Director: Hisayasu Sato
Writer: Taketoshi Watari (writer)
Genre: Horror / Thriller/ Gore
Naked Blood, directed by Hisayasu Sato (aka Toshiyasu Sato) in 1995, is what you might call a very, very, very odd fish and no mistake. Trying to sit somewhere uncomfortably between the gore-splatter-exploitation and serious arthouse genres, it truly tries to be Jack of all trades – but ends up, rather inevitably, as master of none, because it doesn't really cater to either – often mutually exclusive – audience. Which is a shame, as it's a pretty ambitious idea.
From the outset of this review, I feel the need to make one thing again very clear: do NOT believe the blurb on the outside of the DVD box. Not ever. Never never never never never. I cannot stress this strongly enough. And in this case, you can double that warning. On the outside of the hideously-designed cover art of Japan-Shock's release of Naked Blood (aka Megyaku: Akuma no yorokobi, aka Splatter: Naked Blood, aka Itainoga suki) box, the blurb-writers proclaim loudly that this movie is "100% Gore – 100% Bloody – 100% Extreme".
Thankfully, that's simply not true, otherwise this would be a very, very short review indeed. (Quite apart from anything else, that adds up to 300%. Even their maths ain't up to much.) For the gorehounds among us, I can let you know right now there are about three mid-length sequences featuring some really out-there in-your-face extreme nastiness. Yes, the limited gore featured in this movie is damn serious stuff.
But really, if you're looking for all-out balls-out guts and brains, you'd be better off sticking to the notorious Guinea Pig series - 'cos this movie's got a plot. A big, long, meaningful, meandering and ultimately very overcomplicated plot which will probably put most dedicated of gorehounds right off their eyeball pudding (or whatever it is they tuck into instead of popcorn 'n' beer).
Unfortunately, as you might expect from a film which tries to transcend two highly polarised categories of film-making, the abovementioned plot is as confused as its director and writer appear to be. At some points you get the sense that Naked Blood is trying desperately hard to make some kind of profound social statement, to get some message about the nature of superficiality and the rewards a person reaps by living their life in a shallow, self-serving way across. But, somewhat ill-advisedly, the writer chooses to use a completely dippy storyline about a talking cactus to do it with, which comes across as, well, a bit weak and laughable, to be honest. Add to this the fact that the M. Night Shyamalan-style 'surprise' twists in the ending are a bit unconvincing, and you know the movie's really going nowhere. Frankly, due to the fact that it relies so heavily on the viewer buying into the utterly daffy storyline, it's just not a film you would necessarily want to watch twice.
Simply put, for me it was no fun experience and ended up becoming a bit of a boring, disappointing and mildly depressing ordeal, thanks to poor pacing, dated cinematography, one too many shots inside Rika’s (the main female protagonist) dull little room, and way too much banging on about talking cacti. Even the one and only sex scene was dull as ditchwater and featured, yep you guessed it, a bloody cactus ;-D This, from a director whose career path seems to have been rooted pretty deeply in the pinku (or soft porn) end of the movie market, seems a little surprising. Perhaps he fancied a change of scene.
As for the acting – well, pedestrian I think is a fairly generous term. Sadao Abe, one of my personal favourite actors, played his usual 'weird geek' kind of role well, but then it's such typecasting he could have played it in his sleep – hardly a challenge for him. And as ever, I always end up asking, why do Japanese casting agents always cast him in roles which are blatantly too young for him? In Naked Blood we are genuinely being asked to buy into the fact that Eiji, the young scientist character he plays in this film, is seventeen years old. In 1995, Sadao Abe was twenty-five. (That said: in Uzumaki - the film most will doubtless know him from - he was playing the role of a thirteen-year-old, when in reality he was thirty! Simply extraordinary. Sorry, but I can't suspend my disbelief that much ;-D)
And the other actors on this movie were for the most part pretty competent – nothing to write home about, but nothing to write a snotty letter to the Japanese equivalent of Variety about either. Misa Aika, whose best-known role is the eponymous sexy weather forecaster in the pinku film The Weatherwoman 2, was about as accomplished as you'd expect from someone whose best-known role is a sexy weather forecaster. As for the others, well, they were just there, really. Even the two other central female characters were left nameless, that's how little the acting matters here.
It is, however, the story which really lets the side down. Sadly, given so much promise, Naked Blood fails to do anything of any lasting worth with its fascinating premise. If you want a movie that knows how to blend gore with social commentary and disturbing weirdness, go and buy Suicide Circle quick-smart.
The main intellectual theme of the movie seems to concern alienation and separation from the mainstream of society: social acceptance (or in this case, the lack of it). Eiji has been isolated because of his upbringing, first by his father, and then the work to continue forming and moulding the lad into a walking talking science robot has fallen to his grieving mother. Rika has been cut off from society by her lack of need to sleep, and her over-sensitive hearing, which has turned her into a bit of a freakish figure and driven her away from people and living creatures - the noise is simply unbearable for her (shades of Vincent Price's unintentionally hilarious performance as Roderick Usher in Roger Corman's marvellous B-movie version of Edgar Allen Poe's 'Fall of the House of Usher' come to mind: his senses were so acutely sensitive that he couldn't raise his own voice above a whisper, could only eat the most bland food, and that enforced human contact drove him insane with the sheer physical anguish) - not to mention the fact that her only pal is a huge cactus.
Visually, this sense of 'separation' is emphasised by many of the shots being physically split in half, or into bits - eg, some of the shots featured on this page - Eiji and Rika separated by a big white pillar; Eiji and his mother separated by columns in their dining-room; and the shot with Rika appearing centrally through a gap in the cactus, demonstrating quite unequivocally that the cactus is in fact cutting her off from the rest of the world and is 'surrounding' her, smothering her as well as protecting her. It's a bit… well, unsubtle, and doesn’t really help the overall look of things, not to mention making the viewer feel as if they’re being bludgeoned to death by Sato's Grand Message to the World. ;-)
However, I suppose you could term the final turn of events a bizarre kind of happy ending, or at the very least, an outcome which ties up the loose ends: the two women who live their lives in this kind of superficial way end up getting, so to speak, their just desserts (a bit too appropriate a term, in one case anyway ;-D); Rika has escaped her self-built prison, thanks to the superlative analgesic effects of Myson, and made herself a place in society. The only real victim in all of this, somewhat ironically, is Eiji himself.
A brilliant young scientist of only seventeen years old, Eiji (Sadao Abe), has produced a serum which is based on research into brain secretions that he has been conducting for some time, which he logs in his work journal as being the 'ultimate painkiller' for humans. he sees it as being his greatest gift to mankind, a universal panacea more effective than Prozac and Diazepam combined, and with no piddling little unwanted side-effects like creating suicidal tendencies or slavish addiction to boot. For some unknown reason, he calls his formula 'Myson' (or more properly, 'My Son') - presumably because it is his brainchild, his 'creation' - but also as a tribute to his late father who was also a scientist, and who predicted correctly that Eiji would be every bit as brilliant as himself.
His mother is also a chemist/scientist, who is working on creating experimental drugs at the local hospital. It turns out that she is conducting a drug trial that day, testing a revolutionary new contraceptive medication which will help to control Japan's population boom. However, unbeknownst to her, Eiji has doctored her trial pharmaceuticals with his own special new drug, 'Myson', in order to perform his own very special experiment. He spots a folder containing details of the three women who are about to undergo the testing: they're all young and attractive, but one in particular takes his fancy - a girl named Mikami Rika (Misa Aika), who - wouldn't you just know it - turns out to be a complete fruitcake.
“Particolare”...mmm...iniziamo dalle cose semplici.
Un giovane genio, appena diciassettene (Eiji) esegue delle ricerche sulla secrezione dell’endorfina, riuscendo a sintetizzare una droga capace di mutare l’impulso del dolore e della sofferenza (inviato al cervello) in una sensazione di estremo piacere. Il sogno del ragazzo é quello di donare l’eterna felicità ai fruitori del MYSON (la droga viene così battezzata da Eiji), di rendere gioiosa anche la più disperata delle esistenze. Spinto da tale nobile proposito, somministra (a loro insaputa) la droga a tre ragazze e ne osserva furtivamente, munito di telecamera, gli effetti. L’esuberanza giovanile di Eiji sottovaluta un piccolo particolare: il dolore inteso dal ragazzo é puramente psicologico. Egli si basa sull’esperienza personale, essendo tormentato dalla sofferenza per la perdita del padre, ma i centri nervosi delle inconsapevoli “cavie”(alterati dalla droga), trasformano in piacere QUALSIASI forma di dolore...ed il dolore più frequente e banale é prprio quello fisico.
Così nella quotidianità del focolare domestico, può accadere che ci si tagli un dito cucinando o che ci si faccia male cercando di infilare un orecchino. La sensazione di dolore...é trasformata in piacere, un irresistibile piacere...le ragazze non riescono più fare a meno di questa sensazione....
L’etichetta che distribuisce questo film in Europa (la tedesca -maledetti e benedetti teutonici - Japan Shock) lo presenta come uno dei film più estremi che siano mai stati girati e lo definisce uno “splatter-gore”. Ma é solo uno spot pubblicitario, per attirare gli amanti dell’estremo (che pullulano in Germania). Dico questo non perché il film lesini sulle scene d’effetto (ne parlerò più avanti), ma perché “Naked Blood” é un film sperimentale, ricercato, raffinato...in cui la violenza é al completo servizio della narrazione, non viceversa, come accade abitualmente nei “veri” splatter-gore.
Sato si ritrova tra le mani un soggetto originale, che presenta una caratteristica unica: é plasmabile. Da un punto di vista estetico “Naked Blood” ricorda la psichedelia degli anni ‘70. Il film é quasi totalmente muto, pochissimi e sintetici i dialoghi, la colonna sonora di stile “ambient”, l’atmosfera che regna per tutta la sua durata é rassicurante, la lentezza delle immagini inquietante. La cosa che più colpisce é il contrasto delle immagini. Si passa dall’inquadratura di un deserto in cui spicca un solitario cactus, al primissimo piano di una ragazza che si perfora il braccio con un punteruolo. Il tutto con un feroce stacco...senza passaggi intermedi, senza cambio di base misicale, senza mutare lo stile delle riprese, camera fissa a seguire in tempo reale le torture..mantenendo la pacata atmosfera della pellicola anche quando, una colonna sonora rock ed un montaggio frenetico avrebbero dato risultati migliori.
La scena in sé, non é più disgustante di altre presenti in molti film “gore”, la cosa che la rende davvero insostenibile é che questo non é un film di quel genere. Il film é “serio”, stilisticamente bello da vedere. Sono proprio la naturalezza e la lentezza di queste sequenze a renderle “inguardabili”.
Tra l’altro il film presenta al suo interno anche un piccolo thriller, un’assassino da scoprire, un amore da ricongiungere, un sogno da realizzare, simbologie esasperate. Un film di qualità, che ha il grande pregio di durare poco più di 70 min, contenendo i tempi delle riprese e non facendo così pesare allo spettatore la sua evidente lentezza. Da vedere.
Unica nota negativa sono gli attori, forse la quasi totale mancanza di dialoghi, esaspera le loro capacità di recitazione. Eccezion fatta per la bella Misa Aika (la protagonista), il resto del cast si mantiene su livelli di decenza espressiva, senza brillare particolarmente.
Ultima nota. In questo film, pur essendo presenti scene ferocissime...nessuno urla, la pacifica atmosfera costruita da Sato rimane integra per tutta la durata del film.
In Naked Blood non si urla di dolore, si geme di piacere...
Dimension: 680 Mb
Duration: 90 minuti
Video Codec: DivX
Video Bitrate: 980 kbps
QF (Frame quality): 0.171/b]