Monday, 12 January 2015

J-Horror January: Blind Beast (aka Môjû) (1969)

Blind Beast (aka Môjû)(1969)

Director: Yasuzô Masumura
Starring: Eiji Funakoshi, Mako Midori, and Noriko Sengoku
Running Time: 86 min

  I'm pretty jazzed because this film is another adaptation of a story by Edogawa Rampo, who's insane "Horrors of Malformed Men", I just saw the other week.  Also, this is by director Yasuzô Masumura, who has an impressive body of work and is best known for "Double Suicide of Sonezaki" and the sleazy samurai film, "Hanzo the Razor: The Snare" which I really should watch.  Anyway, I hope this is just as good and twisted as "Horrors of Malformed Men" because that sure is a tough act to follow.

  Aki Shima is a model, who recently posed for some sexy "Art" photos and sculptures for a local gallery.  The work has brought a lot of good attention to her and the artist, so he wishes to work with her again and invites her down to the gallery to talk about his new project.  When she arrives at the gallery, she notices a blind man groping and caressing the sculpture of her so intensely that she can feel his fingers all over her body.  She gets an icky feelingthat freaks her out and she runs away from the gallery, missing the appointment with the artist.
  Luckily, she is able to reschedule her appoint with the artist and after a hard day of modelling, she comes home and orders a massage.  When the masseuse arrives, she is surprised that it isn't her regular masseuse and that the man is blind.  No matter, she lies down on the bed and the blind masseuse starts to give her the most awkward massage ever.  He asks her if she is the model from the now famous pictures at the gallery and she says she is, the blind masseuse then gets a little more touchy feely than he is suppose to and she ends up asking him to leave.  Before he does though, he attacks her and chloroforms her mouth!  Once she is knocked out, his mother comes and helps him bring her lifeless body back to his studio.
  When Aki wakes up, she is a dark studio surrounded by enormous sculpted body parts on the walls.  The blind man introduces himself as Michio Sofu and tells her that he is a amateur sculptor and wants her to model for him.  He tells her that he wants to develop a new medium in the art world that focuses on touch and wants her to be his model and his muse.  She refuses and demands to be let go but he tells her that unless she will model for him, that she is never leaving, ever!  Can Aki escape this art school project gone wrong or will she have to submit to this blind man and his nightmarish creations?

  This was a great film, both story wise and visually.  What I really enjoy about these Rampo adaptations is that they lead you down one path and then veer unexpectedly into another.  Not in a jarring or a "whaaaat" kind of way, but in an unsuspectingly smooth transition, that allows you to think that this should be the natural progression of these twisted events.  This film starts out as a simple abduction film, follows that pattern and then turns into a very disturbing fetish picture, with intense pleasure scarring and eventually having limbs being hacked off.  It is as brilliant as it is unsettling and that's what makes it so enjoyable for me.
  Also, visuals in this film are incredible.  I love the studio and how it looks like these characters are in one of Dali's nightmare.  There are enormous ears, eyes, breasts, lips surrounding them and in the middle of the studio is two gigantic sculptures of a woman, one lying on her stomach with the buttocks exposed and the other a nude sitting and leaning back.  Director Yasuzô Masumura uses these sculptures if they were the ground, especially in the end when the characters are mutilating themselves for pleasure and gives the film a very unusual look and feel that one won't ever forget.

  This isn't the usual fare for most horror enthusiast.  We know who the "Beast" is and there isn't a large body count or splashes of blood flying across the screen but there is a very deep psychological terror that lies here and it really comes across at the end of the film.  How far will a person go to get the pleasure that they need.  Like drug addicts, the characters of Aki and Michio are trying every way possible to get that psychical high and are willing to hack and slash their own bodies to achieve that sensation. 
  Also, Masumura tempers is visuals and doesn't show a lot of the mutilation on camera.  He uses the "less is more" technique, where he shows the action about to happen and then cuts to a close up of the face in agony or another object which represents the injury to their body.  This doesn't take anything away from the film but some fans expecting a lot of gore and blood may be disappointed.

 However, this is a great movie and must see for anyone who enjoys horror movies from Japan.  It has a bizarre and twisted story, an unbelievable setting with enormous sculpted body parts and ending that will make you wince.  So, if you're looking for a terrifying tale from the art world, besides you're brother in law Steve's mountain of beer cans, then search no further for this sadistic sculptor in a frenzy of fear!

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