Grotesque (2009)

“King of Japanese grotesque movie” or so says the DVD cover. It would be fair to say this movie has only garnered the level of furore surrounding it due to the BBFC’s decision not to allow it an 18 certificate, meaning that Grotesque is the first movie to be banned in four years. Last time the BBFC banned a movie was 2005’s Murder Set Pieces, and we all saw what a piece of shit that turned out to be. Claiming that a movie may cause “risk of harm” is nonsense; a movie can’t cause anyone to do anything they weren’t already capable of. Anyway, that’s a debate for another day. Oh, I’ve got to warn you that there might be some things in here that some might consider a bit spoiler heavy.

Grotesque really is just 70 minutes of physical and sexual abuse with the most minimal nods at character development you can possibly get and because this isn’t shot to look real like, say, Devil’s Experiment or Flower Of Flesh And Blood, you can’t really get away with it. To make an actual movie you do need some level of investment in the characters and situations. Sure, it is easy to sympathise with a young couple being tortured by a sicko for the same time it takes to watch Bambi, but it is difficult to really care about their plight. They are essentially just like cows in a particularly sick slaughterhouse. Grotesque lives up to its name, and is just a constant stream of utter wrongness soaked in both male and female ejaculate.

It is shot using the shaky-cam style that seems to be so popular right now, and it doesn’t hold up well. Shaky-cam is usually used to make things look more realistic and natural, where as this is lit in a grey tinged light that seemed to remind me of being half asleep. I don’t know if any of this is intentional; to distance the audience from the events on the screen in a sort of Haneke-esque statement, but that is what my mind constantly conjured. The idea of a sadist who tortures folk, and then nurses them back to health only to torture them some more, is certainly an interesting thought. It causes you to look at and assess the nature of humanity and humanitarianism, even while presenting such a skewed view on the subject. When people appear to be helping are they really just acting selfishly?

The relentless scenes of gore are well put together and about as realistic as necessary. It is shot in a way to make the gore look most convincing, which in most cases it does. The one notorious scene that you have probably heard about already is especially grim. Close up eyeball gouging isn’t really my bag, neither are genital woundings (ouch) or intestine-slicing but they are all present and accounted for, one after another. Gore is something that I may have become desensitised to in my quest to find the nastiest horror flicks, and there were more moments of wincing during Grotesque than any other movie in recent memory. Judge that as you will.

Despite having only the bare minimum of plot, Grotesque manages to encroach on Martyrs, WAZ and obviously Hostel territory, recalling themes and scenes from all other “torture porn” efforts while just about managing to stand on its own severed Achilles heel. As relatively plot-free gore flicks go, it might not be anywhere near as sadistic as Flower Of Flesh And Blood or as gripping as Saw but Grotesque warrants at least one watch. It is a film destined to be a classic purely based on its tussle with the censors, but I reckon there is a touch more to it than that. Sure, it looks like mindless gore for the sake of it but if you dig a little deeper, you might just find an interesting film hiding within its severed fingers. Just make sure don’t watch it with your parents, or worse, your girlfriends parents.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

5 Comments on “Grotesque”

  1. admin says:

    I resent that last, rather sexist, sentence.

    I hope Charlie Sheen doesn’t get hold of a copy of this one and cause another snuff film witch-hunt ;)

  2. Ben Meeker says:

    You must’ve watched the LionsGate version of MURDER-SET-PIECES, because the NC-17 version was one of the most ultraviolent horror films ever made.

    As for Grotesque, let us know when a Region 1 or 0 DVD becomes available!

  3. Jamie Carruthers says:

    Yeah, I could only get hold of the Lion’s Gate dvd release.
    I will look for the NC-17 release and re-assess the situation. I was looking to watch it again in all the furore going on with the BBFC at the moment…

  4. roger armstrong says:

    Did you have a dodgy cam version of Grotesque because the version I saw was notable for it’s excellent non shaky camera work. Most scenes looked to have been shot with a steadicam rig and/or a small crane/boom, maybe even a tripod. Not only was the camera work fantastic but the lighting was incredibly well done, I think the intent was to make it clinical rather than distant.

  5. Jamie Carruthers says:

    I’ve got a DVD version from Yesasia, there was tonnes of hand held stuff mostly in the first section. I still thought it was pretty excellent camera work, and the lighting was indeed fantastic.

    If that was the intent then it would appear that I missed it, but when I hit my second viewing (which won’t be far off, I reckon) then I will see if I can see it in a more clinical light. I just thought the ridiculousness of some of the violence (which had an almost cartoon-like quality) made it seem a bit unreal, and severed me from the actual belief that this could be real, which isn’t something you usually get in these quasi-serious Japanese gore flicks.

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