Directed by Takashi Miike
Starring Tadanobu Asano, Nao Omori
It’s been said that the true horror movie revolution is happening in Japan. What is true is there are some truly horrifying films coming from Japan. They aren’t the sterile safe type of horror film found in the United States. The have a lot of energy and they aren’t afraid to push the audiences buttons and disturb them. That is what horror films used to be all about.
Simply just splattering gore across the screen can be cool but it’s not necessarily truly disturbing. Finding that suspension of disbelief in the audience and disturbing them falls in the delivery of the gore, not the simple existence of it. There are other ways of disturbing people than by using gore as well, people can be disturbed by the way one person treats another.
Yakuza boss Anjo disappears with 100 million yen. His loyal gang members, lead by the masochist Kakihara, start a search, trying to torture information from members of other yakuza gangs and prostitutes. Ichi, a psychopathic killer with a dark childhood secret, controlled by a retired yakuza boss through some plot points I won’t reveal, becomes involved in the yakuza activities.
Ichi’s dark past makes him a devastating killer, brutalizing his victims in horrible ways that I don’t want to describe in this article. His counterpart Kakihara loves to receive pain as much as he loves to give it. He revels in the terrifying torture of male and female victims as he searches for the crime boss who he shared a more than boss and employee relationship with. In the end he becomes obsessed with confronting Ichi because he feels that Ichi can give him the ultimate S&M experience.
This movie is disgusting from the very beginning, right from the opening credits and it doesn’t let up until the very end. One odd thing I noticed is that the climax of the film feels a little anticlimactic because it doesn’t compare to what we have to endure throughout the film.
The scenes of domestic violence, devastating torture, and brutal murder in this film are the goriest and most disturbing I’ve seen in twenty years. As desensitized as I am I found myself wincing at the screen many times. At the end of the movie I felt dirty, like I had just seen something that I shouldn’t have. And that my friends is a feeling that typical lame American horror films can’t create. This is a true horror film.
The plot of Ichi The Killer is very thin, but that’s not what this movie is about. This movie is about tapping into raw emotion though visual stimulation. Between the scenes of gore and brutality is a slick well executed film. I don’t know if the director has ever done music videos but he should look into it.
Ichi The Killer has done what many American movies claim to do but haven’t succeeded. It taps into that unbridled independent type of filmmaking from the 70’s where filmmakers would do “anything” they could to disturb the audience. Ichi is able to do this in a contemporary way. Ichi doesn’t try to look and feel like Last House on the Left or The Hills Have Eyes. It tries to bring forth the same emotions those films brought out in an innovative way. On that level Ichi The Killer succeeded in spades. I think I’m still freaked out by it.
The movie doesn’t drive the audience totally insane because there is a bit of relief from the horrifying imagery provided by the actors purposefully hamming it up in many scenes. Also, and this may be due to cultural differences, but I found Ichi’s uniform a bit silly. Thank god for it though, these little nit picks might be what have kept me off the psychiatrists couch.
For those that haven’t figured it out yet, the film contains extreme violence and sexual situations. You’ve been warned. However if you can take it, prepare for one of the most well made innovative horror films in the last twenty years.
The film is presented in a widescreen format and for the most part it’s very watchable. The transfer does seem a little dark and grainy with compression artifacts all over the place. Also the colors felt a little heavy on the reds. The grain that is apparent in the transfer just makes the film all the more creepy.
The audio is in 5.1 surround but it is mostly pretty front loaded. On the upside the soundtrack and dialogue are well mixed for edge of your seat excitement. One thing I will mention here that raises the score is the fact that the DVD is dubbed. So many of these great Japanese films come to the states bare bones with nothing but English subtitles. The English dub makes the film more available to the mainstream audience. More of these films need to be dubbed.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
There is a commentary with the Director that has not been dubbed, trailers, and a photo gallery. Not bad but there is a two disc version of this film available in Europe so it makes you wonder what other extras could have been provided.
Ichi The Killer is a must see DVD for the hardcore horror and exploitation fan. No American film can compare to Ichi, period. One other thing, for this review we looked at the unrated special edition of Ichi The Killer. There is a heavily edited R rated cut of the DVD available.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
The Movie 8/10
The Video 5/10
The Audio 6/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 5/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10