Shiyori and Aiko arrive for a break at a remote resort, only to find themselves pursued through a long night of terror by demented cultists and a scissors-wielding lunatic hell-bent on revenge.
A delirious lampoon of the old 'rural maniacs menacing city slickers' formula, X-Cross blends cartoon action to frenetic chase sequences, as two young woman spend a night of fright under siege from crazed villagers and a scissors-brandishing loon.
Cocky urbanites getting in a pickle when they venture out into the sticks has been a jumping off point for tales of terror for pretty much as long as such tales have been around. This is how the main storyline of X-Cross commences, as friends Shiyori and Aiko (played by Nao Matsushita and Ami Suzuki respectively) head out to the remote mountain village of Ashikari for what is intended to be a relaxing weekend break. The pair are contrasting characters, with Aiko being an unashamed hedonist and Shiyori an introspective wallflower. And it is the latter who is most in need of some time away from the big city, as she nurses a broken heart caused by her catching her boyfriend, Asamiya (Kyôji Kamui) cheating on her with a mystery woman.
Alarm bells should be ringing from fairly on for the girls. The mist-wreathed outpost is guarded by some particularly petrifying scarecrows which have been hoiked high up on sticks to ensure they look even more foreboding than they might otherwise do, while the denizens of Ashikari to a one are so downright odd and backward as to make the rednecks from Deliverance seem like Clooney-esque models of metrosexuality in comparison. Shiyori learns she is in trouble soon enough though, when she finds a mobile phone and winds up talking to a man named Mononobe, whose sister went missing during a visit to the village.
Mononobe is a folklore scholar – always a handy occupation for a character to have when a movie is in need of some expedient exposition – and he advises Shiyori that Ashikari was founded by a group of demented loggers who cuts the left legs off each of their wives to ensure that their spouses did not run away when they were up in the mountains doing whatever it is loggers do. Logging, maybe. The real kicker arrives when Mononobe lets Shiyori know that this bonkers practice survives to the present day, it having been turned into a sacred sacrificial rite by the nutty residents.
Her left leg in immediate peril of being divorced from the rest of her, Shiyori goes on the run from the swarming villagers. Meanwhile, doubts surface as to Aiko's role in organising the trip, with the suspicion surfacing that she may have been part of a conspiracy to lure Shiyori into the clutches of the bucolic crazies. As it happens, Aiko has major worries of her own, having come up against an interloper into the village – an eyepatch-sporting young lady named Reika (Maju Ozawa), dressed in the kind of outlandish outfit visitors to Tokyo see the kids around Harajuku Station dudded up in each Sunday. Reika is in vengeful mood, eager to teach Aiko a lesson for stealing her boyfriend – a deed Aiko herself can barely recall – and she has several massive pair of scissors with which she intends to use to extract penance from her target.
Can Shiyori escape the cultists? Can Aiko escape Reika? Did Aiko plot for ostensible friend Shiyori to be parted from her left leg? Will it all end in bloody bedlam? We give little away if we tell you maybe, maybe, maybe and yes.
X-Cross is adapted from a novel by Nobuyuki Jôkô, which was subsequently turned into a 'mobile manga', a 24-part comic serial distributed via mobile phones on a weekly basis (pictures from this incarnation of X-Cross are displayed below). Mobile phones prove pivotal in X-Cross with the movie embracing the pervasiveness of said devices in the 21st century and the implications this pervasiveness has for the traditional 'lost in the woods' horror story. The film also takes an adventurous approach to its narrative structure, being divided into chapters that hop back and forth through time, giving the differing viewpoints of Shiyori and Aiko, and thereby allowing a degree of mystery to be instilled thanks to the withholding of various snippets of story information.
As noted above X-Cross is directed by Kenta Fukasaku, who wrote the screenplay for Battle Royale for his father Kinji to shoot. He made his own debut behind the camera with the sequel to that movie when his father became too ill to proceed with the project, and although that sequel was regarded as a major disappointment compared to its predecessor, Fukasaku junior received his most approving critical notices to date for X-Cross.