|Andrew reviews Takashi Miike's bizarro freakout, Gozu.|
Takashi Miike remains at the forefront of extreme and surreal Japanese horror. From the breach of contract finale concluding Audition to the buckets of blood, gore and blades in Ichi the Killer, the man quite simply is the very definition of a punk rock filmmaker. Blasting away at genres while exploding cliches to both comedic and horrific effect, he's arguably the Japanese equivalent of Paul Verhoeven with a strong dose of David Lynch. Almost always provocative and dangerous, the prolific auteur has since slowed down his output having taken on larger budgets and producing more mainstream fare. But when he was still cranking out straight-to-video V-cinema pictures at a geometric rate, some of his most wildly innovative, outrageously shocking and inspired creations emerged from this breakneck process. While debatable which offering of the bunch is his most challenging and closest to his soul, for my money his purest and densest work yet goes to his 2003 V-cinema turned theatrical horror show Gozu.
|"Where's the bathroom?"|
|"Here I come to save the day!"|
But that's not all there is to this waking nightmare. It's also among Miike's most focused character studies, providing us with a leading man to navigate the madness whose own journey is surprisingly as relatable as it is revealing. The crazier Gozu gets, the closer we find ourselves connecting with Minami's confusion and fear. Some theorists have interpreted Gozu as allegorical for buried guilt over homosexual tendencies, and although a sound interpretation it doesn't explain the seemingly endless series of bizarre and cringe worth transgressions occurring throughout. More than anything, with Gozu Miike has managed to create a fully realized netherworld in broad daylight dripping with unease and tension.
Like the best horror films, it is less interested in gore than the uncanny. Take for instance an abstract visual idea as peculiar as a man with a cow's head licking another man's face. It sounds absurd on paper but in motion it is our worst nightmare come to life. Despite all that's been said, I've essentially explained nothing about the film and the actual act of watching it will provide even fewer answers to the questions it poses. It is a state of mind with many disconnected images that will burrow beneath your skin in summation. Most horror films rely on jump scares with loud sound effects and the archetypical ghost or psycho killer with an axe yet very view manage to create a genuine fear of the unknown.
While clearly the product of Miike's own idiosyncracies, Gozu might actually be his most frightening film for the vistas it manages to inject into our minds. Like any bad dream, it remains unresolved and leaving us to pick up the pieces. Even if you come away from Gozu feeling as though your hands have closed on air, there aren't many J-horror films this warped, deeply disturbing and occasionally oddly hilarious as this one. Whether you can admit to getting Gozu or not, you won't soon forget this nutball shocker after seeing it.
- Andrew Kotwicki