Slamdance Film Review: Hell of Se


Slamdance Film Review: Hell of Se
Director: Sawa Kawakami

Premiere: 1.21

I don’t know if director Sawa Kawakami was limited by a low budget or her lack of experience as a filmmaker, but her feature debut Hell of Se unfortunately reflects that. It’s a shame, because there are elements of something potentially interesting that would have resulted in a captivating film, but the low production value paired with the absurdist story and characters make for a confusing and often unfollowable movie. 

The film follows Momo Amano (Yura Tsuduri) and Hayasaka (Miu Kainuma) as school kids in Japan, interacting with their other classmates and their community from going to the movies to liberating a puppy from a pet shop. But when it’s discovered that Hayasaka has a particular fetish for used tampons, things start getting strange for everyone involved, including anyone watching the movie.

Hell of Se has no interest in developing the characters throughout the story, only forcing us to watch these school kids run around their community and discuss the mundane aspects of their lives. The most intriguing thing about this movie, Hayasaka’s fetish, is not explained nor does it have any bearing on the overall plot. It’s simply a trait of the character that audiences must accept without explanation. The other characters are no more developed either; Amano has a crush on Hayasaka and follows him around during the entire runtime. I hoped for anything exciting to happen, though nothing really does. 

The actors are also not given good direction nor a good enough script to make what they have to say engaging or gripping. The performances come off as amateurish, much like the rest of the film. Quite frankly, it makes the infamous Tommy Wiseau movie The Room look like Citizen Kane. It’s not like films where nothing happens are bad; a film to compare this one to would be Richard Linklater’s debut, Slacker. But Slacker features a plethora of unique and well-developed characters that have dynamic conversations with one another, and Hell of Se simply does not. 

The other element that detracts from the film is the low production value. The filmmakers used old handheld camcorders and even a Nintendo 3DS to help give it a more vintage look, and it does give the film some personality, but there are other production issues. There’s nothing wrong with low budgets, but this film makes no secret of it. It’s distracting at best and embarrassing at worst. 

Given what was presented, I don’t believe anything could’ve really saved this movie. Overall, Hell of Se has elements of interesting characters and a classic plot, but the film lacks proper development to capitalize on those unique traits. —Eric Ray Christensen

Read more of SLUG’s comprehensive coverage of the 2024 Slamdance Film Festival.