DEATH NOTE (2017) Reviews and overview

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Death Note is a 2017 American supernatural thriller film directed by Adam Wingard (Blair Witch; A Horrible Way to Die; You’re Next; et al) from a screenplay by Charles and Vlas Parlapanides and Jeremy Slater (Pet; The Lazarus Effect), based on the manga series of the same name by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata.

The Netflix Original film stars Nat Wolff, Margaret Qualley, Keith Stanfield, Paul Nakauchi, Shea Whigham and Willem Dafoe.

A young man comes to possess a supernatural notebook, the Death Note, that grants him the power to kill any person simply by writing down their name on the pages. He decides to use the notebook to kill criminals and change the world, but an enigmatic detective attempts to track him down and end his reign of terror…


“The colour palette is dark and foreboding with just a touch of sci-fi in the aesthetics; the city streets in particular are very reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, they are smog-ridden and forever raining. As audiences have come to expect from Adam Wingard, the soundtrack accompanying these visuals is superb.” The Hollywood News

Death Note is likely to find a warm welcome from Netflix’s teen contingent, who also helped to make 13 Reasons Why one of the service’s biggest hits. Horror fans will also find Wingard’s stylish, gruesome direction a plus. But whether hardcore fans of the original will warm to the update is questionable.” The Guardian

“It bastardizes the basic elements of the series to better serve its empty-calorie interpretation. It’s Death Note by way of Final Destination, a film more focused on cyberpunk-esque visuals and crunchy synth than on any kind of substance.” The Verge

” …Wingard’s Death Note is a really great movie. It has good moments of suspense, the performances are really enjoyable, and the overall presentation is quite wonderful.” Flickering Myth

“Adam Wingard’s films are no stranger to mean-streaks, which makes him a perfect fit for something titled “Death Note.” Yet, somehow, it’s more streamlined than in The Guest or You’re Next. Those films, mere horror thrillers, versus Netflix’s adaptation, an entire project about playing God. Dare I say Ryuk airs on the side of caution?” We Got This Covered

“Watching Death Note is in no way disappointing as entertainment, so I recommend watching it for just that: Fun and dark entertainment. Just don’t expect more.” Heaven of Horror

Death Note looks and sounds superb though – full of sodium lights, rain and neon, and pumping to a synthesiser fuelled rhythm. It is a drag then that Death Note manages to somehow be both too dense and too basic at the same time – cramming as much as possible in as quickly as possible. It is fast and frequently fun – but this a Cliffs Notes version of Death Note…” Live for Films

“Aesthetically, Death Note has the look of those teen horrors that were so popular at the turn of the century, and early on it hints at a premise that could become the Final Destination replacement horror fans have been crying out for. The first killing, with its outrageous ladder decapitation, is the highlight of a movie that sadly never returns to such grand guignol stylings.” The Movie Waffler

“Consolidating so much of Death Note’s varied productions into a single film was always going to be difficult. 100 minutes would be sufficient to chronicle two mass murdering lovers realizing their bubble can’t last, but adding L into the mix changes the complexion of the film for the worse. Stanfield’s performance is fun, though his investigation could have been added to a later sequel.” Cut Print Film

“Most depressingly, given the quality of some of his work (even Blair Witch has some interesting pieces), the filmmaking here is sporadic, amateurish and haphazard. Wingard verges on black comedy but then pulls back, unsure of what the tone should be of the piece overall.”

” …Death Note is an easy watch that will manage to entice a new audience to the series. While it certainly seems to skip over some of the more interesting story arcs to focus on the central plot, the finished feature does get from beginning to end without really falling over along the way.” All Things Movies

“It is clearly ambitious, with enough spirit from the cast and crew to make it look as if there’s something meaningful brewing underneath the surface, but it keeps tripping over its own feet thanks to a storyline that appears to keep changing the rules as it goes along.” Arrow in the Head

“It’s almost as if the film goes out of its way to taunt fans with its inability to see things through. But at least it does a decent job of bringing audiences on an emotional journey – of amusement, disbelief, rage and disappointment – but only because you can’t believe this movie is so bad.” Geek Culture

“A debate over whether the film is faithful to the source material is bound to break out. However, as someone who never read the manga and had no expectations other than knowing the director, Death Note was striking enough to satisfy me.” Addison Wylie, Wylie Writes

” …while Death Note is by no means terrible I just couldn’t get on with the far more human Light, I just don’t like how they ruined his character even if he did look the part. On the other hand Ryuk is fantastic here, I preferred him to how he was in the anime, he is an ancient God after all and so shouldn’t be relatable.” The Rotting Zombie

Cast and characters:

  • Nat Wolff as Light Turner
  • Margaret Qualley as Mia Sutton
  • Keith Stanfield as L – Get Out; The Purge: Anarchy
  • Paul Nakauchi as Watari
  • Shea Whigham as James Turner – Kong: Skull Island; Splinter
  • Willem Dafoe as Ryuk [voice] – Odd Thomas; Daybreakers; Antichrist
  • Masi Oka

Filming locations:

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Film Facts:

Features a clip from Phantasm (1979) on a television.

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