Lesson of the Evil: Film review

A film about a Japanese English teacher who goes crazy and kills his students? Well I’m an ex-ALT so I pretty much had to watch it.

lesson_of_the_evilSeiji Hasumi (played by Hideaki Itō) is the hot teacher stereotype. He’s handsome, great at his job, respected by the staff and adored by his students. Too bad he’s a sociopath who killed his own parents, went to work in investment banking in America and pursued a career in serial killing on the time. When his homeroom class are pulling an all nighter at the school to create a haunted house (of course) for their cultural festival, Hasumi embarks on a a thinly justified massacre of his homeroom class.

As an English speaker, it’s always interesting to watch Japanese representations of foreigners in film and I have to say, this one gave me a few laughs. The title ‘Lesson of the Evil’ (Aku no Kyōten) was a good start. Hasumi was in the habit of yelling random English phrases such as ‘Excellent’ and ‘United we stand, divided we fall’ while he murders his students in a strong Japanese accent. Hideaki Itō, bless his beautiful, beautiful face, simply does not pronounce English well enough for it to be believable that his character had an MBA from Harvard financial career in the USA. I also enjoyed that the FBI agent who tells Hasumi to get out of America in the flashback is randomly French. I had a fun 30 seconds crafting an elaborate back story as to why there was a French dude in the FBI before accepting that all white foreigners are American so it doesn’t matter.

I think the film’s strength was that it showcased a variety of interesting characters in this very dysfunctional school, if not in too much depth. My favourite was the clever but unruly Keisuke who leads a cheating ring in the school and almost unmasks Hasumin and prevents the massacre, but is prevented by his own rashness. I also enjoyed Tsurii, the creepy loner physics teacher who points Keisuke in the right direction to the truth about Hasumi. I usually like characters who are jerks but are on the right side. However, though I don’t watch slasher films for their great representation but it was still frustrating to see that literally all the characters who did anything of interest were male. Though the subplot in which Miya, a female student, was blackmailed into performing sexual favours by a PE teacher (she is then ‘rescued’ by Hasumin and groomed into becoming his lover and gives him information on her fellow students) was well handled, it’s annoying that all of the women are only ever victims. Even Reika, a female survivor does little more than play oracle to Keisuke warning him ‘I feel you’re in danger if you don’t drop your investigation of Hasumi’ and only lives thanks to following a male student’s clever plan.

Ultimately I won’t be rewatching this but it made for a decent evening’s gory entertainment. There are some great gags and Hideaki Itō is beautiful even when he’s killing people, though a slasher about massacring teenagers with exciting horror porn pacing might be too tasteless for some. 3/5

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