Many years ago I had the deep misfortune to watch a fuzzy 'nth generation bootleg video of an infamous graphic nasty called 'Man Behind the Sun'. Three things were key to my viewing displeasure - the fact the tape was so murky you couldn't quite see in detail what was actually going on (adding to the docu-snuff like atmosphere), the print was heavily edited leaving pretty much a catalogue of depraved ultra-violence and a scene where a cat was seemingly eaten alive by a horde of ravenous rats. I watched it once, wiped the tape and vowed never to watch it again...until now.
I couldn't believe it when years later I heard that Japan Shock announced that they were indeed planning to give this somewhat infamous title a release on the DVD format, so it was with much trepidation that I finally decided to give the film another chance and see if the horrors in memory would still hold the same terror.
T F Mous' infamous war flick loosely documents the real life atrocities that the Japanese army regiment of Camp 731 carried out on innocent Chinese and Russian families in their alleged search for the ultimate bacterial weapons. The film follows a batch of new Youth Army recruits as they are integrated into the Camp 731 way of life, in both a harrowing and graphic depiction of the real horror that went on.
Now here's where I was totally taken aback with viewing 'Sun' with eyes anew with Japan Shock's fresh new DVD experience. Yes, many of the horrifically graphic scenes are still there for the gorehounds among us to behold but (and it's a helluva big but) the film also portrays one of the saddest and most harrowing viewing experiences your likely to see in some time. Not only for the victims of violence within the camp but the Youth Army children who are corrupted and exposed to the horrors also. And Mous' strong handling of the atmosphere and direction are testament to the power of the film more so.
Gone also with this new DVD experience is the stigma that the film has always carried as some sort of taboo docu-snuff flick with several of the graphic scenes showing now to be incredibly false and staged, though yes indeed there is the odd moment where you'll still not blink in disbelief where actual corpses where used (with the full backing of the government and families involved) and 'that' cat scene seems somewhat questionable (as in the cat looks like its playing with the rats, then looks doped as the rats eats raspberry syrup off it) though Mous still refuses to discuss the scene which lays angry frowns still at his door.
The film, though tragic, is a highly watchable experience and far more powerful than Schindlers List could ever have dreamed of being. And it's in that camp it well and truly lies. If your looking for some serious but satisfying real horror then this film is for you, just don't expect to cuddle up with your loved one whilst watching it.
The disc from Japan Shock is fine for what it is. The widescreen print is clean enough once things get going and the Japanese stereo dubbing is fair enough too I suppose, though at times the English subtitles race ahead to fast to keep up with - which is a pain but wont ruin your viewing experience. And as ever there is the expected still gallery and an old trailer too.
A stunning film that is well worth a revisit for those tainted by the old (and outdated) controversy, and a fine depiction of human tragedy for those with an interest in this area. Congratulations to Japan Shock once again - check it out!
Review by Alan 'horrified' Simpson
|Directed by T. F. Mou S.|
|Released by Japan Shock|
|Region - NTSC Code All|
|Ratio - Widescreen 1.85:1|
|Audio - Dolby Digital 2.0 (Japanese)|
|Subtitles - English and Dutch|
|Running Time - approx 105 Mins|
|Extras - Trailer and Still Gallery|