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Review © Mandi Apple, 2007.
Directed by Tamakichi 'Anal' Anaru, 1998, 70 mins, starring Tamakichi Anaru, Kanako Ooba, Kikurin and Yuuji Kitano.

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.

Released by underground AV "specialist fetish" production house Aroma Planning on VHS in 1998, directed by notorious AV-horror director Tamakichi 'Anal' Anaru, and much in the same vein as the first two highly reviled Guinea Pig titles, Devil's Experiment and Flower of Flesh and Blood, Niku Daruma (aka Tumbling Doll of Flesh, aka Psycho: The Snuff Reels) is, without a doubt, harder-core and harsher than both of those two movies combined: only one step up from a real snuff inasmuch as the killing and mutilation are the only parts that aren't real. The rest of the movie, though, camerawork included, looks imaginably authentic, so much so that it would almost surely induce a definite air of claustrophobia and pit-of-the-stomach dread in any viewer not totally desensitised to this kind of genre piece.

For a start, the footage we are watching is fairly convincing-looking. The videotape is grainy and third-generation, as these titles often are (although it definitely looks much cleaner than Muzan E), and much of it has the look of having been shot on a hand-held camcorder, which it probably was. However, this is no fake snuff title per se: even the introductory sequence has an incidental soundtrack and flashbacks, to once again reassure us - or lull us into a false sense of security - that this is merely entertainment, not real after all. It's almost as though Tamakichi is attempting a softly-softly approach, before slamming the viewer in the face with a sledgehammer of extreme, brutal imagery shot in about as authentic a way as possible. This is a device he employs again later on in the piece, when the filming of what seems like a perfectly ordinary porn flick turns unbearably nasty by degrees.

In addition to this, we are mostly watching the horror unfold through the eyes of the two present cameramen, who shoot everything that happens on either film or camcorder, from the very mundane (such as a brief trip by the porn actress to buy cookies in a convenience shop) to the very horrific. Like various sequences in other such titles, Muzan E and some sequences from Kichiku dai enkai springing to mind, the notion of the viewer voyeuristically participating by proxy in these vile acts, or even standing helplessly by, is unnerving beyond belief.

Niku Daruma differs from other similar titles inasmuch as it simply is not plotted and has no real storyline, and therefore no let-up from the horror. The mutilation taking place onscreen becomes a grinding, headache-inducing exercise in both tolerance and squeamishness as there is literally a good hour's worth of pure torture with absolutely no break for any dialogue or plot. Just knife after vegetable peeler after machete and that's all.


The story is very sparse to the point of non-existence: unlike Daisuke Yamanouchi's plot-driven reportage fantasy Muzan E, Niku Daruma has the air of real-life events taking place before a camera, although we are slightly reassured by our knowledge that this is not actually mondo, it is all faked. There is an interesing little lead-in sequence to the movie - an unnamed man who turns out to be the cameraman of the piece, whose face is hidden from the camera, is eating popcorn while watching "mondo" videos, ie footage of real-life murders, mutilations, fatal accidents, etc. (Already we can tell what a nice guy he is portraying himself as within the first few seconds of the film - could this maybe be a sly comment on how watching mondo influences violent real-life 'copycat' impulses in viewers with a tendency to homicidal behaviour?).

This same man goes out to pick up a sex worker (according to Twitch.net's file on Niku Daruma, apparently the word 'daruma' in Japanese has a dual meaning, both 'tumbling doll' and an old-world second connotation of 'prostitute'), a young woman named Kana (Kanako Ooba), who also works as a porn movie actress. After some discussion, the cameraman takes Kana to meet her co-star, Kiku (Kikurin) and the director of the movie, Tamakichi Anaru himself. Back at the director's apartment, they go over the "script" together, before getting back into the van and driving out to a fairly ordinary, thought slightly remote, bungalow in the countryside, the location for the shoot. However, understandably the air of tension in the van during the latter half of the journey is almost palpable.

So, kit off, and so far so vanilla as far as the porn shoot is concerned. The two actors go at each other with gusto, and everything's happy days. Everyone is laughing and joking, even the director. However, a quietly sinister atmosphere is starting to develop during the break in filming, which is reflected in the sequence shot by the director during lunch. When they resume the shoot, the action becomes far less ordinary and far nastier towards the actress in particular. It's never a good sign when someone puts waterproof sheets down on the floor underneath a bed, and this is no exception. The actress is bound with shibari (Japanese rope bondage), and more abusive acts follow, which cause her pain and upset, with the director now also participating and actively enjoying her distress. When the actress finally breaks down and tries to stop the shoot, suddenly events start to spiral out of control for her. It has now become obvious that the director is no longer staying behind the scenes: he is using the two actors for his own horrifyingly deviant and perverted pleasure, and things can only get worse.

Niku Daruma is a great deal more unpleasant and harder to watch than Muzan E, or possibly many of its other contemporaries in the same genre. The acting was very credible - indeed, all of the performances rang very true - and as a woman, despite knowing that it was nothing more than a movie, I found it almost impossible not to feel sickened and incredibly sympathetic towards Kana, the 'tumbling doll of flesh' of the title. Yet one could argue that despite the most part of the movie consisting of nothing more than horrific rape, abuse and torture of a young woman, it isn't completely misogynistic: even the male porn actor at the end gets some nastiness and mutilation dealt out to him also. The only way I could really identify any true sexism is that at no point did Tamakichi make any kind of observation that women are also indeed capable of such psychopathic, homicidal behaviour: the cruel barbaric torturers of this piece are all male.

No, what Niku Daruma reveals in spades is what any survivor of rape or trained counsellor will tell you about the psychology of sex crimes: everything is about power, and rendering another human being completely dominated, under your will, yours to do with as you see fit, whether that is to give ultimate ecstasy, or ultimate agony. Mainstream sexual fantasies, particularly male, often feature this kind of dominance (whether controlling the actions of their partner, or controlling the actions of people they may be watching having sex), but not usually taken to its most extreme deviance as in the case of Niku Daruma. The 'psycho' of the alternate title often doesn't get his rocks off by merely causing pain necessarily: what really revs his motor is that he is the God of his own sexual scenario, with the power to do whatever he wishes to the helpless people he orchestrates and dominates. Kana is a bought 'employee', if you like: controlled firstly by the fact that she is being paid to do a job, then finally physically controlled with ropes and by a man who, in turn, will have the same treatment meted out to him. Yet at the heart of it all, everyone is being controlled by one man alone: the psychotic director.

I suppose that in some convoluted way, Niku Daruma does actually serve some kind of purpose: to emphasise and highlight the very real dangers of working in the sex industry. If prostitution were legalised, controlled and regulated by the law enforcement agencies of countries which do not already have legal brothels or a regulated pornography industry, perhaps there would be less potential for these kinds of atrocity to take place. In the UK alone, five young prostitutes were murdered near the end of 2006, and it's not a huge leap of the imagination to state that in a controlled industry with greater protection offered to sex workers, these tragedies might never be allowed to happen. Whilst I'm absolutely certain that Tamakichi Anaru only made this movie to serve as purest of the pure, sickest of the sick, darkest of the dark entertainment for those who enjoy the scary depths of this particularly disturbing genre and never intended to make any kind of socio-political statement, interestingly it does offer a polar view as well. But enough of my politicking already ;-)

However, in the final reckoning Niku Daruma is without a doubt the most disturbing, queasy, uneasy movie experience I've ever had. Unlike Muzan E, this movie has almost no discernible redeeming features whatsoever, and makes no pretence of being anything other than what it is: a seriously messed-up rape-torture-gorefest. In its favour in its way it's a pretty well-made, tight piece: the special FX, while undoubtedly dated, are still pretty realistic, the composition and sequencing is tight, the air of menace is at times unbearable and there are even artistic shots thrown in occasionally. That said, though, there's sometimes a very good reason why some titles lurk way underground, and in the case of this one, it might be better for everyone if it stayed there. It takes a lot to shock me, and honestly, even after five years of reviewing this kind of stuff, I felt pretty ill at points. Utterly heinous, and whether you take that as a recommendation or a severe warning depends very much on your own taste.

Snowblood Apple Rating for this film:

Entertainment: 0/10
Violence: infinity/10
Sex: infinity/10
Gore: infinity/10
Unpleasantness directed towards the backside area: Tamakichi 'Anal' Anaru didn't get his name from nowhere, you know
Unpleasantness directed towards the tongue area: makes my tongue piercing look like a walk in the park
Unpleasantness directed towards the abdominal area: has to be seen to be believed
Likelihood I'll ever watch this title again: 0/10
Litres of tomato ketchup: a convoy of giant tankers fresh from the Heinz factory should just about cover it

Films in a similar style: The Guinea Pig series, Tesis, Kichiku dai enkai, Muzan E

*** Watch with caution ***

Snowblood Apple Filmographies

Tamakichi Anaru


http://www.visual-pain.com/index.php?act=viewProd&productId=125 - we're in bootleg territory only here, folks, and we got ours from Visual Pain who have a wide selection of similar movies
http://www.severed-cinema.com/reviews/mnop/niku_daruma.php - review from Severed Cinema
http://www.gomorrahy.com/tamakichi-anaru/tumbling-doll-of-flesh.htm - Gomorrahy fact file with less tame screenshots than ours
http://rue-morgue.com/forums/showthread.php?t=7271 - review at the Rue Morgue forum
http://films.psychovision.net/critique/tumbling-dolls-of-flesh-462.php - review in French

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