Treating the body as little better than meat for the slaughter, and the mind as a helpless slave to the unfathomable labyrinths of perception, Screwed is a bold, delirious, intelligent investigation into the shadow-life of a man whose identity is dependent on those amoral and dangerous people whose actions force him into unwanted reactions -- a vivisection of a spiritless shell. Devoted to pure cinema, feeling little need to grace its story with carefully detailed plots or the dictates of realism, this is experimental film at its boldest. Presented by Panik House in a newly restored director's edition, Teruo Ishi's deviant, challenging adaptation of Manga legend Yoshiharu Tsuge's "Wind-Up Type" finds jarring truths about his characters (and humanity in general) without attempting to make sense of them. Screwed crosses taboos without flinching. Daring all, Ishii celebrates excessive imagery and sadistic sexuality, indulging in extreme shock for effect and, more importantly, for the lingering taint of oppression, disorientation, and confused arousal that we, like his major POV character -- the ultimate cultural Outsider -- feels as he travels from one extremity of isolation and depravity to the next. Whereas many other films of this ilk would be satisfied to repulse and titillate, wallowing in exaggerated carnality, Tsuge's story and Ishii's direction labor for something more primal, more satisfying on a subconscious level. This seems to be the point, as experience, not knowledge, is emphasized through this ballet of brutality.

Unravelling with the haze of a feverish dream and the intensity of great lust or hate, Screwed is true to its title, presenting us with an Outsider who is precisely that -- fucked despite which direction he takes in his personal, romantic, professional, or spiritual life. Wishing to be an artist but lacking the motivation that he needs to succeed, the mysterious anti-hero of the film, played with incredible tension by Tadanobu Asano, lives a fragmented, absurdist existence -- a non-life, as it were, shadow-walking upon the fringes of a society and way of life that is neither right or wrong, good or bad, but largely meaningless. Betrayed by his lover, poverty stricken, and as dead inside as those faithless few around him, he attempts suicide. Failing and poverty stricken, this amorous Everyman, disorientated and a stranger to even himself, takes to wandering through various dream-like states of existence. Along the way he encounters the mad and the dead (at least inside!), the abused and victimizers who, like himself, appear to be as insubstantial as ghosts. Reality merges easily with the dark fantastic throughout the film, including nightmarish rides on demonic trains driven by personages in Fox masks, rollicking glimpses into hells of sexual enticement and torment, and, of course, the character's own reactions to the undiscovered county in himself and those people who he can't get close to in the external world.

Screwed is not an easy movie to decipher. In fact, it isn't a movie that can be 'solved' as most movies at all. This is part of its power to disturb and entice. Each viewer must make his own interpretation. I wondered if the POV character's inability to lead his own life, forced instead to simply 'react' to the advances and attitudes of others, wasn't the key thematic element of this expressionistic dream-play. Regardless, there is no concrete meaning or formulaic plot-line in this bold attempt at finding universal truths through non-sense. All truth is subjective -- a theme reinforced and mirrored by the character's emotionally scarring, soulless journey through a shadow land where the nightmarish phantasms of guilt and desire, sex and violence, suggest more through implication and surrealistic symbol than through straight-forward narrative. Screwed reaffirms director Ishii's reputation as a premiere cinema terrorist of subversive intent and dazzling energy. What it doesn't do is pander to the simplistic mind-frame of mainstream film, offering up the heart of its story in a neatly contrived plot. Instead, the story, the characters, and the themes instilling blood into this fetishistic threat resonate with the power of myth.

Similar to their earlier efforts, Panik House presents Screwed in a loving transfer. The picture quality is flawless, drenched with mood and crystalline clarity in anamorphic 1.85:1. Bright, bold colors lend dimension to fantastical reds and midnight shadows, encouraging appreciation of Ishii's mastery of mood. No scratching or speckling is evident, nor does the picture suffer from image softness. Audio is likewise superb, a cacophony of grunts, buzzing, and other sound effects which lend further resonances of panic and claustrophobia to the haunting images.

Extras include trailers for Screwed, Blind Beast Vs. the Killer Dwarf, and Tokyo Psycho. A satisfying if rather short Photo and Still Gallery follow, as do Production Notes which repeat much of the same information as the back cover blurb. A virtual Comic Book, assessable by computer, is more inventive, and the collector's sticker is a surprising treat. The most comprehensive supplement in this package has to be the Cast and Crew Biographies, which in clean, clear fashion provide detailed information about Ishii and Tsuge. A thoughtful package of a truly bizarre viewing experience.

Review by William P. Simmons

Released by Panik House
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review