Death Note offers remarkably light entertainment. It has a comic book style that works perfectly with horror and fantasy. However, I doubt fans of the original manga series will recognize the characters.

The story of Death Note was first presented in a Japanese manga series. It has since been made into an anime, TV drama and films in its native Japan. However, for this Netflix production, it seems to be pretty “loosely based” on the original story and characters.

I haven’t personally read the Death Note manga series, but I’ve read enough to struggle with recognizing the characters. And not just because they’re no longer Japanese. Though I must admit, I can’t fathom why you can’t use American-Japanese actors?

I mean, it seems like a perfectly legit way to remake a story. Go ahead and change the setting to the United States and the language to English, but why not keep the ethnicity of the characters since it’s still relevant to the story?!

Wish Upon actually managed to do this in a way that would’ve suited this Death Note adaptation.

Death Note poster and review

For the record, I actually really like the actors used in this production, so I’m in no way claiming they can’t do the job.

Death Note takes place in a comic book universe

While watching Death Note I felt like I was catapulted into a whole new universe. It was recognizable to me as a comic book universe, so I could relate to that part easily enough. However, the characters were new to me and I sat with the feeling that I was supposed to know them.

This threw me off at first. Like when you arrive at a party and people start talking to you like you should know them, and you could swear you’ve never met them before.

But fine, I could fake it until I made it, and the connection to the story and universe of Death Note did come to me pretty quickly.

And I certainly love the “vigilante with a social justice”-agenda trope, so maybe that’s what won me over to the story.

Yes, despite being a huge horror fan, I’m not a fan of the dark and brooding Batman. I’m definitely on Team Captain America, Superman, and (surprise!) Wonder Woman.

The point – and I do have one – is that I enjoy stories where characters use their powers for good. And the fact that A LOT of bad people get killed in the process of “the good”? That’s fine by me! Okay, that does sound like something Batman would say, but I stand by my previously declared team affiliations.

Death Note review - Netflix

Margaret Qualley is the stand-out star

Death Note stars Nat Wolff (Paper Towns) as the main protagonist, Light, while Keith Stanfield (Get Out) plays L. An agent of sorts, who’s hunting down the person behind all the recent murders.

While I generally like both actors a lot – Stanfield was an intense and extremely memorable supporting character in Get Out – this movie didn’t do much for me.

Margaret Qualley, on the other hand, was brilliant. She plays Light’s girlfriend, Mia, and you never really know what she’s capable of. She follows him on the crazy journey of seeking to right the wrongs with the Death Note powers. But she’s also ready to go a lot further than he will.

She’s the kind of smart you would expect Light or L to be. She’s on Team Mia all the way, and if you’re not with her, she’ll just leave you behind.

Death Note review - Netflix

And yes, of course, Willem Dafoe is all kinds of entertaining as the death God “Ryuk”. Basically, he’s the one who carries out the death sentences placed in the Death Note book. Willem Dafoe is fun, dark, and crazy.

Admittedly, it is near impossible to not be reminded of the Green Goblin from Spiderman. Both the voice (obviously!) and intensity is extremely similar. I don’t mind though, cause it definitely works.

I adore Adam Wingard – but not for his recent work

Adam Wingard directed Death Note and I can imagine he had a blast. It is definitely very entertaining. However, it is also very forgettable. After watching You’re Next, I’ve been eagerly awaiting to see everything Adam Wingard would do next.

I was so damn excited about The Woods, but then it turned out to be a PR hoax to promote a new Blair Witch movie. And I was definitely not impressed with the Blair Witch movie that came instead.

The screenplay was written by Charley Parlapanides & Vlas Parlapanides and Jeremy Slater. For me, the most interesting name among the three is clearly Jeremy Slater.

Jeremy Slater was the creator of the recent The Exorcist TV series and also wrote a few of the episodes. He’s also the writer behind Pet, which was made after he had his feature film debut co-writing The Lazarus Effect. A movie I personally really enjoyed.

And okay, yes, he also did take part in writing the screenplay for the Fantastic Four movie from 2015, which really didn’t work. In fact, it “earned” him a Razzie nomination for Worst Screenplay. But hey, maybe it landed him this latest comic book [manga] adaptation.

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. Meanwhile, I’ll continue waiting for Adam Wingard to give me the horror levels he presented with You’re Next and A Horrible Way to Die.

Death Note will be out on Netflix worldwide from August 25, 2017.


Director: Adam Wingard
Writer: Charley Parlapanides & Vlas Parlapanides and Jeremy Slater
Cast: Nat Wolff, Margaret Qualley, Lakeith Stanfield, Shea Whigham, Shea Whigham, Paul Nakauchi, Willem Dafoe


Based on the famous Japanese manga written by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, Death Note follows a high school student who comes across a supernatural notebook, realizing it holds within it a great power; if the owner inscribes someone’s name into it while picturing their face, he or she will die. Intoxicated with his new godlike abilities, the young man begins to kill those he deems unworthy of life.

I write reviews and recaps on Heaven of Horror. And yes, it does happen that I find myself screaming, when watching a good horror movie. I love psychological horror, survival horror and kick-ass women. Also, I have a huge soft spot for a good horror-comedy. Oh yeah, and I absolutely HATE when animals are harmed in movies, so I will immediately think less of any movie, where animals are harmed for entertainment (even if the animals are just really good actors). Fortunately, horror doesn't use this nearly as much as comedy. And people assume horror lovers are the messed up ones. Go figure!
Karina "ScreamQueen" Adelgaard
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