If you loved someone, how far would you go to protect them? For Kazuo and Aki, they are about to find out, as they are the latest victims to abducted by a serial killer who loves to play games with couples in order to reach sexual excitement.
Here is a movie that has both horror and underground-horror fans all aflutter, mostly in due to it being another title that's been absorbed by the hype-machine. Which is causing it to be spewed out everywhere, by everyone, and is being sold as this incredibly disturbing and shocking Japanese movie that puts "Saw" and "Hostel" to shame. Which I don't understand why those two movies are being brought up, as neither one is brutal, shocking, or even good. But, the fact remains that Japan has never had a problem with dishing out some of the best shock-titles. So ignoring the ridiculous hype-machine, it was a movie that I needed to see, to find out if Japan has still got it.
One thing that sends up a red flag immediately is that "Grotesque" is constantly compared to "Saw" and "Hostel", not merely for it's content, but because "Grotesque" is desperately aspiring to be similar to those two movies. Because of that, the influence of Western horror on "Grotesque" is undeniable with it being shot with jittery hand-held camera work, and having a heavily saturated image in attempt to help capture the feeling of the dirty/grimy set. Unfortunately, it doesn't work. Instead it just makes the overall visual quality of the movie dull, uninteresting, and nothing more than making it seem like it's following a really bad trend.
"Grotesque" also tries to bring in a legitimate story, and tries to establish deep characters and relationships between the victims and their killer. The only problem is that it feels so contrived that when the movie takes the time to try to work and sell the theme of uninhibited love, and the desire for love. That it all becomes so silly, and because of the feeling of it being forced, it never works. What really hinders the attempt at establishing a deep story and characters though, comes from the horrible acting. Now, I'm not one to normally rag on a horror movie for having bad acting (unless it's really bad), but to make the story and movie really affective, and knock the wind out of the viewers. We have to believe that there is a connection between these people, we need a reason to care about them, and feel for the horrible situation that they are in. But because the acting is done so poorly in here, you never feel that bond that the two victims share. It especially hurts the scenes of torture and violence, because most of what occurs to these characters, is based on how much love they have for one another and how far they are willing to go to protect and save each other. When they are actually being tortured, they either underplay the scenes to the point that you would think that they don't feel any pain. Or they go in the opposite direction and go over-the-top with it, and the scenes end up looking ridiculous.
Now for the major selling point of the movie, are the supposed scenes of graphic torture and brutality, which becomes another aspect of the movie that feels entirely forced. Because of the growing popularity of "torture-porn" (A term that pains me to use, and one that causes me to lose respect for those who openly use it.) titles, the movie focuses on these sequences. But like the Western movies that inspired "Grotesque", it turns out to be nothing more than another safe horror movie wrapped up in a package of hype. There is nothing within "Grotesque" that a well-seasoned horror fan hasn't seen before, and even then, these torture scenes still fall flat. Partially due to the atrocious job by the actors, but also because, much like the rest of the movie, they're dull and uninspired. Not only that, but what the people who hype the movie forget to mention is that it doesn't show a lot. Not that there is anything wrong with letting a person's imagination fill in the blanks, but because of what it doesn't show, it feels as though the movie was afraid of being too graphic. Which is ridiculous when the whole point of a movie and its major selling factor, is that it's a graphic and brutal movie. But in reality, it's afraid of going too far. It has no problem showing the yawn-inducing scenes of the couple getting their fingers chopped off by a chainsaw, but it doesn't show the frequently mentioned eye gouging scene. Rather, a sharp implement being drawn close to the eye, followed by a series of flash cuts of an eyeball and the sharp item, then next thing you know, all you see is a person with their eye closed and blood poorly smeared around it. There is also great deal of focus on genital mutilation, to help tie in some of the story's themes, but never shows any of it. Even though earlier on in the movie, it had no problem showing an explicit scene of the girl getting molested and finger-banged to the point of squirting. And no, incase you are wondering, I did not watch the cut version of the movie.
At the end of the day, "Grotesque" is an abysmal failure. This is a movie that will find a fanbase with those who enjoyed the movies that inspired this abomination, and by those who can enjoy inept films simply because it features some dismemberment. It is a movie that feels forced on every level, and everything that it tries to do falls short of even being considered good. The movie offers nothing new or anything that we can't get from another movie that is able to do it much better. Really, looking back at some of the great brutal and shocking movies that Japan has produced, "Grotesque" is a sad modern movie, and something that I hope they are able to improve upon. But, if this is an example of what direction they are heading in with their horror movies, then this is indeed a sad day. Had this been an American-independent production, this movie would have received very little buzz and would have been acknowledged right off the bat as nothing but a pathetic cash-in title. That probably would have ended up being released straight to DVD by some equally ridiculous company, like Dimension Extreme. Instead, this is a poor effort to come out of a country that for awhile, had become known for only producing ghost movies. Now that a torture based horror title has come to fruition, well...you can see the results by all the hype and attention it has received so far. All I can say is, don't believe any of it.