Halloween Streamin’ Day 4! Grotesque (2009)

Halloween Streamin’ Day 4! Grotesque (2009)

English Title Grotesque
Japanese Title Gurotesuku
Kana Title グロテスク
Director Koji Shiraishi
Release Date 2009
Distributor Ace Deuce Entertainment
Sub Genre Torture

Grotesque is a film that’s always lingered just on the periphery for me. Not being specifically interested in the torture porn that made up much of the horror output of the previous decade it’s not a film I’ve ever gone out of my way to see. But Koji Shiraishi’s film caught my eye for a pretty rare achievement in the modern age; it was banned in England. Not censored or cut, but deemed so reprehensible or devoid of any real value that is was refused released outright.

As a British fan getting in to horror films in the waning years of the Video Nasty hysteria this ‘achievement’ in some sense makes it an honorary member of the ‘video nasties club’. From Flesh for Frankenstein, A Bay of Blood to Zombie Flesh Eaters that’s some pretty esteemed company for a modern movie to be in. Of course, that also puts it with films like Anthropophagus and Bloody Moon, but the allure of such a film and the conversation that goes with it is an appealing one.

Rather than attempt to force a four line synopsis of its threadbare plot, the BBFC ruling will suffice.

“Grotesque is a feature that focuses for the majority of its running time on the sexual assault, humiliation and extreme torture of a male and female victim.”

Well I sure built myself up for disappointment this time didn’t I? Typically quite the thoughtful director, making his name as the preeminent director of Japanese urban legends, it wouldn’t have been impossible for Shiraishi to have turned Grotesque in to something interesting.  From creating one of the best found footage films around in Noroi to producing the first entertaining Sadako and Kayako film in over a decade the lack of ambition on display here is just puzzling.

Grotesque Koji Shiraishi Chainsaw

One gets the impression that Grotesque is Koji Shiraishi’s attempt at making the ultimate entry in the torture porn oeuvre, breaking the movement down to its barest exploitative elements. It’s so base and shallow I’d be easily persuaded to see the movie is an ironic statement on other films in the genre. But I’d be lying to myself. Grotesque just is.

So devoid of any real substance or emotional context Grotesque somehow manages to fail to fulfill its sole purpose. It just isn’t that shocking. Last year’s Himeanole, with far less gore manages to be the more distressing film as you spend a good chunk of time getting to know the characters first. When the violence does come it’s so hard and cruel that the film stuck with me for a long time afterwards. Grotesque however is that old cliché of a child chewing with its mouth open. It isn’t shocking, you just pity it for its lack of effort.

Similarly, Grotesque’s sound effects immediately rob the film of the kind of realism needed to repulse its audience. The first real moment of violence in the film shows a male being stabbed with a needle, accompanied by what can only be described by foley of a baby repeatedly slapping a plate of jelly. For a needle? Really? While I won’t deny that the violence did make me wince on occasion, there’s an unintentional slapstick nature to much of Grotesque. Not enough to turn the film in to an unintentional comedy, but definitely to point that the film begins to fail at its sole purpose for existing.

The most damning criticism I can give of Grotesque is that it’s frankly boring, and with special effects inferior to those seen in the Guinea Pig films some 20 years earlier, I’m left wondering what the point is. I could obviously talk about how scenes of sexual assault are treated in the film, but what would be the point? The BBFC ruling arguably gave Grotesque far more notoriety than it deserved. At this point it’s better to simply point out how dull and badly handled the film is. I’m not offended, just disappointed.

Grotesque is currently available to stream on CONtv.

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About author

Craig Hatch
Craig Hatch 41 posts

<p>Horror Japan is Craig Hatch, a Brit currently living in Tokyo, Japan. Horror Japan is a project that aims to review and collate media from all aspects of Japanese horror culture.</p>

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Editor review

Rating
1.5/5

1.5

Poor
1.5
Summary

The most damning criticism I can give of Grotesque is that it’s frankly boring, and with special effects inferior to those seen in the Guinea Pig films some 20 years earlier, I’m left wondering what the point is.