Toronto After Dark Report: Tag

Who’s in it: Reina Triendl, Mariko Shinoda, Erina Mano

Who’s behind it: Written and directed by Shion Sono, based on a story by Yûsuke Yamada

Who’ll love it: Extreme movie fans with an appetite for violence both stylized and surreal.

What it’s about: Featuring a protagonist who finds herself in several identities, Tag does not lend itself to traditional plot synopsis, but plenty of crazy stuff happens. The character’s first incarnation is Mitsuko (Reina Triendl), the only survivor when two buses full of schoolgirls are chopped in half, leaving dozens of headless torsos. Scarred by this event (which she processes as a dream), Mitsuko finds herself in a happier academic environment, only to witness another brutal event with a high death toll. Following this tragedy, she continues as Keiko (Mariko Shinoda), a 25-year-old on the brink of a terrifying marriage. Last but not least, she transforms into Izumi (Erina Mano), a marathon runner struggling to overcome an unlikely athletic challenge: monsters.

Why you should see it: Best known in North America for 2001’s Suicide Club, Shion Sono is one of Japan’s most inventive and prolific filmmakers. (This year alone, he has seven directing credits to his name, including Tag and a second Toronto After Dark selection, Love & Peace.) While deciphering his actual intentions may prove difficult for some viewers, fans of extreme cinema can’t go wrong with Tag’s wildly imaginative (and gruesome) flights of fancy. Without the restrictions of a traditional plot, Sono is able to jump from one deranged set piece to another, casually sprinkling in an alligator attack here and a surreal dismemberment there. Refreshingly uninhibited, the film is crawling with Sono’s personal fetishes, generally involving pillows and schoolgirls in uniform. It all sounds sort of sick—which it is—but it’s delivered with so much bravado and wit, you can’t possibly resist.

When you can see it: Thursday, October 22 at 7pm at Scotiabank Theatre. Tickets available here.

Check out the trailer and the poster below.