Updated: Sep 23, 2021
Writer/Director: Takashi Hirose
Starring: Butch, Ayano, Sugiura Asami & Katrina Grey.
In 2005 Eli Roth’s Hostel gave rise to the term, Torture Porn. I’ve stated before that it’s not a genre title that I’m keen on. What I don’t like about it, in particular, is that as porn is by definition something that is designed to elicit sexual arousal, combining it with the word ‘torture’ just demeans and diminishes the whole thing. It implies that the viewer is getting off sexually by seeing someone being maimed and mutilated.
For me, it was a term that implied there was something depraved about being a horror fan and regardless of the content of the movie, the term started to get thrown around with casual abandon. Saw fell under the label, yet there is nothing sexual that occurs in it. There’s blood, gore and yes, torture, but porn? Nope.
However, there is the odd movie in which the term Torture Porn would actually be apt.
If anyone has seen the 1988 Japanese film, Niku Daruma, which roughly translates as Tumbling Doll of Flesh and is also known as Psycho the Snuff files, then you'll get an idea of what I mean.
That movie starts off as porn, but being a Japanese film, everyone has pixels for genitalia. It’s like watching Lego blocks being smashed together. The actress has a disagreement about what occurs in some of the scenes and decides to leave at which point she gets hit in the head with a baseball bat, dismembered and even gets raped in a freshly created wound.
It’s not a jolly film.
The reason I mention it though is not just because it is one of the only films that accurately falls into the Torture Porn label but because when that term was being coined, Japan gave us the movie Grotesque in 2009.
It’s as if writer/director Kôji Shiraishi heard the term torture porn and decide that it was time to up the stakes.
Grotesque runs at only around 73 minutes, but 60 of them are pretty much just endless torture. In fact, Grotesque was pretty much just torture for the sake of it with only the most paper-thin premise holding it all together.
Love them or hate them though, these ultra-gory titles have slowly been disappearing over the years, pushing horror more into the mainstream again with titles like, It, A Quiet Place and Get Out being seen by viewers who aren’t primarily horror fans. Now obviously, that’s not a bad thing and as enjoyable and well-crafted those films may be, sometimes I just crave something as bloodthirsty and gory as possible.
Just I was beginning to think nothing would scratch that itch before the end of the year, Brutal appeared.
Supposedly visceral, gory and sick, this seemed to be just what I was looking for.
Split into chapters, the first chapter is simply titled “Man” and also happens to be the only thing that the character is known as.
Man (Butch) is a killer. There is no build-up here, he's simply introduced by way of him killing off his prisoners and the movie doesn’t lay off in letting you know that things are going to be unpleasant.
I might not have the same anatomy, but I can tell you now that I felt my groin flinch after Man stabs one of his victims in the vagina with a large knife, before then jamming a screwdriver into her jaw.
Once he’s finished his murdering, the work doesn’t end there as Man has to chop up the body parts, cook some of them down for easier disposal and keep a few other select chunks in a bin bag so that he can mash them down good and proper with a hammer.
The second chapter, titled “Woman” introduces us to the second killer of the story and much like Man, Woman (Ayano) seems just as deranged and eager to stab members of the opposite sex in their tender regions.
Mind you, one of Woman’s victims I was kind of hoping she’d deal with as he was a creepy bastard who thinks it’s OK to approach a woman and start making up a godawful rap about her and trying to think that this would impress her in any way whatsoever.
Christ, I wanted to stab him at that point.
The final chapter, “Man and Woman” brings these two killers together with neither of them knowing just how alike they are and they both see the other as yet another victim.
I’m not going to spoil for you whether they find a mutual understanding and live happily ever after in a ‘the family that slays together stays together’ kind of way, or whether they instantly take a disliking to one another and chop each other up into itty bitty pieces because that’s something you need to discover for yourselves.
You see there is so much more going on than just violence for the sake of it and unlike Grotesque, Brutal is actually quite a thoughtful movie.
Philosophical even as it delves into the differences between men and women and also, what binds them together.
Brutal is violent and is likely to turn people off in the first five minutes, but for those that stick with it, I think you'll find something much more rewarding here.
The movie forgoes violence for the sake of it and tries to be thoughtful as well.
There is a grainy element added to the image throughout, similar to that which was used when Grindhouse was released and suddenly everyone took an interest in making a ‘70s style exploitation or splatter movie but it doesn’t detract from the film.
Some nice elements join chapters together, such as the homeless man that Man and Woman encounter and the man who is in each chapter sweet-talking the ladies with his philosophical musings. I’m not sure though how much he believes his talk of how “Men are weak and only act strong because that’s what women expect of them.” Or if it’s just what he spouts off to get in someone’s pants.
I’ve already said that I won’t spoil the ending, and I think some viewers would find it a little silly out of context.
If I was to say what happens, it would most likely sound daft, but within the movie itself, it felt satisfying.
Before making Brutal, Writer/Director Takashi Hirose made a few short films including, Moratorium which also starred Butch and Asami.
This looks to be his first feature and based on this, I really hope we see more from him.
Both Butch and Ayano put in great performances with the only fault in the movie being that sometimes a character’s reaction to the injury they’ve received doesn’t quite seem to be strong enough.
Remember the lady I mention who gets stabbed somewhere really unpleasant?
Well, she pretty much just cries whilst that happens.
It needed a little bit more to make the actions and reactions match.
Asami was very underused in a ‘blink and you’ll miss her’ moment which was a little disappointing considering how well known she is for her roles in titles such as Machine Girl, Helldriver and the Rape Zombie series.
Similarly, it’s hard to say much about Katrina Grey’s performance because outside of the two main characters, the majority of everyone else that’s in the movie is there to scream and die.
And it seems a little weird even for me to tell someone that they did a great job of screaming and dying because then I sound like the murderous weirdo.
Brutal lives up to its name and is unflinchingly brutal at times and it certainly won’t be for everyone due to that. However, if that’s not an issue for you, there’s a pretty good film here that manages to be as thought-provoking as it is bloody.
The film is available from Unearthed films who you can find here:
You can also find it on amazon using this link: