Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Another Worthless Horror Movie

I don't consider myself a horror movie fan. Amongst all genres it has perhaps the worst signal to noise ratio. For every genuinely good horror movie there are tons which are just plain crap, shamelessly pandering to stupid teenagers and their adult manifestations. The fanboy mentality that generally grows around a horror director doesn't help matters either. One of those cases is the Japanese cult film maker Takashi Miike. I remember being completely floored by his classic Audition when I had seen it a few years back. It still remains perhaps the favourite horror movie of all time for me. After Audition I tried a few of his other movies, none of which replicated its successes, at least for me.

Miike was in news a couple of months back, and I am not talking of the subscribers of the fangoria magazine here. It came in mainstream newspapers. The American cable channel Showtime had commissioned a series called Masters of Horror in which they asked some renowned horror filmamakers to make one hour long independent episodes for the TV series. Some of the episodes created lots of buzz. One of them being the satirical Homecoming in which zombies of US soldiers in Iraq come home to vote in the presidential election. It predictably pissed off the conservative press in the US. Anyway, so Miike was also assigned one of the episodes to direct but when he handed over the final product the series producers developed a fright and refused to air it. So I was generally browsing and came across the bit torrent file of the episode and even though I didn't really want to see it, my curiosity got the better of me. Now after seeing it I realize it was a wastage of time and bandwidth both. It is disgusting (in a bad, unartistic sort of way) and a shoddy piece of work. It made me seriously think how he could make such technical brilliance of Audition look so effortless. Perhaps it was just a fluke.

Imprint basically tells the story of an American who goes to a brothel on an Island to find her long lost love. There he meets a deformed prostitute who tells him the horrific story of what happened to his love, alongwith her own life story. Basically it is like Memoirs of a Geisha plus torture, pedophilia, incest, aborted fetuses, floating corpses of pregnant women etc. Thoroughly unpleasant all the way. Perhaps it was the English language that created problems because it is difficult to explain such hammy acting by the actor playing the role of the American. It was just plain ridiculous. The rest of the cast was good although Japanese people speaking in English definitely struck a discordant note. Subtitles would have worked better perhaps.

One of the main problem I have with most of the horror movies is the way they rely just on horrific images to create the effect. Whereas the true lasting horror comes when you situate those images in a context and invest your characters with real emotional resources. That's where films like Audition succeed and those like Imprint fail. Some social, emotional context would have really helped the movie. As it is now, it is strictly meant for people who equate horror with the depiction of taboo images on screen. See it through your fingers and then forget all about it when the movie ends!

Some links for curious souls: Audition as I said is very highly recommended. Don't read about it if you plan to see it. It is one of those genuinely alarming movies. It manages to combine the best of Lynch, Cronenberg and Polanski, and believe me it is not a hyperbole.
News entry about the canceling of the show.
The IMDb entry of the episode.
And Miike's entry on the wikipedia.
More information about the series.
This PDF file has a fine survey of the history of the genre.

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