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Review © Mandi Apple, 2007.
Directed by Daisuke Yamanouchi, 1999, 68 mins., starring Hiroshi Kitasenju, Shiina Nagamori, Mayumi Ookawa and Yuuki Tsukamoto.

PLEASE - If you are of a nervous disposition, or under the legal age limit to view the equivalent of NC-17 rated movies, do not proceed any further down this page. You will find images of an extremely graphic and violent nature on this page. If you do not wish to proceed, click here or on any link on the left to exit.


Made in 1999, and thanks in part to Unearthed Films' laudable work in bringing Daisuke Yamanouchi's movies to a wider audience, the notorious Red Room (aka the rather less catchy Akai misshitsu (heya): Kindan no ôsama geemu) has risen right to the top of its field and become one of the best-known titles in the genre. Rather than being the horrific all-out gorefest that most people might have pegged it as being, it's trashy, sleazy, exploitative, light-hearted blood-splattered fun. Compared to something as hardcore as Tamakichi Anaru's hideous Niku Daruma, there is no contest as to which is the more enjoyable film to watch for the casual gore fan. However, it's not necessarily indicative of Yamanouchi's style: his splatter/sleaze repertoire runs a fairly wide gamut, from the seriousness of his reportage gore fantasy Muzan E, to the utterly bonkers Kyoko vs. Yuki. Red Room seems to fit rather neatly inbetween those two polarities: it's mostly a fun bit of featherweight fluff.

For a long-buried gore piece, something which normally does not ensure great quality in either visuals or sound, it's actually pretty slick: it's remarkably well-shot given what must have been a somewhat low budget, with interesting composition, the occasional arty shot and a fairly atmospheric, albeit unintrusive, soundtrack. The one thing I do have to point out is the utter ludicrousness of the sound effects: even right from the start they are pretty stomach-churning and (possibly intentionally) amusing: when two of the characters are French-kissing, it sounds rather more like a broken vacuum cleaner trying to suck up dead fish than a couple of young ladies snogging.

The acting quality isn't bad, either: the characterisations may be nothing more than 2D cartoony sketches, but even so, Yamanouchi makes the players' stories interesting and frequently laugh-out-loud funny, and the cast carry themselves well.

Most interestingly of all, though, again Yamanouchi defies popular perception of how misogynistic adult video titles usually are. As with Muzan E, his strongest, most determined and most all-round ballsy character is a woman. In point of fact, the female characters are portrayed, if not exactly as pleasant characters, at least as gutsy survivors, whereas the main male character is shown as a submissive, pitiful loser whose only way of asserting himself is by sexually dominating the female characters. That is quite some departure from conventional AV character drawing, and one for which Yamanouchi should be roundly applauded.

Synopsis

"This won't be any ordinary game..."

Red Room has a very basic plot, but a clever one, at that: four participants in a new extreme reality show, "The King Game", are locked in a small, red-lit room lined with plastic sheeting, and have to take turns drawing cards from a deck. Whoever draws the king card is allowed to order two of the other participants to get into a cage and do whatever they command. There are no other rules, other than each player should try to make the others give up by ordering them to commit acts which they may well refuse to perform. If they bottle out or don't perform the "king"'s order properly, they are disqualified from the game. The last player standing takes home 10 million yen in prize money.

It's a pretty simple premise, but it offers a wealth of possibilities for perversion, torture, deviance and mutilation. The players are all driven by mostly two incentives: avarice or desperation, and there are seemingly no depths of depravity and cruelty to which they will not sink in their bid to win. Their personalities are either pathetic, or plain obnoxious, drawing the viewer into a mischievous, vicarious and slightly guilty enjoyment of watching them kick the crap out of each other.

Initially, we are introduced to the four contestants of this particular game.

-The first player: Hiromi, a 17 year old schoolgirl with a peculiarly jaded and unpleasant attitude, who just wants the money.

-The second player: Togashi Isawa, a rather nervous man in his thirties, married with children, whose business collapsed, leaving him with a 10 million yen debt - hence his participation in the game.

-The third player: Togashi Masako, Isawa's wife who is being pursued to the point of suicide by debt collectors.

-The fourth player: Yoshino Kanako, 27 years old, an office worker who is willing to suffer pretty much any degradation to get the money.

The players are given a box full of - well, if not exactly weapons, then props of a kind: somewhat mundane items which, given a little imagination and creativity, could prove to be capable of inflicting all kinds of nasty on the other players. The game starts off fairly slowly, as you might imagine: Isawa is the first 'king' and orders Kanako and Hiromi to suck each other's faces off, which they do, quite easily and without much protest.

Kanako draws the second winning card, and her order is a little less pleasant: she has Isawa tie Hiromi to an office chair and spin her around for five minutes straight - something which would cause even the most stable and calm of folk to lose their lunch fairly unequivocally. And so it goes with Hiromi, who does the most wonderful bit of projectile vomiting I've seen since Linda Blair let rip in The Exorcist ;-)

In the meantime, the players are starting to use some major psychological tactics against each other. Masako tries to get Kanako to quit with emotional blackmail, threatening to kill herself and all her children; Hiromi takes a different tack, trying to persuade the others to give up because she thinks it's all a con and they won't get the prize money anyway. As the game progresses, the "tasks" that the increasingly desperate and vicious players devise become more and more evil, and the depths of depravity to which they sink seem to know no limits - but who will come out on top, and what has happened to their victims?

Make no mistake, there is absolutely nothing of any depth or worth about Red Room, and in context, that really doesn't matter a bit. Simply put, it's an eye-watering, nasty, entertaining, thoroughly dumb bit of gross-out fun, something to whack on the DVD player with your mates when you've had a few too many, there's no porn on telly and you're too twatted to watch anything that requires mental effort. The story is 100% lightweight and the characters are so horrid and awful you'll be mostly laughing and cringing at what Yamanouchi dishes out to them. The whole piece clocks in at just over an hour long; it never outstays its welcome, and it never drags.

That's not to say, however, that there aren't any unpleasant or difficult to watch moments in the entire movie. Yamanouchi is clearly very deft at handling plot dynamics: like Takashi Miike, he can switch between Tom and Jerry-style cartoon violence and unnervingly realistic brutality without missing a beat, which gives Red Room the occasional genuinely chilling moment. Interestingly also, the movie features a great deal less gore than you might imagine, in much the same way that Yamanouchi relied on very small amounts of the red stuff in Muzan E and got the very most mileage out of the limited gore he used by featuring it in the most unpleasant ways possible. Here, again there is precious little in the way of rivers of gore and guts: instead, Yamanouchi creates incredibly clever, sharp and genuinely repulsive scenarios without having to resort to the cheap splatter techniques of lesser AV-horror directors. Thanks to this, some very inventive scenes and some truly hilarious moments (including one particularly astonishing character revelation that had me in stitches), Red Room is a real scream, a pop-culture gem and an essential addition to any gore fan's collection.

Snowblood Apple Rating for this film:

Entertainment value: 8/10
Sex: 10/10, for quantity rather than quality
Gore: 9/10
Violence: 9/10
Laughs: 7/10
Plastic Sheeting: never, ever, ever, ever a good sign in an AV-horror film ;-)
Lightbulb: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!/10
Litres of tomato ketchup: Surprisingly less than you might imagine, though one character gets a faceful of Cream of Tomato Soup near the end ;-)

Films in a similar style: Stacy, He Never Dies, Ichi the Killer, Visitor Q

*** Recommended for those of an unsqueamish nature ***

Red Room Wallpaper
please note: the actual paper does not have the Snowblood Apple logo on it.

You can download this wallpaper here: [800x600] [1024x768]
Wallpaper credit: Alex Apple, 2007

Snowblood Apple Filmographies

Daisuke Yamanouchi

Links

http://www.unearthedfilms.com/ - The movie's been officially released by Unearthed Films, who have done a brilliant job bringing obscure gems like this to a wider audience. Good on you, Unearthed!
http://www.twitchfilm.net/archives/008634.html - extra info and a trailer from Twitch
http://www.variedcelluloid.com/reviews/redroom/review.shtml - Varied Celluloid give it a neutral review
http://www.asianfeast.org/recensioni/redroom.htm - review in Italian, with screenshots

this review (c) Mandi Apple Collingridge, 2007. All other text and webdesign (c) 2002-2007 mandiapple.com. All characters, situations and images remain the property of their respective owners. The text and webdesign of this site may not be copied, reproduced, mirrored, printed commercially or ripped off in any other way. Do not hotlink directly to images hosted on this site.