Unrepentant in its willingness to peel back the polite conservative skin of cultural taboo with fingers (and blades) dipped as much in subversively thoughtful questions of society as they are in blood, Asian horror is infamous for descending where traditional genre films fear to tread. Celebrating perverse sexuality, pain, and the art of viscera in an excessive manner, A-horror often feels like a punch in the guts. However, it can also challenge the mind. The intellectual and emotional challenges inherent in this genre is evident in Splatter: Naked Blood, the newest presentation by Discotek. A revelation to viewers lulled into idleness by the countless remakes and mindless freak-fests, this film challenges our perceptions as easily -- and with as much sadism -- as its poetically brutal violence chips away at our tolerance for sexual and horrific images.

Superior to such gore-fests as Evil Dead Trap, which, while an exhilaratingly paced and gory spectacle, lacked emotional depth, Naked Blood is a philosophically rich story that weds science and fantasy in a carefully orchestrated puzzle of flesh and psyche. The plot, a tragic examination of humanity's alienation and over-dependence on technology, is careful to underscore an intellectual theme with resonances of compassion. Eiji is a 17 year-old student who determines to help society (and live up to his father's legacy) by developing a powerful anaesthetic. The drug releases an explosion of endorphins into the brains of those who take it. Sneaking it into the contraceptive that his scientist mother is testing at a clinic, Eiji observes the effect of this lethal drug on the three girls it infects. Filing their experiences from afar (a nod to voyeurism), Eiji becomes our eyes and ears as the character flaws of each of the three women become their undoing -- a theme strangely conservative in its biblical sense of morality. One of the girls loves to eat, one is narcissistic, and Rika -- the focal character -- is an insomniac, a condition invited by her first period. In no time Eijiis is obsessed with her, sudden overpowering sexual yearnings accompanying his scientific interest. Rika reveals to him the truth of her problem, and her psychic connection to plant life. Soon she shares with him her virtual reality machine, which serves as a physical connection to her dream life. While they share an intimate connection in an ulterior plane of existence, the other two girls have developed a condition wherein pain has become pleasurable. The chow-hound she literally eats herself in two of the most tasteless scenes to ever hit celluloid while the vain adolescent pierces herself to death. As the tragic emotional bond between Eiji and Rika grows, so does her psychosis, exploding in a rather enigmatic and visually shocking conclusion.

If the body is battered in Naked Blood, so is the mind. The filmmaker's force us to feel both fear and awe as this catalogue of atrocities transpire. While Hisayasu Sato appears inspired by David Cronenberg, the director achieves his own unique voice. Sato sees the terror inherent in both emotional love and sexuality. He combines this theme with the paradoxical relationship between technology and the human mind. Juxtaposing human needs and hatreds, desires and fears, he makes the impossible seem probable and the repulsive fascinating. This tapestry of strong emotion is injected with subversive beauty. Sato's film not only explores the relationships between cold hard science and subjective human desires but between objective reality and the undependable tool of human perception. The emotional effects of this film -- awe, horror, and eroticism -- are heightened by the intimate connection of physical shock and the subversive, philosophically profound themes supporting them. Whereas other films of this ilk would be satisfied to repulse, horrify, and titillate audiences with brazenly authentic viscera, wallowing happily in over-the-top carnality, Naked Blood surrounds shocking set-pieces with a carefully plotted story, introspective sub-text, and socially conscious themes. Sato merges extreme physical suffering with emotional pain, coating the entire experience in a haze of delirium. At the same time, the surrealism that soaks up the story and performances is never used to justify an incomplete story.

Discotek treats Naked Blood with dignity and respect, doing their best with the materials available. Presented in 1.85:5, the picture is quite impressive considering how difficult locating elements must be.

While nit-picks who cry foul at any and every blemish present will find some fault with such visual flaws as occasional grain and some scenes with softer colors, the picture as a whole is a professional job, particularly for a film of such rarity. Audio is in the original Japanese language in 2.0 Stereo. A colorful balance is maintained between the music, gory sound FX and dialogue. Extras are sparse if entertaining, including a photo gallery (10), a text bio of Sato, and a thorough (18 pages) flexography for the director. Lastly, trailers for additional Discotek releases are featured, including such rarities as Chinese Torture Chamber Story, Ebola Syndrome, and Red Handcuffs.

Review by William P. Simmons

Released by Discotek Media
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras : see main review