Japan 2009   Directed & written by: Koji Shiraishi  Production: Kazue Udagawa, Kyosuke Ueno  Cinematography: Yohei Fukuda  Cast: Hiroaki Kawatsure, Tsugumi Nagasawa, Shigeo Osako

The BBFC can think what they want, but if there’s a movie that should have been banned then that’s HOSTEL, which is nothing but perverted mainstream entertainment (although that’s why it’s naturally also a guilty pleasure). HOSTEL’s only idea is to create situations that provide a pretext for torture, and the big news is that this doesn’t happen within a niche genre anymore, but HOSTEL makes this kind of Grand Guignol spectacle acceptable for Tom Dick and Harry (just as it was for centuries before the Video Nasties spoiled it).

GROTESQUE has a reasonably good idea, one that works even without the extensive use of special effects. The splatter scenes in GROTESQUE are not its real goal, and neither do they have aesthetically or functionally much in common with the Japanese gore movies of the 70’s or 90’s. Even less does GROTESQUE belong in any way to the so-called „Torture Porn“ genre (a term that has been at a least co-invented by the film industry itself to market their products better). Obviously the BBFC hasn’t seen it that way (it almost feels like the BBFC judges have primarily been evaluating the possible intention of the film, instead of the outcome itself – disregard what the creators of the movie wanted to do). The conclusion is that the established studios can get everything out there – or can anyone imagine that HOSTEL or PLANET TERROR, directed by Mr. John Smith, would ever be screened in major cinemas?

The simple, sharp premise that carries the entire film is: would you suffer and die for him or her to make the killer spare his/her life in return? That’s the question a couple kidnapped just after their first date is facing. Abducted and held hostage in a warehouse the killer makes one thing clear immediately: no one gets out alive. Except, one of them sacrifices him/herself. So how far can they go for the other ones freedom?

Whatever’s been written about the movie: GROTESQUE is clearly one of the best horror films of last year and one of the better films of 2009. Koji Shiraishi has chosen the most suitable visual style (responsible for the cinematography is Yohei Fukuda, director of ONECHANBARA; where the latter was lousy from beginning to end this time setting and character of movie may have helped accidentally), the film features an excellent (although short) script and a very good cast. The couple is the perfect girl & boy next door, no heroes, which adds even more grizzly realism to the film. The serial killer is very credible, free from the usual clichés. Bearing in mind that the people involved in the movie are by no means geniuses I tend to assume that GROTESQUE is a fluke resulting from a series of fortunate coincidences – they didn’t set out to create a small horror masterpiece, but they did everything right nevertheless.

Last but no least are the special effects very solid, especially in view of the budget. At times they are really quite uncomfortable to watch (there are some indeed grotesque moments). The surprisingly good dialogues and cast help enormously to let the massacres seem even more serious than they already are anyway. Clearly, GROTESQUE operates beyond all conventions, but in face of its context that often makes sense. And sometimes GROTESQUE makes us only think that we have just seen something terribly explicit on-screen, when it fact that simply isn’t the case at all.

GROTESQUE is a bit like Tsutsumis CHINESE DINNER on speed: short, raw, creative, sharp, without much ado about nothing. GROTESQUE proves once again that the chief enemy of creativity is good taste.


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2 Responses to “GROTESQUE [GUROTESUKU | グロテスク]”

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