Grotesque – Japan, 2009

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Grotesque – original title: グロテスク, Gurotesuku – is a 2009 Japanese splatter horror film written and directed by Kōji Shiraishi.

Plot:

An unnamed doctor has always had everything he’s ever wanted, but that has only made him develop more extreme and depraved needs. He kidnaps a young couple in the prime of their life and forces them into a game of torment that slowly extinguishes their hopes for survival…..

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The British Board of Film Classification refused to issue an 18 certificate to the unrated version of the film, banning its release in the United Kingdom. BBFC director David Cook explained:

“Unlike other recent ‘torture’ themed horror works, such as the Saw and Hostel series, 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.”

The film’s director and screenwriter, Koji Shiraishi, responded that he was “delighted and flattered by this most expected reaction from the faraway country, since the film is an honest conscientious work, made sure to upset the so-called moralists.”

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Reviews:

“Without ruining the film (it does that on its own), I will say that there is only the slightest bit of back-story (which is lazily done and seems it might have been an afterthought), and no attempt at putting any of this within context. Bottom line: a guy abducts a couple and brutally tortures them. That’s it. No point, no reason, no character development, nothing.” Big Daddy Warbuxx

“Brilliant, disgusting, well written, sadistic and painful to your sense beyond belief […] You wonder if the marketing matches the reality. In this case, I have to agree with the plugs. This is actually more brutal than Saw and Hostel combined. Yet somehow it also has bouts of tenderness and compassion.” Horror News

“There’s almost zero plot compared with Western torture pics; instead, Grotesque riffs on the idea (thrown up in the couple’s opening exchange) of whether either of the two victims would die for the other. Script springs a surprise with a switch to a bright, pristine location and a reversal of roles, before a final act that’s more like old-style Hong Kong fantastic cinema than Japanese gorno.” Derek Elley, Variety

Grotesque has a winning old-school feel that does indeed hark back to the good old Guinea Pig days, with which the film has arguably more in common rather than the likes of Saw or Hostel. This is undoubtedly a good thing, as it gives viewers a chance to see how the torture … genre really should be done, freed from the needless niceties of plot and good taste, and simply piling on the gruesome outrages.” James Mudge, Beyond Hollywood

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“A brief sampling of the impressive and fantastically disgusting practical effects on display includes a chainsaw to the hands, scissors cutting off nipples, nails through the balls, a needle to  the eyeball, a penis severed with a knife […] but the fact that a woman’s teats are being snipped off and I’m more intrigued with how they created the effect than I am concerned for her well being? That’s not good film-making.” Rob Hunter, Another Hole in the Head

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“Shiraishi’s flick plays like a typically stylish, typically hollow update on the notorious Guinea Pig series of the 1980s … even this sensibility is challenged by a frankly barmy twist ending that marks a last-minute shift from solemn faux-snuff to absurdist comedy.” Stuart Willis, The New Flesh: 21st Century Horror Films A – Z, Vol.1

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