Takashi Miike's much anticipated Masters of Horror episode, Imprint has received much press for the torture scene, and now we finally had the chance to watch it on a big screen at the Dead by Dawn Horror Festival.
We were all warned before hand that this would be gruesome and very uncomfortable, and when the audience was quizzed there was only one person who raised their hand to say that they hadn't seen a Miike film before. They were in for a surprise.
It started out quite strangely with the image of the dead floating pregnant corpse was perhaps a sign of things to come.
The story is about an American who is travelling around trying to find the whore he met some time ago and fell in love with. When he comes to a small island built for the very purpose of serving men with their pleasures, he finds someone who reveals she knew his love.
It starts off slowly and as the story progresses we see the beautiful cinematography by Miike. There are some wonderfully framed shots, especially in the backstory and torture scenes, filled with great colours and some very strange effects.
As the night continues, the American questions the woman and we see more and more of the story revealed. It's around this time we come to a typical Miike moment of unpleasantness and he shows us a very uncomfortable torture scene where we are teased with the memories of Audition.
Teased, but not fulfilled, as he shows us new things that can be done with needles as well as burning sticks. These are incredibly powerful and unsettling scenes in which, for the first time this weekend at the Dead by Dawn Horror Festival, I heard groans of unpleasantness from the audience. It definitely had everyone freaked out.
At the same time though, these scenes looked beautiful, it was a wonderful dichotomy. There was something visually alluring about how the women were dressed in red sashes and the way she was hung which was visually very striking.
Yet it didn't end there, for Miike had more in store for us and after the scenes of torture a flashback delivers more moments of special effects horror, with bodies of dead babies. I won't say too much, other than you should find this incredibly disturbing and repulsive, and it marked perfect horror.
However it's here that I felt the story just disappeared from us and turned into something a lot more ridiculous, a cheap B horror movie. Up to this point the horror had been real, and within the human capabilities, perhaps the thing I find the most horrific.
Yet Miike feels the need to take it to the level of absurdity and the horror element becomes an onscreen joke with the audience actually laughing at it, almost relieved that the horror has been put to the side.
This would be fine for a break, just to pull back to rebuild it later in the film, but this level of bizarreness remains and it pushes the levels of believability too far and too quickly. It suddenly goes from slick, deranged horror to bad effects and cheap puppetry.
Add to that the fact that Billy Drago is the actor who plays the American, and his performance becomes as strange as the story. His arms and hands waving as if gesturing some other emotion than the one his words are giving, and his voice screeching off in some strange directions.
The film totally lost me through these sequences and I could feel myself backing away, or rather being pushed away from the story and becoming disengaged. The interest and involvement was gone, and the ending played out while I just watched it wondering why.
This was a shame and spoiled a film I was so looking forward to. Although my expectations were delivered for the most part, they weren't held to the end, and the excellent work done in the early part of the story is ruined and made a mockery of.