Directed by Hisayasu (Toshiyasu) Sato, 1995, 76 min. starring Sadao Abe, Misa Aika, Yumika Hayashi, Mika Kirihara, Masumi Nakao, and Tadashi Shiraishi.
Naked Blood, directed by Hisayasu Sato (aka Toshiyasu Sato) in 1995, is what you might call a very, very, very odd fish and no mistake. Trying to sit somewhere uncomfortably between the gore-splatter-exploitation and serious arthouse genres, it truly tries to be Jack of all trades – but ends up, rather inevitably, as master of none, because it doesn't really cater to either – often mutually exclusive – audience. Which is a shame, as it's a pretty ambitious idea.
From the outset of this review, I feel the need to make one thing again very clear: do NOT believe the blurb on the outside of the DVD box. Not ever. Never never never never never. I cannot stress this strongly enough. And in this case, you can double that warning. On the outside of the hideously-designed cover art of Japan-Shock's release of Naked Blood (aka Megyaku: Akuma no yorokobi, aka Splatter: Naked Blood, aka Itainoga suki) box, the blurb-writers proclaim loudly that this movie is "100% Gore – 100% Bloody – 100% Extreme".
Thankfully, that's simply not true, otherwise this would be a very, very short review indeed. (Quite apart from anything else, that adds up to 300%. Even their maths ain't up to much.) For the gorehounds among us, I can let you know right now there are about three mid-length sequences featuring some really out-there in-your-face extreme nastiness. Yes, the limited gore featured in this movie is damn serious stuff.
But really, if you're looking for all-out balls-out guts and brains, you'd be better off sticking to the notorious Guinea Pig series - 'cos this movie's got a plot. A big, long, meaningful, meandering and ultimately very overcomplicated plot which will probably put most dedicated of gorehounds right off their eyeball pudding (or whatever it is they tuck into instead of popcorn 'n' beer).
Unfortunately, as you might expect from a film which tries to transcend two highly polarised categories of film-making, the abovementioned plot is as confused as its director and writer appear to be. At some points you get the sense that Naked Blood is trying desperately hard to make some kind of profound social statement, to get some message about the nature of superficiality and the rewards a person reaps by living their life in a shallow, self-serving way across. But, somewhat ill-advisedly, the writer chooses to use a completely dippy storyline about a talking cactus to do it with, which comes across as, well, a bit weak and laughable, to be honest. Add to this the fact that the M. Night Shyamalan-style 'surprise' twists in the ending are a bit unconvincing, and you know the movie's really going nowhere. Frankly, due to the fact that it relies so heavily on the viewer buying into the utterly daffy storyline, it's just not a film you would necessarily want to watch twice.
Simply put, for me it was no fun experience and ended up becoming a bit of a boring, disappointing and mildly depressing ordeal, thanks to poor pacing, dated cinematography, one too many shots inside Rika’s (the main female protagonist) dull little room, and way too much banging on about talking cacti. Even the one and only sex scene was dull as ditchwater and featured, yep you guessed it, a bloody cactus ;-D This, from a director whose career path seems to have been rooted pretty deeply in the pinku (or soft porn) end of the movie market, seems a little surprising. Perhaps he fancied a change of scene.
As for the acting – well, pedestrian I think is a fairly generous term. Sadao Abe, one of my personal favourite actors, played his usual 'weird geek' kind of role well, but then it's such typecasting he could have played it in his sleep – hardly a challenge for him. And as ever, I always end up asking, why do Japanese casting agents always cast him in roles which are blatantly too young for him? In Naked Blood we are genuinely being asked to buy into the fact that Eiji, the young scientist character he plays in this film, is seventeen years old. In 1995, Sadao Abe was twenty-five. (That said: in Uzumaki - the film most will doubtless know him from - he was playing the role of a thirteen-year-old, when in reality he was thirty! Simply extraordinary. Sorry, but I can't suspend my disbelief that much ;-D)
And the other actors on this movie were for the most part pretty competent – nothing to write home about, but nothing to write a snotty letter to the Japanese equivalent of Variety about either. Misa Aika, whose best-known role is the eponymous sexy weather forecaster in the pinku film The Weatherwoman 2, was about as accomplished as you'd expect from someone whose best-known role is a sexy weather forecaster. As for the others, well, they were just there, really. Even the two other central female characters were left nameless, that's how little the acting matters here.
It is, however, the story which really lets the side down. Sadly, given so much promise, Naked Blood fails to do anything of any lasting worth with its fascinating premise. If you want a movie that knows how to blend gore with social commentary and disturbing weirdness, go and buy Suicide Circle quick-smart.
The main intellectual theme of the movie seems to concern alienation and separation from the mainstream of society: social acceptance (or in this case, the lack of it). Eiji has been isolated because of his upbringing, first by his father, and then the work to continue forming and moulding the lad into a walking talking science robot has fallen to his grieving mother. Rika has been cut off from society by her lack of need to sleep, and her over-sensitive hearing, which has turned her into a bit of a freakish figure and driven her away from people and living creatures - the noise is simply unbearable for her (shades of Vincent Price's unintentionally hilarious performance as Roderick Usher in Roger Corman's marvellous B-movie version of Edgar Allen Poe's 'Fall of the House of Usher' come to mind: his senses were so acutely sensitive that he couldn't raise his own voice above a whisper, could only eat the most bland food, and that enforced human contact drove him insane with the sheer physical anguish) - not to mention the fact that her only pal is a huge cactus.
Visually, this sense of 'separation' is emphasised by many of the shots being physically split in half, or into bits - eg, some of the shots featured on this page - Eiji and Rika separated by a big white pillar; Eiji and his mother separated by columns in their dining-room; and the shot with Rika appearing centrally through a gap in the cactus, demonstrating quite unequivocally that the cactus is in fact cutting her off from the rest of the world and is 'surrounding' her, smothering her as well as protecting her. It's a bit… well, unsubtle, and doesn’t really help the overall look of things, not to mention making the viewer feel as if they’re being bludgeoned to death by Sato's Grand Message to the World. ;-)
However, I suppose you could term the final turn of events a bizarre kind of happy ending, or at the very least, an outcome which ties up the loose ends: the two women who live their lives in this kind of superficial way end up getting, so to speak, their just desserts (a bit too appropriate a term, in one case anyway ;-D); Rika has escaped her self-built prison, thanks to the superlative analgesic effects of Myson, and made herself a place in society. The only real victim in all of this, somewhat ironically, is Eiji himself.
A brilliant young scientist of only seventeen years old, Eiji (Sadao Abe), has produced a serum which is based on research into brain secretions that he has been conducting for some time, which he logs in his work journal as being the 'ultimate painkiller' for humans. he sees it as being his greatest gift to mankind, a universal panacea more effective than Prozac and Diazepam combined, and with no piddling little unwanted side-effects like creating suicidal tendencies or slavish addiction to boot. For some unknown reason, he calls his formula 'Myson' (or more properly, 'My Son') - presumably because it is his brainchild, his 'creation' - but also as a tribute to his late father who was also a scientist, and who predicted correctly that Eiji would be every bit as brilliant as himself.
His mother is also a chemist/scientist, who is working on creating experimental drugs at the local hospital. It turns out that she is conducting a drug trial that day, testing a revolutionary new contraceptive medication which will help to control Japan's population boom. However, unbeknownst to her, Eiji has doctored her trial pharmaceuticals with his own special new drug, 'Myson', in order to perform his own very special experiment. He spots a folder containing details of the three women who are about to undergo the testing: they're all young and attractive, but one in particular takes his fancy - a girl named Mikami Rika (Misa Aika), who - wouldn't you just know it - turns out to be a complete fruitcake.
While Eiji waits and spies on the tests from the roof, his mother begins the clinical trial, and of course the unsuspecting girls taking part have no idea what they're about to be let in for. But Eiji knows, and he's videotaping the results from up on the roof. However, Rika clocks him spying on the three of them through the window, and gets the idea that something isn't quite kosher about these particular trials.
As the three girls leave together to go to a restaurant, Eiji silently follows them on his bike. During the course of conversation, it comes out that Rika is dotty partly because she never sleeps: apparently the shock of her first menstrual cycle blocked her natural sleep cycle. (Ooookay... anyway, that's the explanation in the movie. Realistic science it ain't.)
The other girls involved in the trial begins a conversational tack about what gives her the most joy. For the first, it turns out to be food; the second craves beauty and exquisite clothes; but Rika does not answer the question. And no wonder: because it turns out to be none other than a giant cactus, her only companion in life, with whom she communicates telepathically via virtual reality visors. (Yep, loopy loo-loo-la-la doesn't quite cover it. I did, indeed, say 'cactus', and if you still don't believe me, take a look at the pictures on the page.Haven't seen one of those crappy Virtuality Visors since Tomorrow's World was last aired, in about 1993, either. ;-D)
Back at Eiji's, he and his mother are having dinner, and now Eiji tells her about his research, explaining that 'Myson' has the effect of producing more endorphins in the brain, which cushions the effect on the pain-receptors in the nervous system. However, he does still lie to her, saying that his drug isn't finished, and won't be for a very long time.
Eiji's mother, for all her emotional distance from her son and her slightly clinical approach to life in general, is really at heart a broken woman. She watches old Super-8 footage of her dead husband on an old projector at night to keep his memory alive. Clearly when he was alive, he had both his wife and his son in thrall to him, and nothing much has changed even now he's dead. (Perhaps this is to indicate that there is a pain which no drug can alleviate: emotional torment, the pain of a broken heart.)
Eiji, however, is watching video footage of quite a different kind. In his attic bedroom, he watches back over the drug trial in progress. There is something rather unsettling and voyeuristic about this: there's no real need for him to have this footage, as it doesn't aid his secret trial in any way. In his journal, he makes note that whilst his special drug has gone on trial, it'll still take 48 hours for any noticeable effect to take place, and that he will begin his own observations of the girls involved the next day. However, as he watches the video, he notices that the weirdo girl has indeed clocked him and knows he was videotaping them, although evidently she can't know anything of Eiji's involvement in this trial.
However, at the same time, Rika is having a nightmarish vision on her Virtual Reality visor, across town: she appears to herself, all drenched in blood (presumably a throwback to her menstruum-phobia, or maybe an indication of a future event?), and then experiences a terrifying feeling of being chased by something she cannot see - which turns out to be Eiji, being all creepy and sleazy with his camcorder, watching her drowning in blood. Well, hooray for the power of premonition, Virtual cactus-related or no ;-)
The next morning, part of her premonition is proved to be accurate: Eiji's concept of 'observing' the three women mainly consists of filming them with a zoom lens from far away.
Luckily for him, two of them seem to be engaging in what they love best - the one who loves food is unpacking groceries, and the one who worships her own body-image is doing a workout at home. The third, however, is firmly locked behind closed blinds - we know why, but no-one else does yet, especially Eiji. Yes - she's in her room, communing with her giant phallic cactus. Just before leaving, she peers out between the blinds to make sure she's not being watched (which she is).
Eiji indeed follows her through a mall, filming her all the way. However, when he's been lulled into a false sense of security, Rika clocks him again, and this time she manages to catch him at it. After gaining her trust, though, she confides in Eiji, finally admitting that not only is she an acute insomniac due to psychological shock, her hearing is super-sensitive as a result of it - she can hear the insects buzzing in the flowers, but she also claims to be able to hear plants 'talking' and making noises.
She claims that the pain of the noise is driving her so crazy that she hates herself for being this way, and often wants to kill herself - just to make it stop. Flushed with the excitement of having found someone who she can share her problem with, she decides to trust Eiji, and takes him to the place she loves most - her apartment.
Meanwhile, the second girl with the body fixation is admiring her looks in a mirror - until she notices a stray hair growing out of her armpit, and she gives it a tug to stop it spoiling her "perfect looks"...
And the first girl is preparing sushi and tempura in her kitchen, chopping merrily away at squid - until she accidentally cuts her finger, smearing the fish with her own blood - and discovers that instead of pain, she actually experiences extreme pleasure instead, and begins chomping on her finger wound, to make it 'hurt' more.
Once inside Rika's apartment, Eiji is introduced to her chair-and-cactus setup. (You'd think really she'd be a bit more cagey about telling folks she chats to cacti, but there.) And finally we get an explanation about this mad-looking situation: apparently it's a 'sleeping installation' for people with oversensitised hearing. It apparently produces a kind of dream-state at times, and she claims that cacti don't talk like other plants - that they're permanently asleep. (Yeah, OK... ;-D) She offers Eiji a go on her cactus via Virtuality visor, whereupon he has a strange vision...
While all this is going on, the body-image girl has discovered an alarming taste for performing self-piercings with pretty-coloured pins, and greedyguts girl has 'accidentally' coated her hand in tempura batter mix, so you can imagine what's coming - evidently the effects of 'Myson' are kicking in, and things are about to become deeply unpleasant as the two women discover that what should hurt like merry hell is actually producing very pleasurable effects for them...
However, in Eiji's room, his mother finds a small bottle of blue liquid, and guesses what it might be. But she is caught looking at the bottle by the returning Eiji, and again he lies to her about the bottle's contents. It turns out that Eiji's father was a bit crazy: he was apparently doing research to try and produce an elixir of eternal life. It also turns out that his father died whilst testing the drug that he produced, and his mother should have also been testing it but wimped out.
Now, thanks to Rika, Eiji can no longer sleep without the aid of white noise, produced by static on the TV; Eiji's mom is becoming slowly unhinged due to guilt and confusion over what happened to her late husband; and what the hell is happening to the other two girls? One of them is cutting herself into bite-size chunks and devouring her own flesh, the other is taking body piercing to a crazy extreme ... can Rika save the other girls, or does she have a different agenda entirely? Events are spiralling out of control, and there seems to be no stopping their decline into horror, gore and death...
Naked Blood creates a strange, unreal and ultimately depressing vision with no real conclusion and no concrete point. I personally felt so little empathy with any of the characters, who all seemed to be equally fatally flawed and just downright unpleasant, that come the end, I simply didn't care whether they ate themselves or sliced themselves into little tiny pieces, because I just wanted it to be over. Even Eiji, who should have really been the hero of the piece, barely communicated anything to the audience, lurking instead for the most part behind a video camera which again was there to emphasise his separation from society. And I wasn't buying into the rather cheap and cheesy fake-apocalyptic ending, either: it simply served up a neat but also rather illogical close for the story.
This movie desperately wants to be taken seriously as a meaningful and arty issue-movie utilising blood'n'guts to drive home its societal message, but ends up being lumpen, confused, rather risible, and thoroughly pointless, not to mention ending up being lumped in with a million and one other movies that feature eyeball torture and other fun uses of a person's free time. So, a bit of a failure on all fronts, then, which is a definite shame, as I feel it's a good opportunity to make gore movies intelligent and plot-driven somewhat wasted. Kudos to the writer and director for trying to make what is, kind of, in retrospect, a proto-Suicide Circle, but in doing so they forgot the most important rule of moviemaking: make it enjoyable.
Snowblood Apple Rating for this film:
Entertainment Value: 5/10
Chill Factor: 0/10
Sex: Virtuality Sex With Giant (conveniently-placed) Cactus, Ocean and Flowers/10 (nope, don't ask me either. It's not sexy at all, unless you get off on Microsoft Windows generic wallpapers that is ;-D)
Sadao Abe: Definitely not a teenager any more
117. Crispy Fried Finger (comes with fried rice and Sweet and Sour Eyeball sauce portion)
Surrealism: what the f-?!/10
Films in a Similar Style: Suicide Circle, Guinea Pig Series (kind of), ummm... well, none really...
*** 54% Gore - 100% Depressing - 100% Cactus-powered ***
Naked Blood 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, 2004
Snowblood Apple Filmographies
Hisayasu (Toshiyasu) Sato
http://www.metamovie.de/film/naked.html - Harald Gruenberger's incredibly insightful review, in which I believe we agree on all but one thing - he liked it, I didn't :-)
http://www.nixflix.com/reviews/nakedblood.htm - they liked it too, enough to give it 4/5 http://www.upcominghorrormovies.com/reviews/asian/nakedblood.php - this excellent review at UHM reflects much more my own experience of this movie...
http://www.trashcity.org/BLITZ/BLIT1215.htm - and Trash City hated it. Polar opinions, indeed...
http://www.scary-crayon.com/spectare/nakedblood/- a small warning: this review is what you might euphemistically call 'more than a little indepth' - by which I mean it contains the entire plot of the movie with corresponding images. So if you've not seen it and you want to, steer clear of this link!
http://www.bizarreingredients.co.uk/japan/z/naked/naked.html - Bizarre Ingredients love the movie - some great images and a really indepth review
http://www.horrorwatch.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=568 - another good review, and I'm glad it's not just me who thinks the cover art on this movie is execrable and misleading, to say the least...