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2019 Netflix Halloween Countdown: “Death Note”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

2019 Netflix Halloween Countdown

For my third annual Netflix Halloween Countdown, I will once again be watching and reviewing some of the spooky, scary, gory, chilling, and horror-themed movies on Netflix. With each review, I will be including an up-to-date table that ranks these movies from best to worst. If you are looking to get in the Halloween spirit, by watching some Halloween-style movies, then these articles are for you!

Death Note

Netflix Release: 8/25/2017

Netflix Release: 8/25/2017

Synopsis

Light Turner (Nat Wolff) is an ordinary high-school student. That is until he discovers a mysterious notebook. During detention, the death god, Ryuk (Willem Dafoe), appears to Light Turner. Ryuk explains that he is the death god, and can kill anyone that Light chooses. All Ryuk needs is a name, and Light just has to enter a name into the notebook that he discovered.

Thus, Light and Ryuk have formed a bit of a team. Light needs to choose names to enter into the notebook, while Ryuk will handle the rest. Light, however, is reluctant to be involved in the deaths of innocent people. He wants to do something good with this power, so he decides only to enter the names of dangerous criminals. This choice makes him a vigilante of sorts, and while there is no obvious way to connect Light to the deaths, a detective begins to notice a pattern regarding the types of people who are dying and the mysterious ways that it has been happening.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

The ProsThe Cons

The Book (+6pts)

L (-5pts)

Light (+3pts)

Mia (-5pts)

Ryuk (+3pts)

The Ending (-6pts)

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Pro: The Book (+6pts)

I should preface this entire review by saying that I did not watch the series. My only understanding of this story, is of the perspective of someone who has only seen the movie. With that in mind, the notebook and how it could be used was the most interesting part of this movie. On the surface, it could seem like a pretty cut and dry premise. The main character writes a name in a book, then the death god kills the specified person. The premise seems pretty straight forward, but the different ways that one can use the powerful book is very interesting.

You could try to use the book for good, killing only bad people, but that is a lot of power to hold in your hands. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and playing judge, jury, and executioner is definitely a form of absolute power. I also liked the idea that, while a good person may not want to use the book, Ryuk needs someone to use it, so if you do not use it, Ryuk is just going to give it to someone else. This idea raises an interesting moral question. In order to prevent Ryuk from giving the book to someone who would use it to harm many innocent people, would you use the book to have Ryuk kill bad people? I liked these questions, but I felt like the filmmakers barely scratched the surface with them, and it would have been really fascinating to see this story dive deeper into these ideas.

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Con: L (-5pts)

Look, I get it, a movie can only be so long, so some shortcuts had to be made, but this was a lot more than that. I found this character’s conclusion jumping to be very convenient for the writers. How could L (LaKeith Stanfield) possibly have known what he ended up figuring out? There was absolutely no way to connect Light to the deaths, but the filmmakers needed that suspense.

There just was not even enough to justify L getting anywhere near suspecting Light. I do not know if this character was in the show. If so, I hope they did a better job of explaining how he could have pieced together what he did. The filmmakers of the movie, however, took the lazy way out and just had the character wildly jump to accurate conclusions. This was made worse by how ridiculous this character was, in an unbelievable sort of way (which is saying something when watching a movie about a killer notebook and a death god).

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Pro: Light (+3pts)

I liked this character, for the most part. He was interesting, because he was a normal kid who was given this incredibly powerful note book. It was interesting to see how that power impacted him, but I wish the filmmakers had done more with that idea. The internal struggle of morality within the character was something that was interesting to see when the filmmakers touched on it, but that did not happen too often.

Unfortunately, they did not dive too deep into this idea. For the most part, the character was pretty one-dimensional, with only occasionally struggling with the morality of what he was doing. Nonetheless, I still ended up liking the character and I thought that Nat Wolff did a pretty decent job of bringing the character's internal struggle, and his emotion, to the screen. The filmmakers did not give him much to sink his teeth into, but I thought the actor did a good job with what he was given.

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Con: Mia (-5pts)

My issue with Mia was completely opposite from my issue with Light. While the filmmakers kept Light more or less one-dimensional, I thought Mia's character arc was wildly unjustified. I do not want to say much about the arc that the character went on, but her character got nowhere near enough development to justify that arc. Again (I feel like a bit of a broken record), I have not watched the show, so perhaps the show handled this arc better. However, much like my opinion of L, I thought the filmmakers screwed up Mia's story by not giving the character enough development. They clearly wanted a specific story arc, but they either did not have the desire or the screen-time to develop that arc. Unfortunately, this character simply suffered from lazy writing.

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Pro: Ryuk (+3pts)

I liked this character quite a bit. He was persuasive, he looked cool, he was powerful, and Willem Dafoe did a great job with the voice. My only issue was that he did not get much screen-time. There were a few interesting scenes, where Ryuk was persuading Light to use the book, and explaining the rules to Light. However, other than those scenes, the character was mostly absent from the movie. When a name was written in the book, Ryuk was not physically present during that person’s death. He just sort of bent fate to make it happen in a very Final Destination sort of way. These scenes were cool, and the screen-time that Ryuk did get was interesting. I just wish we got to see more of him.

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Con: The Ending (-6pts)

Without giving anything away, this was one of those movies where a character does a bunch of stuff off-screen. These off-screen things are crucial to the ending of the story. I have my theories on why filmmakers kept these things off-screen, but seeing these things on-screen would have made the movie a lot more interesting as it lead up to the climax. Maybe the filmmakers cut these scenes out to reduce the film’s run-time, or maybe they did it to increase suspense, but either way I think the movie would have been better off if these things had happened on-screen.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: C- (71pts)

This movie had promise. I had never seen the series, but the premise was enough to hook me in. The notebook, and Ryuk, seemed pretty straight forward. You write a name in the book, then Ryuk kills the person whose name has been written. It is simple, but it also raises a lot of potential moral dilemmas. If Ryuk chose you, you may not want to participate. However, if you do not, Ryuk will choose someone else, who could use the book to hurt innocent people.

Thus, the protagonist chooses to use the book to kill the worst kinds of people, and the plot takes off from there. The premise naturally raised a lot of moral questions, but the filmmakers did not seem to want to dive into them. Instead, they just scratched the surface with this things, and they delivered disappointingly underdeveloped characters. From L, who jumped to wild conclusions, and to Mia who had an incredibly unjustified story arc. There was also the main character, who I did not dislike, but came across as mostly one-dimensional. The movie had potential, and had a premise that made the movie watchable. Unfortunately, the filmmakers delivered a lazily thrown together plot, and an assortment of underdeveloped characters, which together made a movie that fell far below what it could have been.

Ranking

RankMoviePoints

1

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

87pts

2

Insidious

86pts

2

Train to Busan

86pts

3

Horns

85pts

4

The Conjuring

84pts

5

Velvet Buzzsaw

83pts

6

Bird Box

82pts

6

In the Tall Grass

82pts

6

The Ritual

82pts

7

The Babysitter

80pts

7

Cargo

80pts

7

Gerald's Game

80pts

8

Hush

79pts

9

Little Evil

78pts

9

Stitches

78pts

10

14 Cameras

77pts

10

1922

77pts

10

Hold the Dark

77pts

11

The Perfection

76pts

11

Would You Rather

76pts

12

The Eyes of My Mother

75pts

13

Demonic

74pts

14

Green Room

73pts

14

Meet the Blacks

73pts

15

The Bar

72pts

16

Death Note

71pts

17

Yoga Hosers

69pts

18

The Invitation

68pts

19

13 Cameras

66pts

19

The Open House

66pts

20

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House

65pts