With the help of his film producer friend, Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) a middle-aged widower auditions young women in the hopes of finding his new bride. He quickly chooses Asami, played by Eihi Shiina. She really is one of a kind.
It influenced a generation of horror movie makers whose subsequent work pulled us through most of the first decade of the 21st Century and got everyone talking about horror once again, along with all its pesky controversies and creeping boundaries. The climactic torture scene, of course, being the most profoundly inspiring. Severed limbs were all people could whisper about when the SAW franchise began, while the design of that bad-ass undertaker gear is more or less mirrored in the first 2 Hostel films. Sidebar: WTF is up with that cyber-punk in Part III? Even the mystery sack is replaced by a box for its incarnation in The Collector movies.
What makes it all work so well is Takashi’s unconventional setup. In particular, the audition sequence itself. Until things start to take a turn for the dark and sinister, the film could easily be mistaken for a romantic comedy. Although this is clearly not the case, especially with Asami’s soul-chilling stare, it still creates a false sense of the degree of horror that lies ahead. It’s much like an hour of peculiar yet unremarkable space exploration before that almighty chest-buster at the dinner table.
Not everything about this movie works, though. Asami’s defeat is surprisingly quick, as one would assume that this black-hearted queen of torture would have no trouble dispatching a teenaged boy. As the film closes it also makes a play for the audience’s sympathies as Asami’s dying mind flashes back over the words she said during her first date with Aoyama. For me, this scene falls flat on its face. I don’t care how lonely you are, if you’re going to fanny around cutting men’s feet off, the last thing the world is going to do is feel sorry for you!
The sound of that piano wire still makes my teeth hurt.