Kazuyoshi Katayama, the director of Appleseed and the Big O series unleashes a violent survival film in which the distinction between dream and reality dissolves. Panic spreads worldwide as the Medousa Virus-a fatal pandemic that solidifies the body to stone-threatens to wipe out the human race. 160 infected individuals are selected to be cryogenically frozen while a cure is developed. Kasumi is one of those chosen for the experimental program. Forced to enter without her twin sister, Shizuku, her distress multiplies when she awakens to find the facility overrun with thick, thorny vines and ravenous monsters. As Kasumi and six others fight a losing battle to escape this labyrinthine nightmare, questions cloud her distorted mind. Where is her sister? Why did their only salvation mutate into a deathtrap? If they survive, how much longer do they have to live?
Adapted from the manga by Yuji Iwahara, King of Thorn (2009) is a violent science fiction adventure that plays off the fairy tale "Sleeping Beauty." In late 2012, humanity is attacked by what appears to be a deadly microbe: Acquired Cellular Induration Syndrome, usually called the Medousa [sic] Virus, because its victims turn to stone. Three years later, 160 mismatched people are flown to a computer-controlled cryogenic facility in a Scottish castle, where they will sleep for up to a century--or until a cure is found. When they awaken 48 hours later, the castle is a ruin engulfed in brambles and stalked by deadly monsters. Four survivors fight and scramble their way through the castle, trying to discover the source of the terrors that surround them: British military ace Marco Owen; Katherine Turner, a woman mourning her lost son; Timothy, a boy who's a video game ace; and Kasumi Ishiki, a Japanese teenager. King of Thorn offers a plethora of elaborate CG effects but little in the way of coherent storytelling. There are Raptor-like monsters, flying creatures that suggest Pokémon Zubats gone bad, and miles of spikey vines that metamorphose into an enormous dragon. Director Kazuyoshi Katayama apparently believes if one special effect is good, two effects must be better, and six better yet. Floors and walls crumble, vines whip after the people, squadrons of skeletal creatures attack, and floods repeatedly sweep through the castle. How all these horrors relate to the virus, which is really an entity from outer space, Timothy's video game, and/or the fantasies of Kasumi's twin sister Shizuku, is anybody's guess. Viewers will either cheer King of Thorn as an intriguing thrill ride or dismiss it as an incomprehensible gore-fest. (Rated TV MA: profanity, graphic violence, violence against women, grotesque imagery, brief nudity) --Charles Solomon