Monday, 9 March 2015


Ladies and gentleman, for your viewing pleasure tonight we have blood and body parts courtesy of Grotesque, an extreme splatter-fest from J-horror director Shiraishi Koji (Carved). Proudly described as "the cruelest Japanese splatter movie", Grotesque is one of the few movies made today that actually lives up to its billing. Think of Hollywood torture porn like Hostel and Saw, multiply the terrors by ten and what you have is an extremely uncomfortable night on the sofa. 

Distributors in the UK had hoped to be given an 18 certificate, but the British Board of Film Classification claimed the film featured sexual sadism for its own sake. They went on to say that giving the film a rating would involve a "risk of harm" to those viewing it. Therefore no classification was given and selling or supplying the film is against the law in this country. Which is why we have the Internet. So if you live inside the UK and really need a movie like this in your life, you shouldn't have too many problems tracking it down.

AV idol Nagasawa Tsugumi and Kawatsure Hiroaki (OneChanbara) play a young couple who are abducted, scalped and bound in a dark basement. They are tortured endlessly by a madman (Osako Shigeo) who wants to know the answer to one simple question. Would you die for another human being? Three people, one location, a very unhappy board of censors. Is Grotesque really that disturbing a movie, and will we ever get an official release date on this side of the world?

It takes under five minutes for the madness to begin and the onscreen violence is relentless for the best part of an hour. It’s a tough watch from start to finish; nipples are sliced, body organs are hacked off (yes, that one too), sexual abuse is committed on both parties, and eyes are gouged out just for the hell of it. No explanation is given, back-story is non-existent and there is precious little justification for the events that transpire. All we're presented with is a relentless stream of blood-letting, chaos and carnage. 

Films like Hostel and Saw feel like a walk in the park compared to this nightmare. Hostel took us on an American Pie style journey to soften the blow, while Saw gave its bogeyman motive and reason. Grotesque on the other hand is less forgiving, existing in a world where rules do not apply. Perhaps the BBFC got it right after all. At times Grotesque does feel like torture for tortures sake and any point Koji is trying to make remains unclear. That’s if he had a message to deliver in the first place. I'm siding with not a jot.

The effects are brutally realistic throughout and you wont find any CGI here. This is about as real as it gets so prepare yourself to be shocked and sickened. The performances are fine, though to be fair, two of the three actors aren’t really asked to do anything other than scream. The most touching moments, without the aid of a sharp instrument, take place when our hapless victims are given a little time to breathe. 
Not only is it a welcome break from the violence and bloodshed, but it also gives us a chance to warm to their desperate plights. 

Osako Shigeo is menacing enough, but considering the events that transpire, casting Kermit the frog would have been just as intimidating. The calm that punctuates the carnage is handled efficiently, adding a smidgen of emotional depth to a film that lacks reason. Then there’s the ending. A dose of black humour should feel out of place in a movie so cold, but it really is a welcome relief after all the pain and suffering that comes before it. 

I’m not surprised the BBFC have refused this movie a rating; Grotesque really rocks the foundations of acceptable viewing to its core. Without a clear message, Grotesque is simply exploitation for exploitations sake. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very well made horror movie and Shiraishi Koji is a very talented director, but some things just aren’t meant to be, especially if you lace them with mutilation, murder and mayhem. 

There are other editions available from around the world, and fans should be able to track down the film with English subtitles easily enough. It is horrific, it is brutal and it is degrading, but at the end of the day it is just a movie. Looking at it from that point of view, Grotesque more than delivers on the torture porn front. 

You already know if this movie repulses you, and you already know if this is the kind of film you want in your collection. As much as I admire the BBFC for making a stand, Grotesque is still out there, you just have to know where to look. Or where not to look as the case may be.

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