Director: Koji Shirashi (2009)
Starring: Tsugumi Nagasawa, Hiroaki Kawatsure, Shigeo Osako
Find it online: IMDB

If you ever thought that the likes of Hostel, Captivity and their ilk had too much plot, Grotesque (or Gurotesuku, if you’d rather go by its original Japanese title) is the film for you. Dispensing with any nuances such as ‘plot’, ‘story’ or ‘subtlety’, Grotesque is a no-frills brand piece of torture grot.

The version I watched was subtitled; not that it matters. Grotesque could have been a silent film, for all the script has to say. The very first scene has the movie’s protagonists (a bloke and a lady) kidnapped. There’s a brief title credit sequence, and then we cut straight to the torture nonsense; all tables and ballgags and chainsaws and fingers and masturbating and booby groping. It’s not big and it certainly ain’t clever. Or good.

Grotesque is not very scary, and nor is it particularly offensive, except to those who don’t like such things (and, let’s be honest, if you don’t like such things, you have no right to be watching Grotesque, let alone bitching about it). Sure, there’s a lot of gore and wet stabby bits, but none worse than Hostel. It’s just more sustained, is all.

Cut off from the constraints of having a story, Grotesque actually manages to be not-worse than many other films of its kind. It’s ironic – the most torture porn-esque of the ‘torture porn’ (fuck, I hate that title) bunch is actually the easiest to watch and comes across as the least manipulative. Perhaps it’s because it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. It’s gory, it’s violent and it’s vulgar and it’s stupid – but it doesn’t try to insult our intelligence by including a storyline that no-one really cares about. It’s incredibly aware of its audience, and caters to them entirely. It gets on with the nasty shlock without bothering to hide behind a fa├žade of being a teenage sex romp gone wrong/a thriller/a cop drama. Grotesque is the definitive piece of torture porn.

Indeedness, Grotesque claims to be worse than Hostel or Saw, which is true to an extent. The violence and the stabby bits are all much of a muchness, but there’s a repellent element of sexual violence to the film that largely – and rightfully – goes unreplicated in mainstream Western cinema. Japanese horror always did like to push boundaries, and Grotesque certainly pushes them further than most.

If you live in the UK, then you shouldn’t be watching Grotesque. It’s not very hard to find (there’s a region 2 DVD readily available on eBay, or finding a stream/torrent is incredibly easy), but then it isn’t really worth finding either. Since the BBFC refused to classify Grotesque, it’s seen as something of a video nasty by horrorheads over here. Unfortunately, like most of the original video nasties, Grotesque is neither very good nor particularly worthy of its cult status. Indeed, it being banned has probably led to it finding a whole lot more viewers (myself included) than it ever would have in the first place.

Watch it if you must, but don’t expect to see the wheel re-invented or a whole genre re-vitalised. Don’t expect to care. Don’t even expect to be particularly offended. For all its nastiness and eye-gouging boob groping smutty nihilism, the best thing about Grotesque is that it’s only 70 minutes long.


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