomes personal when Light manipulates someone close to L, making the stakes higher and more deeply felt.
The Japanese movie ended with a diabolical twist.
By throwing enough digressions into the remake, even those who watched the earlier version get to be surprised by the conclusion here.