Thursday, June 30, 2011

New York Asian Film Festival 2011 Review: Jun Tsugita's "Horny House of Horror"

Horny House of Horror (Fasshon heru). 2010. Written and directed by Jun Tsugita. Produced by Hideomi Nagahama and Shin Hayasaka. Cinematography by Shin Hayasaka. Edited by Katsutoshi Usa and Jun Tsugita. Music by Piranha Orchestra. Art direction by Ryuji Hayakawa.

Cast: Saori Hara, Asami, Mint Suzuki, Yuya Ishikawa, Toushi Yanagi, Wani Kansai, Akira Murota, Demo Tanaka, Takashi Nishina.

(Note: this review has been cross-posted on VCinema.)

Jun Tsugita’s pink film/horror hybrid Horny House of Horror goes all Grand Guignol on us with its absurdly copious amounts of blood, which sprays with frequency and gleeful abandon.  As such, the film makes full use of the talents of gore effects master Yoshihiro Nishimura (Tokyo Gore Police) to relate its tale of three hapless friends who fall into the clutches of the titular trap for randy male customers.  There is a soupcon of social commentary here, mostly dealing with the euphemistic nature of the sort of sex parlor that the film satirizes; as the animated opening tells us, these happy-ending massage emporiums are called “fashion health” centers to get around Japan’s anti-prostitution laws.  The film’s Japanese title, Fashion Hell, is a play on words: “hell”/”health.”  The purpose of this down-and-dirty, quickie exploitation flick (albeit given a 21st century digital sheen), is fairly straightforward: to titillate with its abundant female flesh, and to keep us in awe at how creatively flesh can rend and tear on screen.  As a horror film, it’s not really all that horrifying: there’s too much of a jocular air for that.  Much of the carnage is directed toward the vulnerable male member, the special target of the homicidal sex workers of the massage parlor.

The three victims are friends and amateur baseball players Nakazu (Yuya Ishikawa), Toshida (Wani Kansai), and Uno (Toushi Yanagi).  Nakazu has recently gotten married, and his friends incessantly rib him because of the cell-phone based short leash his wife keeps him on.  He professes to be a loyal and devoted husband, yet he doesn’t argue too strenuously when his friends drag him to Shogun, the massage parlor that will in short order become an insane charnel house of atrocity.  The three are matched up with Nagisa (Saori Hara), Nonoko (Asami), and Kaori (Mint Suzuki), the three girls of the house.  The pre-credits sequence shows Nagisa in action with another unfortunate client, who is subjected to a variation of sushi roll dining involving the man’s penis.  Think a variation of the denouement of In the Realm of the Senses (1976), but placed at the very beginning.  The three women are tasked with collecting the penises of their clients by their boss who monitors them through closed-circuit TV surveillance, for a reason that is never specified.  Much like Nakazu, who is slightly less of a pervert than his friends, Nagisa, the newbie sex worker, manages to retain the conscience and revulsion toward her work that her co-workers completely lack.  As the men very quickly cotton to the horrible predicament they have gotten themselves into, Nagisa switches sides and battles to escape from her workplace/prison.

The playing is as broad here as one would expect; Shakespearean-caliber performances are definitely not called for.  Hara, however, whose background is in hardcore pornography, gives some unexpected gravity to her character.  Asami, a veritable veteran of these kinds of films by now, is the force-of-nature spitfire she usually is, her tough-girl pose and her guttural screaming always fun to watch.  Tsugita, the screenwriter of Mutant Girls Squad (2010) making his directorial debut, delivers the sex-and-gore goods with maximum efficiency and minimum fuss.

A midnight movie if there ever was one, Horny House of Horror screens at exactly that time on July 1 (with a second screening on July 12 at 10:15pm), preceded by Makooto Ohtake’s short film Dark on Dark.  For tickets, visit the New York Asian Film Festival or the Film Society of Lincoln Center websites.

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