This was my first personal foray into the seedy underbelly of Japanese fetish cinema, aside from a vomit-fetish porn I stumbled across while looking for Harry Potter books online once. And I must confess, before viewing it I had no idea there was a whole and distinct sub-genre of horror dealing exclusively with ritualistic suicide, otherwise known as Harakiri. Just another reason why I love Japanese cinema, those crazy bastards just have no boundaries when it comes to inappropriate shit. I'll simply refer to it as “art house snuff”, that has a nice ring to it and gives it an air of integrity.
This film is two separate but loosely connected vignette's, each forty five minutes in length. The stories (if you can call them that) are different in as far as the reasoning behind the act is concerned. In story one a woman has lost her beloved, she sits weeping next to a folded military uniform and hat for about 7 minutes, the scene then cuts to the girl on her knees in a silk robe with a Harakiri blade lying in front of her. The next fifteen to twenty minutes are spent with the camera on the girl as she picks up the blade, caresses it, rubs it across her body and uses it to disrobe herself. This is all done in complete silence. Finally, after what seems like an eternity, the girl finally runs the blade across her belly. The next twenty minutes or so is spent watching the girl moan and groan and slowly bleed out. She writhes about and generally makes a mess of the place before finally expiring in a bloody heap, with the camera lingering over and seeming to truly relish in the resulting carnage left in the wake of the act.
The second story features the same girl, Yurri Sunohara, only she's playing a different role. In this one she is a schoolgirl, complete with Sailor Moon school uniform. There is haunting and foreboding music in the background as she sits on the floor looking at a picture book. Inside the book are photos from the first film, showing a bloody girl lying on the floor. She seems to be transfixed by the images and ultimately aroused, as she alternately caresses the photos and then her own body. I guess this was the “contemplation phase” of the story, it goes on for about ten minutes and then fades out. The scene then cuts to the girl in the same sitting position as before, with the blade lying in front of her. Its basically a repeat of the first story from here on out, with the one difference being this girl hasnt committed the act in the name of honor as before, she is doing it for pure twisted morbid pleasure. Her dying moans have an air of arousal to them, and she doesnt just gut herself like a fish, she takes the time to reach in, pull out and play with her intestines before dropping over dead. Oh those wacky, lovable Japanese!
This was a completely different type of viewing experience for me as a horror fan. Being conditioned to rapid-fire images, dialogs, story-lines and things of that nature, it was a bit difficult and at times uncomfortable having to watch a single image for so long. Getting to the money-shot in each story was excruciatingly slow, and I didnt realize until afterwords that these stories are set up identically to a porn shoot. You've got the fore-play at the beginning with the girl viewing the images and running the blade across her body, and then you've got the act of penetration followed by the aforementioned “money shot” involving H copious bloodletting. Which led me to the most uncomfortable feeling this movie gave me, the thought that there are most assuredly people out there who get off watching this kind of stuff.
Was it enjoyable and entertaining? In my opinion, not in the slightest. Was it shocking, disturbing and even repulsive? Absolutely.
And although I don't think this is something that I would seek out in the future, there is no doubt there were moments when I was completely hypnotized by what I was watching. It is definitely different from the normal horror-fare we are used to seeing, and who knows, maybe it will scratch your itch if you've become jaded and bored with the mainstream western horror scene.