In the wake of so-called torture porn, there have been countless films showing unbearable, agonizing torture and death. So much so that it has almost gotten redundant. Writers, directors and producers alike are always looking for the next great shock in horror. This, my friends, is not shock. It's not even schlock.
We have the Japanese to thank for the piece of refuse that is Grotesque. Um, thanks Japan. And to think I used to like you.
I can't actually say what prompted me to put this film in my Netflix queue, but the other day when it arrived, I got a feeling in my gut that it just wasn't going to light my fire. Normally, I really dig foreign films. Having just experienced the Korean beaut I Saw the Devil and deeming it fantastic, perhaps I was trying to catch lightning in a bottle again with another Asian movie.
HOWEVER. Grotesque is pretty awful. And I don't mean that in a good way. I suppose if you like nasty deaths that have no point whatsoever, or are turned on by movies deemed too violent or disgusting for ratings and are banned outright in several countries, then this film is going to be right up your alley.
Essentially a "gorno" (apparently the Asian term for films of this 'nature'), it truly seems like nothing more than a (badder than usual) snuff film.
Aki and Kazuo (Tsugumi Nagasawa and Hiroaki Kawatsure) are a newly formed couple, just having left their very first date when they are struck on the head (a 'la Ted Bundy) by someone and kidnapped.
They wake to find themselves tied up in a frightful basement standing in for a torture chamber. Without warning, a man (Shigeo Ōsako) appears who just starts randomly torturing them. In all honesty it felt a bit like a couple teenagers got together and shot a film with the video feature on their phone. It's not that the quality is all that bad - it's more like they gave no thought to having a point, getting the audience to relate to the characters, or introducing the sadistic madman set to make their lives a living hell. Kind of felt like one of those really bad pornos, the kind that Jack and David are watching in An American Werewolf in London.
Anyway, the man behind the misery is apparently a surgeon of some kind, and he sets about to use his "skills" to maim, hack, impair, cut, poke, slice, maul, disable, injure and mutilate our unlucky couple. Before all the deprivation begins though, our menacing doctor decides to molest his victims. In a display I seriously wish I hadn't seen, he hand-rapes the woman then jerks off the guy. It's rather disturbing and sick. And goddamned noisy. Ugh. Made even more distressing by having the two watch each other while he forcibly gets them off, it's clear that this is what the surgeon is after. Sexual gratification by way of harming and assaulting others. Yuck. Why did I rent this again?
You know, it would have been (almost) tolerable if we'd have got to know either the couple or the sadist first, preferably both. Without rhyme or reason and no discernible point, it meant nothing to me to have these poor souls have an arm chainsawed off, lose a nipple or two, be stuck with screwdrivers, or have an eye gouged out. I didn't care about anyone, and I just felt dirty for watching the pornographic beginning prior to the slice and dice.
Subtitles are kind of a moot point, as it was really unnecessary. I could have watched the whole thing on mute - there wasn't a whole lot of story line to follow and what words were spoken I barely cared about.
Near the end, they throw in what I assume they thought would be an analysis of the doctor's character - a reason for him to be such a sadistic pig. But I found it utterly laughable and could only balk at the ridiculous notion presented. The end just didn't justify the means. Our maniacal surgeon really just seemed like a dirty little twirp.
And the final showdown? Christ in a cartoon is it hilariously awful. Get your warnings here, I'm begging you.
I've seen it written somewhere that this film raises the bar for cinematic violence. While there is some ridiculous mayhem happening here, I've seen films just as violent that still managed to have a bit of plot to them. There are absolutely no redeeming qualities to this movie at all. I can't say I hated it, because to hate is to feel passion - and there is no passion here.
While I'm sure I've drove some to seek this film out by mention of all the foul sex and relentless brutality, I'd ask anyone who wishes to see this to think twice before doing so. You just cannot get these 73 minutes back.
Oh, and male viewers beware: someone's Captain Winky is going to jump ship.