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Review: Flesh of the Void

Director(s)James Quinn
Principal CastMan Without a Face as Priest
Kmsura as The Amputee
Dead Flesh as Rapist
Elektriking as Man in Gas Mask
Release Date2017
Language(s)English
Running Time 77 minutes

What is death? Is it the end of the spirit or does it just mark the end of the physical body? People have always taken comfort in the idea that death is either a void bereft of any sensation or that there’s some kind of afterlife. This highly experimental movie throws those answers out and instead looks at death as the worst, most horrifying, event. Instead of a void, instead of heaven or hell, this a journey into death in its most intimate and horrifying, the end of physical existence and the sensation of the flesh.

There’s not a real plot. There are no real characters. If I’ve lost you already, then you know this movie isn’t for you. This is an experience through the most miserable depths of the human experience and isn’t something that should be touched by the faint of heart. Forget NSFW, there are NSFL scenes in here that haven’t left my head since I saw I first saw this movie. The black and white movie is an assault on the senses and doesn’t care about answering questions or making you feel secure. It only wants to hurt you. It wants to make you despair and break under its torrent of visceral depravity.

The words that come onto the screen are scratched and sharp, like the text in the movie poster above. It cuts into the screen and feels violent, like the movie is being effaced. Quinn uses expired Super 8, modern super 8 , and 16 mm film to capture a variety of different visual effects. Most of the movie is gritty and indecipherable. The horrors come at you in droves. Sometimes they’re blurry, barely at the periphery, showing you just enough to stir your mind into finishing the idea and image at play. Other times, horrifying actions are shown on screen in disturbing long takes that seemingly never end. When the old super 8 film comes into play, the movie takes on a whole new surreal feeling, bombarding the senses and really getting underneath the skin. Most dialogue happens in the form of interspersed poetry, barely heard, and distinctly sinister in tone. Indecipherable noises, and short growls crowd the soundscape and haunting music makes you feel like you’ll never feel safe again.

The movie veers on the line of overly pretentious and deeply meaningful and I could definitely see arguments for the former. I was deeply affected by the piece, and think it’s a horrifying trip for anyone that wants to explore the depravity of humanity, but can see how it can feel like meaningless torture porn to some people. If I didn’t see the advertising/marketing for the movie that told me it was supposed to be an experience of death, I might have been frustrated, but I knew what I was getting into. This is not a movie for everyone, but I think people with a taste for it will find themselves haunted by this piece for sleepless nights to come.

That being said, I think the path to the journey could be heavily improved. I get wanting to be ambiguous and unnerving, but the lack of subtitles makes it almost impossible to make out certain bits of dialogue. It’s a strange complaint and I wouldn’t fault for you think it’s nitpicking, but the movie is hard enough to find and is all about the meaning created through the experience, so being able to know the words is important. I found myself more distracted by trying to parse what was happening, but ignoring the words and just being scared by their recitation didn’t work for me that well.

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TLDRFlesh of the Void is a movie for people that want to know what death as the ultimate horror would feel like. This piece is highly experimental and explores the most miserable depths of human existence, constantly bombarding the audience with unnerving noises and dialogue combined with surreal and disturbing imagery.
Rating9/10
Grade A

Review: Tag

Director(s)Sion Sono
Principal CastReina Triendl as Mitsuko
Yuki Sakurai as Aki
Release Date2015
Language(s)Japanese
Running Time 85 minutes

One day while randomly browsing YouTube, I found an raw trailer for this movie and was left in shock. It looked cutesy but then devolved into seemingly disparate situations of violence. I knew that I had to see what it was all about, so I waited till it came out with subs and proceeded to experience an audiovisual piece the likes of which I’ve never seen before.

The story picks up on Mitsuko, a shy high-schooler who’s busy writing poetry as she and her classmates head off on a trip. However, soon after this start, a gust of wind comes through and kills everyone on the bus besides Mitsuko. Streams of blood and guts envelop the screen and Mitsuko is forced to run away from the wind to survive.

What follows is a story that never lets up with WTF moments and sequences. Every time I thought I had a grasp on what the movie was, it went in a completely different direction, each as violent as the one preceding it. If you’re someone who likes having answers immediately, then this movie is going to get under your skin. Answers only come near the end of the third act and they’re still ambiguous at that. It’s a movie that assaults the senses with gore and absurdity while dragging the audience at breakneck speeds through a story that seemingly makes no sense. However, once things start clicking, the movie becomes something else entirely. I was floored with everything I had seen. The movie takes a lot of risks and I thought they more than payed off by the end.

Without getting into spoilers, I can say the movie’s analysis of agency is interesting and provocative. Just like Mitsuko, the audience never has a stable foundation to begin to determine what is and isn’t real. That’s because those perceptions are conditioned not only by our perspectives of ourselves but by the perspectives of those who control the levers of society. If we’re taught that certain protocol is the only way forward, then it becomes easy to see how true freedom can become hidden away. Sono takes this idea and then wonderfully infuses both a queer and feminist subtext into it, giving the idea a sense of nuance that most movies can only dream of. Multiple people can watch this movie and all of them can come away with different interpretations (outside of the blatant message of the movie). Even now the ending gets to me and makes me really think both of the meaning of the story and the way I contribute to a society that strips people of agency.

Now for my more squeamish readers, you might want to watch this one with a friend who can let you know when the gory stuff is over. The movie is filled with splatters and grotesque murders. The first time I watched it, I had to look away a few times because of how visceral the experience would get. I think it gives the movie a really distinctive feel, but I can see how it could turn people away.

Report Card

TLDRTag is a movie that deserves to get seen by more people. It’s a masterclass in storytelling and has one of the most unique plots I’ve seen in a story. The way the mystery builds and resolves itself is shocking and thought provoking. If you like gore or art-house movies, you owe it to yourself to watch this.
Rating9.8/10
Grade A+