Friday, September 7, 2012

Recent Horror Retch-fest: GROTESQUE (2009)

Grotesque (2009)
Director: Koji Shirashi
Seen via: Tokyo Shock DVD 
Rating: 4/10

The watchlist is almost clear! (Okay, no, it's never clear, but it's clearer.) After this, there's just one more recent film to get to before heading back to some older stuff...

Whenever I hear that a movie is banned in the U.K. (or anywhere for that matter), I get interested. Maybe it's just the lure of the forbidden, but there's something about the claim that a film contains content that Must Not Be Viewed by human eyes that makes me want to see it. I should know by now though that the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) is more likely to slap a label on something that's tasteless rather than genuinely transgressive.

What we have here is strictly the former. Grotesque doesn't bother with the conventions of story - it gets all the setup out of the way during the opening credits. A man and a woman are kidnapped by an unseen assailant, and they wake up in a dungeon-like torture chamber. Guess what happens next?

Yep, they're tortured. While I don't agree with the BBFC's decision to ban the film, I felt like they did a pretty good job in helping me write this review. Take it away, BBFC:

"Grotesque features minimal narrative or character development and presents the audience with little more than an unrelenting and escalating scenario of humiliation, brutality and sadism. In spite of a vestigial attempt to 'explain' the killer's motivations at the very end of the film, the chief pleasure on offer is not related to understanding the motivations of any of the central characters. Rather, the chief pleasure on offer seems to be wallowing in the spectacle of sadism (including sexual sadism) for its own sake."

Also, anyone choosing to ignore the BBFC's classification of this film shall have
their eyes put out, so as to inhibit their ability to pursue films of a similar nature. 
The way in which Grotesque tries to separate itself from the pack is by ramping up the psychological and sexual aspects of the torture. The result is pretty heinous, if that's what you're looking for.

For a few sequences, the atmosphere feels a little bit like the Guinea Pig series, in that it focuses in on the bodily mutilation so closely that everything else in the film seems to die away, and it's just a study in flesh. Except that the Guinea Pig films (at least the first couple) have a sort of clinical detachment that makes them really eerie - there's the sense that what you're seeing isn't being done for anyone's gratification, but as a genuine experiment in the limits of the human body. Not pleasant viewing material, but weird enough to be interesting. Not so here, unfortunately.

Your thanks for making it all the way through? A cartoonish gimmick at the end that undermines pretty much any mood the previous 70 minutes tried to establish. Trust me, it's really dumb. There's not a lot else to really mention about Grotesque. If you're looking for something gross, you'll find it here. This film's only for the dedicated gorehounds.

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