After performing a show, a ballet dancer meets a mysterious woman who invites her to join her prestigious balley academy. She gleefully accepts, but as night closes in at the academy, she realizes that it's not the place she expected it to be. She discovers an academy filled with perverts, sadistic sexual acts and rape. She, a virgin, is dragged into this madness, and feels oddly at home.
You can sometimes tell whether a Nikkatsu director is more interested in making interesting, involving films rather than plain smut. Even if they have been hired to make erotica, they find ways to make it stand out. Director of "Sex Hunter: 1980" (yes, I will continue to use "1980" in the title!), Toshiharu Ikeda, went on to make the Japanese shockers "Evil Dead Trap" and "Angel Guts: Red Porno" among other titles. Many of his films are violent and sadistic, but his ambition is certainly beyond making regular erotica. That's why "Sex Hunter: 1980" manages to be one of the - if not THE - most interesting movies in the Nikkatsu line that Impulse Pictures have released so far.
Imagine an erotic Japanese version of "Suspiria", where a young girl, Miki, joins a perverted sect disguised as a ballet academy instead. She's invited by a mysterious woman who seeks her out after a ballet show. After hours, the school is a place of BDSM, sadistic sex, rape, you name it. Miki's a virgin who hasn't seen her boyfriend in a very long time, so even just seeing someone have sex strikes her as very unusual. But she doesn't have much of a choice, and is soon joining in on the strange, bizarre sexual situations presented to her. The woman who invited her turns out to be her boyfriend's sister, so when the boyfriend comes into the picture it's all getting a lot more complicated.
You could tell in the opening of "Sex Hunter: 1980" that it was gonna be different. Most Nikkatsu movies either start with something stupid, light-hearted, or just goes into a sex scene. This one starts with a ballet show, and stays with it for a few minutes. It's a stylish opening, and one that instantly gave me higher expectations for the movie. The good thing is that the rest of the movie lived up to it. Yes, it's a Nikkatsu production, so the sex is the main focus, but Toshiharu Ikeda goes through it with class and force.
Where many Nikkatsu movies are aiming to show the secret sexuality of women in a dumbfounded way, to an extent where they enjoy being raped - and the men only think with their cocks - "Sex Hunter: 1980" seems to have actual characters doing actual actions for their own personal reasons. It's not grouping an entire gender into a type. Even though it is erotica, it is done with some degree of brain. I mean, as much as you can get away with in a Nikkatsu movie. Toshiharu Ikeda obviously did challenge the boundaries of Nikkatsu, as he was warned to make his next movie more tame, so to say his movie also have a better background for his characters isn't too far out there.
Certain violence and sadism presented in the movie fits some rougher exploitation movies of the era, moreso than a Nikkatsu title. It's not a surprise when you think of what the director has made since, but I am ready to take any change in these movies as something positive and surprising. "Sex Hunter: 1980" sneaked its way up to my favorites of the Nikkatsu collection so far, which means this is one of the main titles you should consider getting - just don't expect other movies from the collection to be quite as dark, sadistic or stylish.