Welcome to your next Netflix obsession.
It won’t consume your weekend. It won’t cause you to turn off most of your electronics to avoid spoilers. “Death Note” is a relatively brief 100-minute movie, but the sleek, stylish supernatural thriller has all the warning signs of an impending tweetstorm.
Based on the manga series by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, “Death Note” has been relocated from Japan to Seattle, where it follows high school student Light Turner (Nat Wolff).
When we first see Light, he’s selling completed math quizzes while watching practice for the cheerleaders, including a cigarette-smoking Mia Sutton (Margaret Qualley). Following a strong gust of wind and a thunderclap, the sky opens up and spews forth a leather journal with “Death Note” inscribed on the cover. Light picks it up, runs inside the school to seek shelter from the rain, stands up to a bully and gets knocked out for his troubles.
Now, I tend to stay away from spooky leather journals that fall from the sky. I have very few rules, but that’s pretty high on the list. The Death Note, meanwhile, has dozens upon dozens of them.
Rule 1: The human whose name is written in this note shall die.
Rule 2: This note will not take effect unless the writer has the person’s face in their mind when writing his or her name.
Rule 20: A subject can be influenced for no more than two days leading up to his death.
Rule 28: Each death must be physically possible.
Rule 95: Anyone may write a name in the note, but only its keeper can possess it for more than seven days.
Also, if the keeper is away from the note for seven days, it will be given to another keeper.
“Jesus, how many rules?” Light complains, after he’s been using the Death Note for several days to dispatch numerous people.
“Death Note” mentions several times how intelligent Light is, but he basically stopped reading the journal after Rule 2, when he received a visit from Ryuk (Willem Dafoe), an 8-foot, spiky death god, who provokes one of the most hilariously genuine responses you’ll ever see in a horror film.
Again, this is just me, but I’m fairly certain that if I received a death book from the sky and a visit from a demonic porcupine, I’m going to read every last word. Heck, I pay more attention to the user agreement every time I update my iPhone than Light does to his killing machine.
Before long, he’s showing off for Mia. “It may sound a little crazy,” Light says, “but I have a death god.” Mia watches on TV as he kills a man engaged in a police standoff, and just like that, she’s hooked.
Together, they begin offing terrorists, war criminals, cartel members and other evildoers, giving credit to a vengeful god they name Kira. This, naturally, sparks more than a few inquiries, most notably by Light’s dad (Shea Whigham), a local internal affairs officer, and the mysterious international detective known only as L (Lakeith Stanfield, “Get Out”), who flies in from Japan.
That’s one of “Death Note’s” very few ties to its Japanese origins. If you feel the movie strays too far from its manga roots, your point is valid. Also, none of your friends wants to hear it. Don’t be that guy or gal.
Directed by Adam Wingard (“You’re Next”) from a script by Charley Parlapanides and Vlas Parlapanides (“Immortals”) and Jeremy Slater (Fox’s “The Exorcist”), “Death Note” certainly had to make some cuts from its sprawling mythology that began in 2003. And the movie too quickly abandons its “Final Destination”-style, Rube Goldberg-ian series of unfortunate deaths.
But “Death Note” is dripping with attitude and flair. And, as a link to previous Netflix sensations, it borrows the synthesizer from “Stranger Things” and the suffer-and-pass-it-on angst of “13 Reasons Why.” There’s also an offbeat teen romance and hints of Mickey and Mallory from “Natural Born Killers.”
If the reaction from last month’s Comic-Con was any indication, “Death Note” should prove successful enough to launch an American franchise, as fans lined up for hours for a chance at tickets to a secret screening.
Granted, at Comic-Con, fans will line up for hours just for the chance to spend hours in another line.
“Death Note,” though, feels like it should break through with mainstream audiences — even those who think manga is a type of fruit.
Contact Christopher Lawrence at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.