Hellevator: The Bottled Fools is a Japanese cyberpunk film. In the distant future, everyone lives in a departmentalized infrastructure with elevators as the only means of transportation. A female student, addicted to banned cigarettes, accidentally causes an explosion that kills over 100 citizens and suspends movement on 15 trains. Through a series of flashbacks brought on by interviews, you find out what happened on the girl’s elevator ride derailed by her own actions.Hellevator is strange. There’s really no other way to describe it. It’s sci-fi/horror with strong Orwellian imagery and really over the top performances. It’s not enough for a pair of inmates to be chained to a pole in the elevator. One has to talk in reverse like a man possessed and the other shrieks, laughs, and sticks his tongue out every chance he gets. A businessman has to be conniving and greedy and a civil employee has to be robotic and unerring in her every action. It’s an absurd film of extremes that washes over you like waves of a nightmare.
It’s intentionally ugly, too. Harsh yellow lights are used in the dull elevator to make everything seem toxic. The passageways surrounding the elevator system are dirt filled subways filled with homeless people and black market merchants. People who start out looking normal are forced to contort themselves into disturbing parodies of human emotion.
If nothing else, Hellevator: The Bottled Fools is a true cyberpunk story. Everything comes down to the failure of a future technology-driven society to protect the lowest people on the planet. Prisoners are beaten bloody for not standing straight and little children are given reanimated brains attached to robots as toys. The story is designed to make you think about how a society that advanced has completely failed the needs of the people.The problem with Hellevator is simple: it’s random. You’ll either like or hate the meandering series of events that may or may not actually happen. The protagonist quickly proves herself an unreliable narrator.
To the credit of writer/director Hiroki Yamaguchi, he does use that device well. You reach the point where you’re as desperate as the characters trapped in the elevator. You don’t know what is happening, why it happens, and when it will end. You see the story from one perspective, then immediately jump to an incongruent conclusion. Then you jump out of the elevator to the interviews where another interpretation is thrown at you. The story intentionally doesn’t add up because it’s a portrait of a broken society rather than a singular narrative.
Hellevator: The Bottled Fools is an ambitious sci-fi/horror film, but not necessarily a great one. It tries to do a lot but is so designed to confuse and infuriate that little sticks once the credits roll.
Have you seen Hellevator: The Bottled Fools yet? It’s available on Netflix Instant right now if you haven’t. I’d love to hear some other thoughts on it.