ByPaul Donovan, writer at
A jerk with an opinion. An explorer of transgressive cinema. See more things about movies at
Paul Donovan

In order to stay faithful to the title and concept of the movie, the following article contains images of an extreme nature. Sensitive readers should go do something else.

Having heard good things about this 2009 Japanese movie, I was excited to watch it. And I understand why some people would appreciate the movie. But having seen so many other movies like this, I found it disappointing.

Let's look at the pros and cons of the movie, to help understand why some people may find this to be an effective movie, while others may not.

Pro: The movie is partly an homage to earlier gore films.
Con: It's been done before. There's nothing really original.

J-Horror director Koji Shiraishi wrote and directed this film. It feels a lot like the infamous Guinea Pig series from the 1980's and 1990's. The problem is, some of the scenes in Grotesque seem to be copied straight from those earlier films, I guess in the hopes that today's generation doesn't know about Guinea Pig.

Guinea Pig fans will know this scene.
Guinea Pig fans will know this scene.

Pro: There's almost no story - it doesn't get in the way of the gore.
Con: There's almost no story - it doesn't make you care about the characters

The "plot" is about a newly-dating couple that have fallen in love at first sight. The girl randomly asks the boy if he would die for her. Even though they just met, he says yes. Then they happen to be captured and tortured by a psycho who wants to see how much they want to live. He asks the boy if he would be willing to sacrifice his life for the girl's. He says "yes" because he promised her he would about ten minutes earlier, so the psycho puts him to the test.

We have no clue why the psycho is doing this; he has no backstory. At the very end the movie tosses in a ludicrous attempt at providing some explanation. But it's too little, too late, and too dumb.

The real torture for me wasn't watching the two people slowly being taken apart. No, it was listening to the character dialogue in between the torture. I actually wanted the couple to be mutilated so that I could hear them scream instead of talk. The hospital scene halfway through the movie should be studied in film classes as a case study in bad writing, and clumsy attempts at foreshadowing.

All gore movies require a genital mutilation scene.
All gore movies require a genital mutilation scene.

Pro: The movie is wall-to-wall torture.
Con: The gore effects are not good.

If you're in the mood for blood and body parts, there are plenty in this movie.

Love means wearing your boyfriend's fingers.
Love means wearing your boyfriend's fingers.

But this movie suffers from the same problem as many gore extravaganzas: the filmmakers didn't have enough money or special effects knowledge to make it work like it could have. The body parts in this movie are too rubbery. The blood is too watery. The sound effects are waaay too squishy. Even the sexual assault scenes are unrealistic. I realize I may be jaded, but I was so un-involved in what was going on that by the halfway point, I was literally eating crackers on the couch while studying the camera angles and editing tricks.

Pro: The movie is a nice attempt at keeping torture porn alive.
Con: I don't think the director really understands torture porn.

I think torture porn is a legitimate sub-genre of horror. Some powerful statements about humanity can only be made under extreme circumstances. Plus, for some people like myself, there's a mysterious, almost primal curiosity about watching the explicit destruction of life.

However, this movie feels like Shiraishi just wanted to jump on the bandwagon and make his own entry into the genre, without really getting it. The movie takes itself too seriously in the first half, but it doesn't take itself seriously enough in the second half. The climactic horror of the final assault had me giggling, not squirming.

Yeah, his intestines are attached to a hook.
Yeah, his intestines are attached to a hook.

If you like gore for the sake of gore, then you may enjoy the movie. Otherwise, you can find better things to watch.

I watched the whole film because I admit I'm a gorehound, and I wanted to add the stamp to my collection. And I also admit, there are a few scenes that are legitimately hard to watch. But unless you're a hopeless fan of splatter films, or you want a case study of how not to make a horror movie, there's nothing for you here.

This trailer is Super NSFW.
There's no English translation here. You don't need one.


Will you watch this movie?


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