EXAFM 2016: The PRINT edition/PDF Version for download!!

If you follow this blog, you know I was doing a film event for extreme Asian films in the month of July. The end result was to be a printed fanzine with all of the reviews that were written in it. I have completed that phase of it. There will be few printed by me, mostly for the contributors and for conventions that I will be attending this month. You can download the PDF for free and print as many as you want (or just read it on screen…). Please spread the link around so all can see it! Download it today!

Hara Kiri Extreme Asian Films one shot 2016 PDF



EXAFM 2016 Day 31: Organ (1996)

Organ (1996) film thoughts… Another one of those films I “heard” about but never was able to see. Thankfully, I was able to find one online new for a few bucks. To try and even explain most of what is going on would be a disservice to everyone. It begins with a couple of plainclothes cops infiltrating a illegal organ harvesting operation. One dies and his body is stolen by a biologist who is conducting weird experiments between plants and humans (he also seems to like his young female High School students to die for progress…) The main story is the cop who survived looking for his partner’s body and to eliminate the rest of the organ harvesters. Believe me, much, much more goes on….

Right off the bat, I loved this film especially the choppy editing and use of blown out film stock. It’s gory, gooey, has loads of extreme violence and sex (many times together) & has many artistic moments throughout…all need to be seen to be believed. The score is strange because it has a light feel, it hits you most when you are watching scenes of utter depravity. Death is a luxury in Organ.

I don’t have much else to say but to see it. It’s a perfect combination of art house and gore which many Japanese directors are well know for. This one will stay with you for a bit.

EXAFM 2016 Day 24: Battle Royale (2001) review by Jon Weidler

[121 minutes. Unrated. Director: Kinji Fukasaku]

You gotta hand it to Asian schoolkids: they could be the most resilient, adaptable human beings walking the Earth today.

Seriously: Sin City notwithstanding, how often do you see bodies riddled with a dozen bullets at close range, that somehow bounce back to fight some more (even delivering profound parting words before shuffling off this mortal coil)?

When SkyNet was considering its design for Terminators, the tech department probably had Battle Royale streaming on an endless loop.

While all of Internet Geekdom has caught fire lately with nit-picking, ultimately meaningless “chicken-or-the-egg” arguments comparing the adaptation of a certain popular young-adult novel to this rip-roaring, fire-on-all-cylinders Japanese import, the Bottom Line is this:

Battle Royale is an astonishing piece of cinema. And The Hunger Games, for all its derivative elements, remains a compelling read.

And this is coming from someone who finds most offerings of Asian cinema slow, dry, and preoccupied with style over substance. Sure, the films may be postcard-pretty to look at, or plumb depths of imaginative horror that Americans are tone-deaf toward…but 9 times out of 10, the feeling I’m left with is one of alienation, something that may well be the result of my own cultural background.

In any case: Battle Royale is still an astonishing piece of cinema, and easily refutes some of the above paragraph.

If you can discern the tongue-in-cheek satire piercing the violent hard edges of Paul Verhoeven’s films (think Robocop and Starship Troopers), you will be right at home here.

The setup is ingenious, done in rapid-fire voice-over during the opening credits, cutting right to the chase: it’s The Future. Unemployment is at an all-time high. Youth are rebelling against the educational establishment. The Government decides to subsidize a macabre televised contest where a class of 42 high-school students is set loose on a deserted island.

The objective? Kill or be killed. With room for only a single winner, Battle Royale is a free-for-all hybrid of “The Most Dangerous Game,” Lord of the Flies, and an elaborate Monty Python sketch (I tend to say that about any movie that takes the bloodletting to comical extremes; I really have to find a new comparison).

And what the hell: let’s throw in some John Hughes-style teen angst and romance!

I had always been aware of the film’s cult reputation, but was never curious enough to actually view it until recently. The experience was therefore untainted by spoilers or anything beyond a basic plot outline.

And by the time I got to the end credits, I was so glad.

Battle Royale is a grueling, visceral experience that caught me in its spell from start to finish. The less said about the actual plot and character turns, the better, but for a film that daringly juggles disparate tones, emotions, and stylistic flourishes, I couldn’t help but wonder how this all didn’t go disastrously wrong.

I laughed. I thrilled. My emotions stirred. I was left in aural rapture by well-known classical pieces used in painfully ironic and dramatic ways. And I was ultimately shaken to my foundations. Battle Royale is an absurd, spot-on metaphor for the battleground that is High School.

And so much more.

Just see it.

Jonny Numb’s Rating: 8.5 out of 10
(This is a slightly revised version of a review that was originally uploaded to my blog, Numbviews (numbviews.livejournal.com) on April 4, 2012.)

EXAFM 2016 Day 22: KICHIKU DAI ENKAI (1997) review by William D. Prystauk

Also known as BANQUET OF THE BEASTS, the movie is based upon the Asama-Sanso Incident. During a ten-day siege in 1972 at Karuizawa, members of the United Red Army (URA) turned against themselves, resulting in a blood bath. And in KICHIKU DAI ENKAI, the blood bath’s ultimately explored at great lengths.

Some may trash Kazuyoshi Kumakiri’s film as a slow moving student project, but that’s overly harsh. The movie is slow in a very arthouse sort of way, and what sometimes seems to be an homage to David Lynch, yet this does not mean the characters are any less compelling, even if the story lacks a bit of substance.

In KICHIKU DAI ENKAI, a political group waits for their leader’s triumphant return from prison. In the meantime, his girlfriend, played by Sumiko Mikami in her only film role, keeps the home fires burning by having sex with the guys in the crew and bullying them. Ultimately, she snaps, which leads to torture, blood, muck, rape, penal removal, and even more carnage.

The acting’s strong, the special makeup effects are quite impressive, and the film certainly ends up fittingly in the category of “extreme horror” and “disturbing cinema” – thanks to a few compelling scenes, especially one involving Mikami at the mercy of a fellow cohort and a ready to blast shotgun.

In a way, much like George Lucas’s THX 1138 (1971), KICHIKU DAI ENKAI attracted others upon Kumakiri’s graduation from film school, and he has gone on to helm eighteen more feature film projects. Granted, he’s not a multi-millionaire out to destroy his original work, but this film brought the young director much recognition in his native Japan.

Before I had learned about the link to the aforementioned URA incident, I was enamored on a thematic level, and thought Kumakiri chose to comment on his generation and its lack of vision thanks to an overwhelming sense of apathy and a general disdain for the status quo. With the climax, it seemed to be a comment that the disintegration of intellectual youth would lead to a bloody end to the great island nation. Then again, even without the tie in to actual events, the themes hold up, as well as the director’s fear for Japan’s future.

KICHIKU DAI ENKAI may not be perfect, mostly due to pace and some issues regarding narrative structure, but the movie will not disappoint those who enjoy violence and gore – or want to see one of those films labeled as “forbidden fruit” by the masses.

EXAFM 2016 Day 21: Outrage (2010) Review by Jonny Numb

[109 minutes. R. Director: Takeshi Kitano]

In the mid-‘90s, Hollywood had an infatuation with cherry-picking the prolific action stars of Asian cinema and priming them for Stateside stardom. Audiences fell in love with Jackie Chan with Rumble in the Bronx. Chow Yun-Fat (from John Woo’s best films, The Killer and Hard Boiled) headlined stuff like The Replacement Killers and The Corruptor. And Jet Li landed the villain role in Lethal Weapon 4: Too Old for this Shit. While this trio had a good run at the box office and on home video later, one of the more curious – not to mention fleeting – Hollywood acquisitions was that of Takeshi Kitano (who, as an actor, goes by the pseudo-pseudonym Beat Takeshi).

1995’s Johnny Mnemonic will forever have a place in my sentimental heart, as it is one of the first R-rated movies I saw theatrically. A financial flop with a script about 2 decades ahead of its time (the dystopian world it presents – set in Newark, of all places – would transfer gracefully to a NetFlix original series these days), it nonetheless carries an unexpectedly generous 5.6-star average on the IMDb. In that film, Kitano played Takahashi, the CEO of a sinister pharmaceutical company; an older actor at the time, his presence was relegated to lurking in the margins for most of the 96-minute run time. He did possess a distinctive stoicism and physical presence that went toward giving his character hints of dimension missing from the script.

Watching Kitano in Outrage, a completely different kind of film, one sees the passage of time manifesting in ways that complement both his character and the story overall. With piercing dark eyes and a mouth that seems permanently fixed in a sarcastic half-smirk, Kitano possesses the stocky physical frame well-suited to a ruthless gangster. Yet, for as formidable as his directorial prowess is (he also wrote the script), he doesn’t possess the looks and presence of a conventional leading man – his closest Stateside corollary would be Harvey Keitel, whose grizzled, character-actor looks betray a ferocious commitment to craft that is always at odds with Hollywood’s generic notions of what a “protagonist” should be (and thus why his presence gels so well with the likes of outliers and risk-takers like Abel Ferrara and Quentin Tarantino).

Kitano also proves more than capable as a director, bringing scenes of action and ultraviolence to the screen in bold and sometimes unexpected ways. I tried taking notes on the plot of Outrage, but found it a losing battle. The important takeaway is: two factions of the yakuza find themselves embroiled in a turf war, with the “Chairman” (Soichiro Kitamura, a dead ringer for Mao Zedong) of organized crime pulling the strings. It’s all needlessly convoluted, and in the early going, it’s sometimes hard to discern who’s working for whom (perhaps that is Kitano’s deliberate commentary on the conformity and ever-shifting allegiances of cold-blooded criminals in fitted suits).

The violence is slick and impactful in Outrage, from an early scene of a man’s face being slashed with a boxcutter, to a mob boss’s mouth being mutilated (in a dentist’s chair, no less). Like Takashi Miike’s cinematic experiments in cruelty, Kitano has a knack for presenting the aftermath of these brutal injuries with a sense of the poetic, coupled with the type of slight exaggeration one might find in a surreal horror film (the apparatus the mouth-injured boss wears, for instance, looks like something out of Audition or Ichi the Killer). Clearly, this is a world where actions speak louder than words.

Kitano has fun toying with potentially clichéd characters, and while certain performances veer into camp territory, it is always for a purpose. I particularly liked Ishihara (Ryo Kase), a young beanpole in glasses who looks like the least threatening of the Ikemoto Family, but is prone to fits of ferocious brutality; he also occasionally lapses into English, much to the surprise of those playing off his assumed ignorance of the language. The mob bosses themselves come across as middling old men who spend too much time at the spa, or gambling in casinos run by their own clan. With the fickle way the power structure is presented, it’s little wonder that Otomo (Kitano) and his crew starts to get fed up with being low men on the totem pole. Despite the fact that none of the characters engender much audience sympathy, they certainly function as corollaries to the working stiffs watching their “screw-The-Man” exploits.

Jonny Numb’s Rating: 7 out of 10

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EXAFM 2016 Day 20: Tormented (2011) review by Michael E. Wilson

It must be said at the outset that one man’s Extreme Asian Cinema is another man’s Julie Andrews Film Festival. As one who tends to avoid films loaded down with graphic violence and buckets of (hopefully fake) blood, my concept of “extreme” is no doubt quite different than someone with a higher tolerance for the glories of gore. However, in the last few years I’ve begun to appreciate horror films from Japan, especially those from directors Takashi Shimizu (JU-ON, THE GRUDGE), and Kiyoshi Kurosawa (KAIRO aka PULSE). Although these films contain a certain amount of violence, they tend to rely more on mood, atmosphere and dark, horrific imagery to provide viewers with chills and thrills. With his 2011 3D release, TORMENTED, Shimizu continued his legacy with a work that combines the expected creepy atmosphere and imagery with a disturbing element: the victims of the horror are children.

The story concerns Kiriko (Hikari Mitsushima), a young girl who lives with her father, Kohei (Teruyuki Kagawa) and her little half-brother, Daigo (Takeru Shibuya). Kohei is a creator of pop-up books for children. Kiriko has suffered some sort of trauma that has left her unable to speak. She is very protective toward Daigo and worried about him, especially since he inexplicably killed a rabbit that was being raised by the children at their school. Kohei seems too preoccupied to share Kiriko’s concerns about her brother. One night Kiriko takes Daigo to the 3D horror film THE SHOCK LABYRINTH, and a stuffed rabbit comes out of the screen into Daigo’s arms. Daigo begins having strange dreams where he is taken to an amusement park by a giant rabbit. At first, the rabbit is friendly and they have fun at the park. But soon the rabbit’s appearance changes, becoming menacing and threatening. The rabbit leads Daigo into an abandoned hospital where he sees a vision of a woman bleeding and dying on a gurney.

Kiriko tries desperately to communicate with her father about Daigo’s nightmares. Her father reacts in anger and tells her to stop her delusions. After this, Kiriko begins to remember events that she had repressed. A few years ago her father brought home a new wife, Kyoko, who was pregnant. Kiriko was unable to accept her new stepmother and became increasingly angry and agitated. One day her father took her to an amusement park. While riding on the carousel, she is surprised by Kyoko, dressed up as a giant rabbit. Kyoko gives her step-daughter a stuffed rabbit as a gift. Kiriko pushes Kyoko away, causing her to fall and go into premature labor. At a nearby hospital, Kyoko dies along with her infant son. Kiriko, in her guilt and grief, has imagined that the baby had lived. Daigo has been a creation of her delusional mind. It was Kiriko having the dreams, Kiriko who killed the rabbit at her school. She has been living in fear of Kyoko coming back for revenge.

In spite of regaining her memory, Kiriko continues to see Daigo. One day he leads her to the abandoned hospital where Kyoko and her baby died. Daigo stabs Kiriko and pushes her down a stairwell to her death. At the film’s end, Kohei is seen walking hand in hand with his little son, Daigo.

This film is graced with an outstanding performance by actress Hikari Mitsushima, and the other actors are equally convincing, making the surreal, somewhat convoluted plot, believable. There is such an overriding feeling of sadness and dread throughout the film, achieved mainly by the incredible cinematography and set design. Our first look at the amusement park in Daigo’s dream features a brief shot of dazzling beauty. But the beauty is swiftly replaced with a darkness that permeates everything else in the film. Shimizu uses scenes from his own film THE SHOCK LABYRINTH as the movie-within-the-movie. The appearance of the giant rabbit of course brings to mind Frank, the mysterious rabbit from DONNIE DARKO. But the difference between the two cinematic hares is quickly established.

Violence is minimal, but the death of Kiriko is, in my mind, worthy of the term “extreme”. Most horror fans would probably disagree.

TORMENTED is worth seeing. It’s imagery, and Miss Mitsushima’s very intense performance, will haunt you. And you will never look at the Easter Bunny in quite the same way.

EXAFM 2016 Day 19: Sodom The Killer (2004)

Sodom The Killer (2004) film thoughts… Can’t even give this a serious review as it is quite possibly the worst “film” I ever sat through in any genre. Two witches curse a king who had them imprisoned and killed for murdering this new bride. The curse follows the ancestors and creates Sodom The Killer, who wants to take over the world with dark arts and science.

OK that’s it. You don’t need to see this unbelievably inept production. How does a film maker make an “extreme” violent film with out bloodshed. There is NO special effects in this one. Guns fire a million bullets, all hitting their targets, no holes. Swords slice, same thing. They use a very obvious rag doll during fight scenes and a train is derailed…it’s a toy train. If this was supposed to be a joke, I didn’t get it, especially when they are selling this as some dark ass shit.

Literally the worst. The film makers and all the actors should have been dragged out of their homes and beaten after making this.