I don’t think the Japanese title of “Re/Member” is as clever a pun as it is in English.
As this is a horror tale of high school kids trapped by a ghost, doomed to search for and re-assemble the dismembered body parts so that the spirit will rest in peace, “Re/Member” is amusing truth in advertising that “Karada Sagashi,” translated as “Remember Member,” never will be.
The hook here is a sort of “Before I Fall,” “Edge of Tomorrow,” “Groundhog Day” variation. Six high school kids are summoned and assembled by a ghostly “red person” dragging around a knit doll she had the day she was murdered in the film’s opening scene.
The teens find themselves trapped, sucked into the school each midnight to complete their quest, recovering body parts.
“Until the body search is complete,” nerdy Shôta (Kotarô Daigo) reasons — in Japanese or dubbed into English — “this is our ONLY day.”
Shôta, like our heroine Asuka (Kanna Hashimoto), is an outcast. She’s “invisible” and “a loser” to her classmates. He’s bullied, blamed for crimes he didn’t commit.
But super-popular super-jock Takahiro (Gordon Maeda) “saw the dead girl,” too. So did class hottie Rie (Mayu Yokota) and popular chatterbox Rumiko (Maika Yamamoto).
Sad and sullen truant Atsushi (Fûju Kamio) finds himself forced to show up and pitch in when they’re stuck in this time-trap, with the possibility of being “erased” from existence if they don’t succeed.
You know the “Groundhog” drill. Every night, they have to figure something new out. These kids, mostly strangers to each other, have to team-up to work the problem. As in “Edge of Tomorrow,” a nightly slaughter, one by one, is their reward for failure.
They compare notes each morning — with the last to die the night before filling in the new data for Miss “Honestly, we got killed off pretty early” and the others.
Honestly, “Re/Member” could use more of that “Tom Cruise got killed AGAIN” comic energy. While the script does a good job of showing us how these new associations could change the trajectory of that one hellish day — a stray cat who keeps getting run over — and their high school lives, it lets down the plucky players in a lot of other ways.
The body parts aren’t so much “discovered” in a logical hiding place, as “presented.” If the ghost knows where they are and can move them, why pester teenagers with that?
After seeing a child chased into the forest in our opening scene, there’s nothing done to add pathos to the original victim. She’s just another “Ring” style wild-haired Japanese girl/demon.
The nightly deaths are gruesome and creatively-handled, reminding us that “J-Horror” is a genre for a reason.
But the third act turn towards giving this quest meaning — over-explaining, the Achilles heel of many a thriller — is a dud. And much of what comprises the climax will have you shouting at the screen as it is dragged out by SOMEbody not taking care of that one piece of business, obvious to everyone but her.
“Re/Member” does just well enough by a killer concept to merit a Hollywood remake, because this version stumbles here and there, and simply fails at the finish.
Rating: TV-MA, graphic violence
Cast: Kanna Hashimoto, Gordon Maeda, Maika Yamamoto, Fûju Kamio, Mayu Yakota and Kotarô Daigo.
Credits: Directed by Eiichiro Hasumi, scripted by Harumi Doki. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:42