A short review of “Death Note” (2017)

True to its manga origins, Netflix’ “Death Note” (2017) seems cartoonish and sometimes intentionally silly.  That doesn’t stop it from being a lot of fun, though — this is the most original, offbeat horror tale I’ve seen in a while, and I’d rate it an 8 out of 10.

It’s definitely a genre-buster — it’s one part comic book, one part horror tale, one part eastern theological fantasy and one part dark teen romance.  It succeeds in part because it has an interesting supernatural story setup that seems reminiscent an episode of “The X-Files.”  (A magical notebook allows it owner to sentence anyone to death, simply by writing the victim’s name down, and describing how they die.)

It also succeeds because it has a great bogeyman — a seemingly omnipotent demon named Ryuk.  His visual design is creative and wickedly creepy, and his character is menacingly voiced by none other than Willem Dafoe.

Finally, Shea Whigham is very good as the teen protagonist’s tough but likable dad.  I thought I remembered him only from his relatively minor role in this year’s “Kong Skull Island.”  But, as it turns out, he was actually the sympathetic escaped convict from 2008’s criminally underrated monster movie, “Splinter.”  He’s a great actor.

I really liked this.  I’d recommend it.

 

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