Monday, September 19, 2011

Grotesque (2009)

Lesson: walk around with a gun and chastity belt at all times

There aren't any productive statements to be made here or intellectual contemplation to be had as this is a film that primarily plays on a titillation of the senses. Instead of going to the hilt, it stabs one inch of the blade in at a time. It's an amusement park ride "cinematic snuff" film that comes with anticipation, some climaxes and false hopes for scares and revulsion. If you're looking for a narrative story or strong performances then you best look elsewhere. Though the gore effects, which are shown in full view and close-ups, are effective and that's what gets the message across more so. This is basically a series of events that moves into more dangerous levels till it finishes. It's not always loud and in your face but at times silent and calm or with some serene music that's counter to what's going on visually.

It makes it so you can't rely or guess what's going to happen next. It turns into a human endurance test for the will to live, though this isn't like watching a dramatic tale of survival where there's a positive place to reach in the end, which curbs any relating value. The tone of the film is grim with violence, perversion and sadism, though I'm not going to lie here, I actually laughed out loud quite a few times. I didn't do this for "The Devil's Experiment" or "Aftermath" but here I did. Not because it was witty or had punch lines or any of the usual suspects of humor but because the film has a tendency to screw with its audience. It's the prank hand-shake pull back except with people's lives at stake. It's a joke of the blackest kind, that's so cruel you wouldn't think anyone had the capability of doing it, until you see it in action with a deadpan expression to show for it.

This got banned in the UK, which causes hyped word of mouth to get spread about of how intense a film really is. Though if you've seen a few torture movies so far, it's hard to take "Grotesque" completely seriously as none of the characters feel grounded. Not to mention some scenes in their attempt at being over-the-top come across as comically exaggerated. I mean, donning full surgical gear and then instead using a brute weapon to operate on your victims had to be on purpose. Or performing one form of torture, only to stop because the victim broke the "rules" and isn't playing along "fairly," and then perform a bonus punishment with a lesser means of torture had to be a tongue-in-cheek statement. "Saw" and the like are at least more effective because you know where the characters and villains are coming from.

"Grotesque" has an innocent woman and man that are forming a budding relationship over lunch when they get abruptly kidnapped on the walk home by a completely perverted man whom we know nothing about. It seems so one-and-a-million to not make me put the dead bolt on at night or to even put me directly in their shoes. Yeah, we can see what he's capable of doing, but not how or why he's capable of doing it. In one sense it gives a certain level of repulsion from uncertainty and a wasteful, all-for-nothing outlook, but not so much that you want to turn it off and miss what sadistic new move he has up his sleeve. It feels more like the ancient days of cruel gladiator fights and modern bull tournaments than the kind that causes people to morbidly fixate at a car accident because you know there isn't anything amusing about the latter despite all dealing with people's lives on the line. There are some breaks here instead of being one giant brutal mess, which makes it exploitative but not entirely desensitizing. He performs distasteful things but doesn't always return to the same form of punishment, which is sort of a new chapter to its "story" rather than a typical tale with engrossing dialogue and character development.

The object of the game, explains their capture, who can calmly listen to classical music while having tea and cake, is to excite him with their will to live, or else they die--yep, the Oscars are recanting their ballots as we speak. He starts out by fondling, kissing and licking the woman while she's tied up and gagged. This has nudity here and one person touching another privately, but this is about as unerotic as it can get. There's shady lighting in a seedy setting and then silent protests as she tenses away with humiliation and embarrassment from every movement while the friend watches on helpless, only to take the degradation further when the capture reaches over and touches him. What makes this somewhat disturbing is he seems to be calm and reasonable at points, as if everything he's doing is logical and comes with everyday, normal and practical purpose, which causes the captives to get beaten down physically and mentally and at one point form Stockholm Syndrome. He frequently tries to play on their emotions by asking if they would die for the other one or if they are capable of being tortured in place of.

Essentially the point of "Grotesque" by my guess is to mess with the audience with their morals, judgments and stances. Also by making a viewer think the characters are safe, then pulling the rug out from underneath. It will let up with one scene only to go balls to the wall in the next--literally. I can't say the experience is returnable or worth an expensive purchase for that matter. There's not much to learn from here, just a hand full of scenes to remember of how far it was taken. This is the kind of experience that I'd imagine would be effective in a group setting though. Either to pass on the magic of grossing out a new person or playing a game of seeing how long it can take for someone to look away or turn it off for lack of personal understanding or purpose can make people squirm in their seats.

Rating: 6/10

Director: Koji Shiraishi (Ju-Rei: The Uncanny, A Slit-Mouthed Woman)
Stars: Tsugumi Nagasawa, Hiroaki Kawatsure, Shigeo Osako
Link: IMDB, information on ban from Dailymail

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