If you're already drunk

Grotesque (2009)

01

Director Koji Shiraishi, known best for his psychological thriller The Curse, apparently woke up one day and decided that the world was too bright and joyful a place, and so he made Grotesque, one of the most sick, depraved  studies into the darkness of the human soul.  So you think you like torture porn, eh?  Well, have I got a nipple-less treat for you.

Sweaty’s Stats

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Nudity

There is, lots, and it’s great, REALLY great, but um … well, hm.  Let’s just say you’re not going to feel good about yourself afterwards.

Gore

Plenty, and it’s good.  The effects aren’t standout, but they get the job done.

Scare Factor

This one’s difficult to classify.  Maybe not scary in the traditional sense, but it is pants-shittingly disturbing.  Just know this: you’re going into a serious torture flick.  Also, you’re going into a serious Japanese torture flick.   What I’m saying is that you might need some cute kitty pics to wash out the brain on this one.

02

Oh mittens, you make all of the nipple carnage just melt away.

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Summary

There isn’t much to summarize with this one.  It’s your standard, “guy kidnaps people and creatively tortures them for the next hour” type of flick, though it’s more bare bones than a movie like Hostel, for instance.  There is no deep backstory on the characters, no development to speak of.  Just torture.  Lots and lots of torture.

03

Mmmyes.

The killer this time around turns out to be a doctor, a surgeon it seems, and well, obviously you can see where those skills might come in handy with his particular hobby.  His methods of torture range from the psychological to the physical to the hyper-sexual; there really are no limits with this guy.  He seems to get off on destroying the beauty of young love, as the movie revolves around him dividing his attention between a man and a woman, whom he’s captured on their first date.  Strapped down to tables, the two lovers are forced to watch as each must endure the sadistic whims of an expressionless, power-hungry madman.

04

Really it’s his disappointment in you that hurts most of all.

He toys with them, alternating between maiming them and treating their wounds so as to prolong the experience.  He mindfucks them by allowing them to wake up in a clinic, bandaged and cared for.  He cares for them, showing remorse, promising freedom, telling them that they’ve served their purpose; swearing to them that it’s going to be okay.

06

Hint: it’s not going to be okay.

Forcing them to watch each other suffer, he attempts to break them while breaking their bones.  By the end he gives them a chance at freedom, and while his game might not be a Jigsaw level of sophistication, sometimes it’s the simple things in life that are the most satisfying.

05

And by satisfying, I mean oh god I where are the cat pictures. 

Final Thoughts

Grotesque takes the term “torture porn” and makes it its bitch.  It is genre defining.  You would be hard pressed to find a better example of pure, unchecked sadism in Japanese cinema.  It’s as if the director watched the entire Guinea Pig series and thought, “this is not fucked up enough.”  So, bravo, Mr. Shiraishi.  I never was overly impressed by most of the Guinea Pigs myself, but now they look like a goddamn Disney cartoon to me.

07

Then again, maybe I’m not too far off the mark.

For a movie that’s largely akin to a bottle episode (one room, three people), this one plays it well.  The suspense is great, the acting is convincing, and the Doctor is human enough to be terrifying.  Part of what’s fun about these types of movies is the deconstruction of the killer.  What are his motivations?  Is it power, lust … a penchant for nipple collecting?  Actor Shigeo Osako does an apt job of portraying the icy, emotionless physician, even though the character itself is fairly cookie-cutter in the deranged killer department.  Whore mother/hatred for women?  Check.  A secret, successful double-life?  Check.  Sexually charged sadism?  Check.  If they’d thrown in a flashback of him skinning cats as a boy, all of the serial killer qualifications would have been met.  Still, though there might not be anything particularly unique about this killer, the movie does a good job of keeping you guessing at what he’ll do next.

The characterizations of the two lovers are fairly one-dimensional as well.  They are there to suffer, nothing more.  Which does allow the movie to get right to the good stuff so to speak, but doesn’t allow for much investment in either of them.  Also, the music is oddly terrible and almost comically misplaced in some of the more brutal scenes.

Nitpicks aside, Grotesque is fine example of how a movie with a small budget can reach right down into your guts and twist.  It’s not a perfect movie, and it doesn’t push especially far; I wouldn’t say any one scene is decidedly more fucked up than anything I’ve ever seen on film.  What it does right is that it stays consistent.  The torture is literally nonstop.  For lovers of gore and exploitation, this one belongs on your must-see list.

08

Whew.

Score: 8/10, top-notch torture, but not much else

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IMDB for this splatteriffic masterpiece

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