The famous bard once asked what was in a name. In this case the answer is an apt description of the film.
What They Say
A story of fear and torture so disturbing it's been banned in multiple countries. An unnamed doctor has always had everything he's ever wanted, but that has only made him develop more extreme and depraved needs. He kidnaps a young couple in the prime of their life together and forces them into a game of torment that slowly extinguishes their hopes for survival. Horrifying, shocking, and sickening, Grotesque is an examination of the most twisted aspect of human nature as well as a test of intestinal fortitude.
*Note for the purpose of this review the Blu-Ray disc of the BD/DVD combo was used*
The only audio track available on this release is a Japanese 2.0 one. Thankfully it is at least a DTS-HD 2.0 track with no dropouts or distortions though given the nature of the title perhaps a bit less clarity for screams and various tools used might have been something of a mercy.
Originally created in 2009 the feature is presented in its 2.35:1 ratio. The film looks to have been transferred to 1080p and it looks pretty good though there is a fairly high level of grain present which actually serves to reinforce the rough nature of the feature. If it looked too slick it would undercut the almost home camera feel that the film has for much of the presentation.
The Blu-Ray/DVD combo case comes in a standard two disc Blu-Ray case with the DVD on one side and the Blu-Ray on the other. The cover features the unnamed doctor/sadist/torturer dressed in green medical scrubs on the left side and a close up of the handles of a number of the blades of his trade in a stainless steel container on the right that has the title over it designed to resemble if it were written in blood complete with smearing. This is all set against a dirty yellow-brown background with red blood spatter over it. The back of the case shows a handful of stills from the feature with all but one showing off some of the horrors to be found within. Both the Blu-Ray and DVD have the same cover as the disc art with only the disc type and region coding info setting them apart at first look.
The main menu plays a number of scenes from the film in 16:9 in a red and orange hue as it cycles through in the background. The titles logo is in the bottom left corner with options for selectable reaching out horizontally after it. The menu is quick to respond to changes as well as to implement them when chosen and it uses the Blu-Ray branching effect for most selections.
There are no extras present on this release.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Writing content for this feature is difficult. Not because of how deep and philosophical the feature is (though there are a few moment where it aspires to achieve these insights) but for the sheer nature of the action in the film. The phrase “torture porn” gets throw around quite a bit of late and this feature would almost certainly meet anyone’s standards for such. A bit of warning as some of the events described are not for the squeamish. Seriously. Last chance. Still here? OK the film contains some of the standard sticking sharp things into people, sawing off limbs and the watching of others getting maimed that seem to be a staple of such films. This one decides to go an extra length by throwing in a pair of rapes, the cutting off of a woman’s nipples and some serious genital mutilation to the tortured male in the film. There are no half measures here and this feature will not sit right with a large percentage of people.
The feature opens as a young couple walk past a small van in which a man waits with a mallet in a low traffic tunnel for an opportunity to pounce on unsuspecting people. The man then transports them back to an undisclosed location that has been completely covered in plastic where the couple both wake to find themselves strapped to tables that are on pivots that allow them to be set in either standing or lying down position. There is a man who looks to be rather well groomed and dignified in manner who asks them which would like to go first. From this point the torture will begin with one of the pair being on the receiving end of his talents as the other is forced to watch.
A flashback to just prior to their encounter with the unnamed man shows that these two have been coworkers for a while though they seem to be in the process of trying to figure out if they will take the plunge into dating or not. There is some awkwardness as Kojima tells Miyashita that he had fallen for her from the moment she started working at the company. This adds a bit more to the tension already at the table but Miyashita doesn’t shoot him down. As they are walking back from the shop where they had coffee they walk into a tunnel with little traffic. Miyashita asks Kojima if he would be prepared to die for her though at this point he has no answer for her but says he’ll try his best. As they walk past an idling van fate may grant him that chance as the man with the mallet steps out and hits them both.
As the man goes about his torture he often puts on classical music and acts in a refined manner. He explains that he has kidnapped the two to see how strong their will to live is as strong displays of the desire are the only way he can feel stimulation. In between brutally injuring them and trying to probe their feelings for each other he shows meticulous care and superb ability to treat even their worst wounds leading to the impression he has a fairly high degree of medical training. Every act he commits will be done in such a way as the other person has to watch as he tries to feel them out. Finally he seems satisfied and claims he will let them go as they have accomplished his goal. He spends some days treating them and claims that he will be taking them to the police and turning himself in once they are capable of walking but is a man capable of doing such acts of brutality capable of keeping his word? And what events in his life might be revealed that even he doesn’t know that have led him to his current situation?
Grotesque is a title that more than lives up to its meaning. From the physical and mental torture the film doesn’t even try to develop characters much. It works to mix horrific elements with a bit of eroticism and just over the top sadism. The two characters are placed into a situation where they may have the power to see the other person live-but at the cost of their own life. The use of the classical music also looks to try to underscore brutality with a trace of culture though pretty much none of it ever rises to the memorable level of the matching music with brutality as the attack in A Clockwork Orange or the “Stuck in the Middle with You” scene from Reservoir Dogs. The film is a touch hit or greatly miss and can leaves one with a number of questions about the possible reasons that the killer acts the way he does if they can make it that far into the film. One also wonders if this movie says more about the society depicted and the mental issues of some of its inhabitants or the possible real life moral implications of a society that begets the creation of a work such as this and those who consume it.
Grotesque is a title that more than lives up to its name. It is a brutal tale of torture, sadism as well as of the human spirit when under the worst of conditions at best and utter torture porn at its worst. This is a title only those who already know how they feel about this type of sub genera should seek out as it doesn’t do anything in half measures. There are some moral and philosophical questions one can raise about what the story means or is attempting to ask but most of those could be asked without having to see the whole thing. If you are of the persuasion that you like as little story as possible in this type of film the ethical stuff can be passed over and it can be watched just for the gruesome scenes. It is strongly recommended that if you are not already a fan of this type of film you show caution in approaching it as it is a fairly twisted piece of work. The grade assigned reflects that ambiguity that the film plays with in its message and it is likely most viewers will relate to the lower score.
Mania Grade: B-/D-
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Behind the scenes Featurette, Production Stills, Promotional Trailer
Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.