“There are those who wish the old, anarchic [Takashi] Miike would make a return while others are more than happy to see him grow into something more mature,” writes Twitch‘s Todd Brown. “Over Your Dead Body fuses both sides of the director into an immensely satisfying whole in a way none of his previous work has even attempted. Ichikawa Ebizo (leading man of Miike’s Hara Kiri) and Shibasaki Ko (Battle Royale, 47 Ronin) anchor the cast as Kosuke and Miyuki, a pair of actors—lovers both on stage and off—in preparation for a massive live stage production of classic ghost tale Yotsuya Kaidan. The play is a sordid affair, a tale of betrayal and lust and murder and vengeance and as the cast make their way through rehearsals it becomes increasingly clear that these are more than just characters, that the events of the play are being reflected in the actual lives of the players as well, that perhaps the actors are a little too similar to the characters they are playing.”
With Miike, “you never know what to expect going in, and often what to expect as the film unfurls,” writes Notebook editor Daniel Kasman. “That the play itself, featuring the blank-faced and dispassionate man and his archetypal, self-deprecating, masochistic wife, is unpleasant to watch, and that its currents of jealousy and misanthropy feed back to the ‘outside world’—or perhaps the world back into the play, and into its history—make watching Over Your Dead Body nearly as unpleasant as the play. The distinction is purposefully blurred, as ambiguous as the terms are of reality and psychology are, and as repulsive as the actor-samurai’s character is. Indeed, the ultimate takeaway from this cloistered, sharply photographed variation of the Japanese tradition of moral ghost stories is the convergence of the figure of the feudal samurai and the diva-actor.”
At Indiewire, John Anderson give Over Your Dead Body a C, though he does grant that the “play itself moves from the theater into a wider world that is often quite lovely, and photographed spectacularly; the stage itself rotates, and that device provides much of the visual interest in the film, which moves back and forth between eras and settings with considerable grace, and grace notes that don’t always make total sense.”
For the AV Club‘s A.A. Dowd, this film “is dull right up until the point that it becomes completely, characteristically bonkers, with Miike trotting out some of his trademark obscene violence. I’d call it a fan-only affair, but even fans will probably be bored, at least until the bloodbath starts in earnest.”
“There’s a dull, diagrammed feeling to Over Your Dead Body, which seems to have originated from an idea that the helmer had already lost interest in by the time of filming,” agrees Variety‘s Dennis Harvey.
Update, 9/15: “Much less weird than some of Miike’s outings, it does eventually turn bloody (and briefly disturbing) but may underwhelm fans accustomed to fare like Ichi the Killer,” writes John DeFore in the Hollywood Reporter.