I’m not 100% clear on why I watch the extreme gore and torture films from Japan, but I do. And I’m not talking about cartoonishly/awesomely gory films like, Tokyo Gore Police, Robo Geisha, Machine Girl, etc. I mean, the minimal plot, gut-wrenching gore realism films. (see below for examples) When I learn of one that I haven’t seen, I inevitably put it in my queue or write it down in my list of titles to look for. And EVERY time I watch one I wonder why I continue to do so. Why am I drawn to extreme graphic violence? Why am I drawn to realistic torture? And I can only come up with this: it allays my own fear of the real world. I can watch the carefully orchestrated brutality and remain perfectly safe. Safe from injury. Safe from sexual assault. And safe from my own anxieties about life’s inevitable chaos. Seeing depravity on film, recognizing the special effects techniques, noticing the edits and camera angles, all makes me feel less and less anxious about identical real world dangers. Something about seeing these horrors and thinking about the creation of a fictional depiction of said horrors makes me feel safer. It makes me realize that it’s silly of me to worry one iota about being kidnapped and having my limbs amputated only to be kept alive for further harm and humiliation before my inevitable decapitation. (i’m an anxious person, alright?) If this makes sense to you (and you’ve also self-diagnosed as anxious), you might want to check out some of these films to help you sleep better at night. Here are a couple of recommendations/prescriptions.
Some men kidnap a woman to torture in order to test the human body’s pain tolerance. (that’s it)
This one features a VERY impressively realistic eyeball trauma that Fulci himself would be proud of. These types of films are all thin in the plot department, but this one is especially thin. It’s essentially an impressive torture effects reel.
A man obsessed with recording everything on video hopes to capture abject fear through his lens. In his search, he plunges into a nightmare underground world where he finds/kidnaps (i’m picking up a pattern here) a young woman who may not be human. He keeps her in his apartment as her health deteriorates and he is haunted by menacing figures.
This is by far the most plotted of the films that I’m writing about in this post. And the plot is not really the thing that gets to me. It’s the man’s inaction and lack of empathy for his captive. Ignore all of the fantastic elements, the telepathy, the Gaimanesque underground tunnels, the ghosts, and you’re left with a man recording a woman’s slow death from neglect. It’s chilling. (i felt the same pity/despair when that guy spit on that woman chained to the radiator in Unbreakable. what’s that? you forgot that something so fucking brutal happened in Unbreakable?)
A young couple, fresh from their first date (sort of), is attacked and kidnapped by a man who tortures them in order to feel excitement through witnessing their wills to stay alive and/or keep each other alive.
The killer in this film is a creepy looking dude. He has a very broad, flat face with smooth skin that looks mask-like. His calm demeanor while skewering an eye, cutting off an arm, or cutting out a length of bowel is beyond unsettling. The effects are decent but edits are employed skillfully to leave some of the more grotesque (that’s the title!) violence to the viewer’s imagination. This is torture porn through and through. And not titillating-the-loins porn. More like, graphic nudity (still within the U.S. “rated R” boundaries though) and sexual assault porn that should just make you uncomfortable.
The Final Cut: Extreme gore/torture films (especially subtitled ones) are very niche. Seen through a certain lens, they can give viewers a glimpse into such horrors as they can only imagine. Perhaps relieving some of their personal fears in the process.