The death-wish J-horror is gorily rebooted, courtesy of Blair Witch’s Adam Wingard
THE SETTING FOR the final act of Adam Wingard’s take on Death Note looks disarmingly jolly. A funfair runs the length of the boardwalk pier jutting out into Vancouver’s Fraser River, its brightly lit rides looking inviting. But if the movies have taught us anything, it’s that funfairs are rarely as innocent as they appear. And, true to form, as night closes in, menace descends.
Nat Wolff and Margaret Qualley thread their way through the throng of punters, their anxious glances making it clear that someone — or something — is on their tail. Behind them two figures, expressions steely, move purposefully through the crowd. In a moment, this quaint little tableau has edged inexorably into darkness. “The three movies I watched before we started shooting,” says Wingard, “were Seven, Blade
Runner and The French Connection.” Boasting a huge cult following thanks to manga, anime and live-action versions, Death
Note centres on an ancient book that allows its owner to bump off anyone they choose — simply by writing their name in it. When the tome falls into the hands of high-school loner Light Turner (Wolff ), his crusade to clean up the streets attracts the attention of both a private eye and the book’s creator, Ryuk — a seven-foot tall, leather-clad demon voiced by Willem Dafoe and rendered in CGI (think Kabuki Ziggy Stardust).
“I wasn’t familiar with the manga,” says Wolff. “What excited me was that Light is basically a serial killer, but you’re on his side. We’d like to think we’d never use a death note, but we’ve all got a few names that would go in.”
Originally developed at Warner Bros., the project moved to Netflix after Wingard sensed his dark vision was being steered into more family-friendly waters. “It meant we could have a lot more fun and add some super-gory death scenes,” says the Blair Witch director. “We’re at a Wtf-rating right now: real Takashi Miike Ichi
The Killer stuff.” Quite a heady stylistic mix, then: kind of David Fincher-meets-yakuza-style hyper-violence? “Sure. But it’s also a tragic teen romance,” adds Wingard. “With a glam rock death god hanging around.” Noted.
above: Detective L (Keith Stanfield) tracks down Light Turner (Nat Wolff); Light comes face-to-face with demon Ryuk (voiced by Willem Dafoe); Adam Wingard with Masi Oka — who also produces — on set; Light opens the sinister tome.