When I was growing up there was a big J-Horror boom. Movies like Versus and Ringu were popular over here, but there were also American remakes and weirder, darker titles making their way across the sea. I vividly remember my dad buying a “body bag edition” of Ichi The Killer and seeing things like Audition at Blockbuster on the darker, weirder end. And American remakes like The Ring, One Missed Call, and The Grudge. Today, foreign films feel a lot less foreign, with how easy it is to access these titles and the inclusion of the internet to cycle interest. Train to Busan and One Cut of the Dead are titles I can recommend to patrons at my local library. Love Will Tear Us Apart is a 2023 title that has something for everyone. There is comedy, buckets of blood, love, and a killer in goggles hunting down people that get close to Wakaba, a confused high schooler that just wants to be left alone.

As the film starts, we see Wakaba making her way through school, an abusive parent, and love for a pop star, Kuehi. Her best friend, Kanna, and a boy that is constantly bullied, Koki, are the closest people in her life. After tiring of the abuse, she stands up for Koki and winds up being antagonized as well. The bullies deface her pop icon poster, and say that she and Koki will be the world’s perfect couple. Shortly after this, the two bullies are pushed out of a classroom window and Koki disappears. Fast forward seven years and the two girls are taking a vacation with an up and coming group Disorder. Of course, the vacation is located in a cabin in the woods, the holiday home of the band leader, Sota. The teens all enjoy ghost stories and grilling out, checking off boxes of slashers faster than you can name them. The whole time Kanna keeps asking if she and Wakaba can go home. Film has always been a good way of skipping language barriers, but this movie does a great job capturing the early 80s vibe of American slashers. The gang together around a campfire, the “will they, won’t they” sexual tension, and the mystery of actor ages. These actors could be anywhere between 15-25 and are playing high schoolers. The formula truly knows no bounds. 

Sota takes Wakaba away from the group and tries to kiss her during her attempt to go to the bathroom. She winds up backing out because he acted so fast and didn’t verbalize anything. While she’s gone, Kanna watches as the band talk about spiking drinks and coercing Wakaba into sex. Sota, like the two best friends, was not going to drink though. He has a cold and is drinking juice to go with his medicine. Wakaba winds up in the cabin with Kanna, and they feel especially creeped out by the ghost stories, even seeing someone sneak by the window. Two more members of this pop group, Tomoya and Moeka go off to have sex. and, of course. she winds up dying. The other girl in the band, Chihiro, thinks the best friends are overreacting and says she’ll be back after a shower. Jump scare of Tomoya entering the cabin and the girls being worked up, loud thud upstairs and an open window with dirty footprints leader into the steam room. Here we find Chihiro dead. Rushing back downstairs, Wakaba and Kanna see a masked person enter the cabin and decapitate Tomoya. They bust through a window, which has an odd 3D effect on camera, and try to escape. During this, they proclaim that no ghost could ever do something like this. Yes, the movie is breaking all of Randy Meek’s rules from Scream, but again, it’s done in such a fun way that I almost don’t mind the predictability.

The girls wind up seeing Sota and they are next to a road, so close to their escape. The killer meets them with a chainsaw and leads them away from the road. The killer cuts through Sota and then drags him away, not touching either girl. The shot of Sota’s death includes a POV of the killer, and an odd score piece that feels like something Angelo Badalamenti would play. The girls wake up in a hospital and Kanna is in shock, mouth agape and all. Two detectives enter and the second one, Moeka’s father who isn’t even allowed on the case, has his own theme song, fitting in with something like Dewey with the “Broken Arrow” piece in the Scream series. This detective tells the girls that the cabin was burned down and there is no evidence to match a killer. Wakaba says that she noticed a scar on the killer’s chest that matched Koki’s. This is when we find out that Koki died after he left the school, and it could not be him after all. 

Wakaba returns home and we learn that her mom has passed, but she still lives with her abusive father. Despite complaining about his late wife’s cooking earlier in the movie, he asks Wakaba to cook something just like her mother used to make. He also tells her that she’s out of the hospital so she must be all better. Moeka’s parents grieve their daughter and that “Broken Arrow” style song plays again. One year passes and Wakaba is now visiting Tokyo. She gets a coffee spilled on her and the guy offers to buy her a new outfit as an apology. He takes her to a clothing store and is recognized as a regular. Odd he’s so well known at a women’s clothing store, but it’s chill. This butterfingers is named Yuki, he wants to guide Wakaba on her tour and show her all the best spots of this city. He takes her out for sushi at his favorite spot at the end of the night. He’s greeted, again, by someone who knows him as a regular. As their night comes to a close, Yuki asks this woman he’s known for maybe twelve hours to marry him and tells her how in love he is. They part ways and he walks through the neon lights of Tokyo as she makes her way back to where she’s staying. They aren’t very far apart before the killer from the vacation home has reappeared and is chasing Yuki. Wakaba follows behind the chase and winds up saving Yuki by repeating something she remembers from her childhood with Koki. Yuki tells her to be safe on her walk and goes home, calling someone and telling them to rush over so they can do the thing. While he showers and preps for sex with someone that isn’t the woman he just proclaimed his love to, the killer returns and puts a knife through his mouth just like that scene in House By The Cemetery. While all of this is happening, Wakaba googles “how to defeat a serial killer” and likes, comments, and subscribes to an older man’s videos of self defense. The next morning she goes back to the sushi spot, asking about Yuki and proclaiming it’s not like him to drink and be out late. The restaurant owner laughs and tells her it actually IS like Yuki. She calls again, hearing Yuki’s phone ring the next room over. When she goes to grab the phone, she sees that he’s been sliced into sushi. As she’s sulking through the city she’s called and told that Kanna was murdered. We see Moeka’s parents again and Detective Dewey is eating the bones of his daughter, telling his wife he knows who the killer is and will end this so they can move on finally.

Two years pass and we see Wakaba training with the guy from those self defense videos. He gifts her a revolver and tells her to always check the safety. As he prepares for her final lesson, which is actually just him trying to sleep with her, the killer appears and kills this man because he forgot to check the safety himself. Wakaba witness it happen and chases after the killer, firing her new gun and missing every shot. As the killer gets away, Wakaba and Detective Dewey speak on the phone and make plans to meet up. Again our own version of “Broken Arrow” plays. It turns out that Koki did not die, it was just a rumor that got out of hand. The detective spoke with the children’s teacher, even the mother of Koki. After the two bullies were pushed out of the window, Koki and his mom relocated, and a rumor spread that went so far it became fact. Koki’s mother has not seen him in a while, and it turns out he was the bass player in Disorder, even using the name Kuehi as a callback to their childhood. He slaughtered all of those people because they were going to hurt Wakaba. The band was coercing girls into sex, filming it and humiliating the girls. Moeka was blackmailed into helping, and this explains what Sota’s cold actually was. Yuki was a conman that would prey on touring women, and if he found out they were poor, they would be sold to a pimp. This killer is actually Wakaba’s guardian angel, not just a murderer. The detective figured all of this out, but he actually killed Kanna. Why should he lose his daughter and the two best friends get to live? The detective then pulls out a rifle and threatens harm on Wakaba, knowing the killer will show up sooner or later. The killer shows up, proving to be Koki after all. He fights with the detective and Wakaba intervenes trying to stop the fight. As the detective gets back up, he rips his shirt off and shouts, “Moeka is in da house!” revealing a full upper body tattoo of his daughter. Feels a lot like the asshole with an uzi in Frighteners. The two destined lovers kill this insane cop, and walk together along the beach. Wakaba proclaims that Koki’s problems are her problems and they were destined to be together so they should be. Credits roll and we find out what true love is all about. 

This movie captures so much in its window of time. If you want insane amounts of blood, if you want romance, if you want abuse of power, you will get those things. The references I made feel very intentional and I think all of it works quite well. This is a fun ride and a refreshing breath compared to what I was fearing with those first fifteen minutes being so heavy in domestic abuse and depressed children.