Deathtube 2 (DVD)

This, again?

I did not enjoy the movie DeathTube: Broadcast Murder Show. It was no more than a Saw rip-off, but with even less depth. It was all torture and suffering for the sake of torture and suffering. We never got to know any of the generic hapless victims, and we never learned anything about the killer. Instead, the whole movie was just, “Here’s a bunch of people being brutalized for no reason. Enjoy!” With that mindset, I wasn’t looking forward to the inevitable sequel, DeathTube 2. Miracle of miracles, this follow-up actually isn’t god-awful. In fact, it might be the rarest form of movie—a sequel that’s better than its predecessor.

A Japanese schoolgirl (Naomi Inoue, Negima!) wakes up in a strange room, quickly learning that she’s on DeathTube. She and a group of strangers have been abducted and must now play a series of sick games, with the losers being killed live on the internet, as millions of net-surfers watch. Only this girl is not the meek waif she appears, and she might hold the key to escaping the inescapable DeathTube.

Why is the sequel better than the first? Two reasons. One, it gives us heroes we can root for. Two, we get a glimpse into who the villain is and why he does what he does.

First, our heroes. Instead of cowering and crying, the protagonists make a run for it. This makes more of a difference than you might think. Look at it this way: When Jason Voorhees comes after a horny teen, the horny teen doesn’t drop to her knees and start crying, more or less letting Jason do whatever he wants to her. Instead, she runs off into the woods. Perhaps not the smartest thing she could do, but at least she’s taking an action. As Jason chases the horny teen, it’s exciting. You’re either rooting for the horny teen to escape, or, if you’re more cynical, you’re rooting for Jason to get her. In the first DeathTube, all the characters did was quiver with fear as they played the killer’s sick games. There was a sense of hopelessness to it—we knew there was no way out for them, so why should we have cared? In DeathTube 2, the main characters try to outwit the killer, and they attempt an escape. This makes all the difference in the world. Instead of sitting there wailing with tears as they wait to die, they’re taking action. This gives the entire movie a sense of energy and purpose that the first film so dreadfully lacked.

Second, the villain. By now, if you have any interest in these two movies, you’ve either already seen the first one or at least tracked down trailers, so it’s no longer a spoiler to reveal that the baddie is a guy in a furry bear costume. Weird and incongruous, yes, but it’s a memorable image, so why not? This time around, though, the killer is more than just a funky visual. We finally learn his name, for one thing—Ponkichi. More importantly, we learn a little bit more about him and his henchmen, and why DeathTube was created. It’s not the big reveal—they’re no doubt saving that for future sequels, God help us all—but at least it’s something.

Despite these steps in the right direction, DeathTube 2 is hardly a horror masterpiece. The first third of the film follows the same beats as the previous one, with the terrified characters forced to play Ponkichi’s games. Things don’t really get interesting until the escape attempt gets under way. Also, the sinister death traps are uninspired, such as musical chairs where the last one standing dies. Somewhere in movie land, Blofeld, the Joker, and Jigsaw are shaking their heads with disappointment. For newbies, if you want to enjoy the good parts of this movie, you’re going to have to sit through the tedious first movie beforehand, or you’ll be totally confused. Finally, there’s a musical dance number? Really?

No complaints about the picture or audio, both of which are clean and clear. For extras, all we get are a still gallery and some trailers.

The Verdict

DeathTube 2 doesn’t win the game, but it does get the “most improved player” award.

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