A while ago, I watched AUDITION, a horror film which is known for its shocky twistiness and a truly barf-worthy scene at the end. It was directed by Takashi Miike, who'd developed a cult following for his gore-riddled, disturbing tales, and I hopped on that wagon right quick. It isn't often that I see scary movies that stick with me, and AUDITION still creeps me out when I think of a few key scenes. When the now canceled Showtime series MASTERS OF HORROR enlisted Miike to create an installment for the anthology, a lot of horror fans geek-spooged for days. Now, I'm above spooging in such an undignified manner, but I was dying to see what he'd give us anyway.
Then, seemingly out of the blue, Showtime pulled "Imprint," Miike's installment, from American airwaves, and those legions of geeks went into spasms of gorus interruptus. It was said that "Imprint" was too extreme. However, the episode was eventually released on DVD, thus saving us from an epidemic of horror-fan blue balls.
It took me a while to get to "Imprint," butI finally watched it last night and...*gak.*
As some of you know, I can watch just about anything in a movie--exploding heads, young adults being fried over campfires in sleeping bags, buzzing chainsaws bursting through chests, you know, the usual. But damned if I wasn't hiding behind my hands during this hour-long short-format movie in some parts.
Here's the set up for "Imprint": an American dude in the 1800s goes to a Japanese island where whores ply their trade. Christopher (a hysterical Billy Drago) is searching for his long lost love, Komomo. Then, while a "little person" pimp picks what's left of her nose (Seriously, there's only a half nose on her face--it's that kind of movie), she tells Christopher that Komomo has left the island. He's bummed, of course, but there's no boat until morning, so he chooses to spend the night with another prostitute. Half of her face is...well, melty-looking, hence she's not the highest earner on the island, to put it politely. Bless her heart. Nonetheless, she tries to make Christopher comfortable, offering herself, as prostitutes do. He declines her hospitality, accepting the numb promise of sake instead, and instead of that-there nookie, he asks her to tell him her story.
That's where the...erm...fun begins. You see, this woman knows a whole lot about what really happened to Komomo. And as she keeps correcting her story, it turns out that there's way more to her than just sake and hospitality.
The first part of "Imprint" has wonderful buildup: the island, with its tree of hanging red ribbons, is beautiful--oppressive, Asian-gothic, dark with straining mystery. That beauty is frequently punctured by little details like the nose-picking pimpette, as well as a bloated, very pregnant corpse found floating in the water as Christopher's boat first pulls up. The whores are even striking in a garish mockery-of-a-Geisha way, so they're appalling, too, as if they smile while hiding blades under their ultra-upswept, blood-tinged hair. You definitely know something awful is comin'.
Then the story goes off the rails. Totally. And not only plot-wise. It pulls out every grotesque thing you ever hoped you wouldn't see on a screen. A torture scene that goes on forever (and this is where the whole peeking-through-my-fingers element came in). Incestuous scenarios. Child molesting. Fetuses. My jaw kept unhinging as one was piled on the other but, after that torture scene, I couldn't look away from what was happening. Just...couldn't. And the ending features such a WTF twist that it was both balls-out fabulous and kind of huh? at the same time.
The fact that the movie is dogging me today speaks to some of its power. In spite of its missteps, it did leave a lasting impression. But that's what horror does, right? It digs deep and sometimes makes you wonder just what the heck is wrong with it...and you.