KILL LIST

The death-wish J-hor­ror is go­rily re­booted, cour­tesy of Blair Witch’s Adam Win­gard

Empire (UK) - - PRE.VIEW - WORDS SI­MON BRAUND

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.

Clock­wise from

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.

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