Kichiku (1997) Movie Review

Probably the most amazing thing about “Kichiku” is not the amount of gore, but the fact that it was made by a third year college student name Kazuyoshi Kumakiri, whose skill at depicting the deterioration of a group belies his inexperience. But the film’s main flaw is that the director overdoses on the graphic violence, and as a result it threatens to obscure the artistry and precocious talent he possesses.

When Fujiwara is released from prison, his cellmate Aizawa asks him to join the radical underground group he once led, now under the command of Aizawa’s promiscuous girlfriend. No longer concerned with politics, the group mainly just hangs out and parties — at least until news arrives that Aizawa has killed himself in jail. Everything soon descends into a bleak hell that follows Aizawa’s girlfriend’s madness. Torture, rape, decapitation, and murder soon follow. Will anyone be able to escape this grotesque madness, or will all be consumed?

Kazuyoshi Kumakiri not only handles the directing chores, but also the scripting, co-producing, and editing work. Pretty impressive for someone only in his third year of college. The story he presents is not just a tale intended to shock viewers, but a study of group dynamics. The student group represents a societal microcosm that is slowly deteriorating. By the time the members realize what is happening, it’s far too late and the nightmare is already upon them.

But while the script is certainly thought provoking, it is also excessively gruesome. What’s the point in giving the audience a sociological message if we have to endure watching someone’s penis being amputated? Likewise for the rape, tortures, and decapitations. How can we learn anything if we keep wincing and looking away from the screen? Gore is one thing, but to pile it on excessively really doesn’t help your movie, especially if you’re a neophyte filmmaker.

As a director, Kumakiri displays an uneven skill. There are times where he does an amazing job, using wide angle shots, hand held camera, and psychedelic visual effects to make the film look gorgeous. Yet, there are other instances where he just puts in a by-the-numbers effort. It’s as if there were two Kumakiri’s — the artist and the workmanlike director, and you never know who is going to show up for work.

Watching the film, you’d wish someone would have locked the workmanlike director in a closet and given the artist free reign. “Kichiku” has a lot to say, but its message is hard to hear because everything is so drenched in blood and gore. It’s a fairly well made film for a beginner, but so ridiculously gruesome that it hides any message the filmmaker was trying to convey. The faint-hearted and the easily impressionable should avoid this film like vampires shun sunlight, as they will get little benefit from it. For intrepid moviegoers with stomachs of steel, they may find a thought provoking and intelligent film buried beneath several feet of gore.

Kazuyoshi Kumakiri (director) / Kazuyoshi Kumakiri (screenplay)
CAST: Shigeru Bokuda, Sumiko Mikami, Shunsuke Sawada, Toshiyuki Sugihara

Buy Kichiku on DVD