director Kôji Shiraishi
Will torture porn ever become quaint?
You look back at any Herschell Gordon Lewis film these days and I think among many elements of reaction, those original “splatter” films have certainly become as quaint as much as they are, or were, “transgressive.”
But the ante seems to be constantly being upped. Did it peak at the “torture porn”/”new French extremism” of the moderately early Aughts? Or is it always just a threshhold waiting to be further transgressed? A gauntlet left thrown down only until the next generation of outre filmmaker comes along and trumps the point?
To be fair, the Japanese certainly have their corner of the shock and gore arena well-demarcated, in manga, anime, and in traditional film.
Grotesque is a pretty lean, mean piece of Exploitation. A psycho kidnaps a young man and woman out on their first date and abuses and tortures them to death, trying to tempt them into voice a willingness to die for one another, though unmoved by such a thing. He is moved at one point by their glorious suffering and heals them to near health (minus some digits and some members of their body) only to re-torture them.
It’s so lean and mean that there isn’t a lot else to it, stripping it down narratively as a reasonable example of “torture porn” more than anything else. I do give it credit for mostly relying on practical effects over digital ones.
But ultimately, though, as a bloodbath it’s kind of a wash. Gruesome torture and FX lacking a real story or context leaves the viewer to only wonder why one would submit one’s time to watching such a thing. Something perhaps between voyeurism and masochism? It’s not very entertaining nor enlightening…nor for that matter all that well conceived or executed.
I posit those questions I raise not merely rhetorically.