Review Day 14: Splatter: Naked Blood (1996)
The body horror subgenre really came into the scene and got noticed with the early works of David Cronenberg, with his films Shivers (1975), Rabid (1977), Videodrome (1983) and The Fly (1986) making their mark on horror fans and mainstream cinema alike. Body horror has also been quite the main stay of Japanese cinema, from the likes of Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) to Ichi the Killer (2001) to The Machine Girl (2008) it has been something deeply linked to their horror cinema.
The genre itself isn’t one that can work easily, Cronenberg and Takeshi Miike are masters of this, able to combine the horror on screen with intense and thought provoking commentary. Hisayasu Satô made his name as a filmmaker during Japan’s ‘Pink Film’ era of the 80s is another name who can be considered a master of the body horror along with Cronenberg and Miike, his film Splatter: Naked Blood (1996) is one of the best body horror films of it’s era.
The film begins when a young scientist named Eiji Kure (Sadao Abe) develops a new drug that works to replace and change the way brain handles pain, with it making pain disappear and turn into something pleasurable. He wants to test the drug he’s called MYSON out, he goes to his mother’s experiment on a trial of a contraception and taints it with his own drug. The three women who received the drug seem unaffected badly at first as Eiji follows and records them, but soon they start to get a reaction to the drug that goes extreme.
As strange as this may seem, Splatter: Naked Blood is a beautiful film, it has a dream like approach that flashes into nightmares and then dream again. The film feels very artistic, even in its most extreme scenes, it doesn’t feel like exploitation but more exploration. The theme of the film is addiction, from Eiji’s own addiction with making and testing this drug as some kind of honour to his gone father, to the women whose pleasures in life are a harsh addiction, to the general addiction of pleasure and so forth. It is explored in the most extreme ways, but this is what addiction becomes over time and it’s a clever way to show it, in its own glory to the very real and horrific consequences.
The performances are all very daring and almost hypnotic, especially when it comes to Misa Aika as Rika Mikamki the woman that Eiji is drawn to from the experiments (perhaps due to her likeness to his own mother). She is a quiet and strange woman, she suffers from insomnia and has a strange way to sleep that includes using a cactus. Rika sparks not only Eiji’s attention but the audience as well with her quirks and unique approaches to life. Sadao Abe and Misa Aika are the soul of the film, the chemistry between them comes through strong and guides the film.
Splatter: Naked Blood is a remake of Hisayasu Satô earlier take on the central story with 1987’s Bôkô honban (Pleasure Kill) and it is a fascinating story that seems much more refined here with its themes being well on the surface. There aren’t many films like this, the beauty and the horror being mixed together in this way and there is a strange eroticism to it that is almost frightening. While this may not be an easy film to recommend, those that can stomach extreme cinema are encouraged to seek this out.
Reviews written by Marcella Papandrea