On the fringes of cinema, there have always been films that push the boundaries of what society has deemed decent and acceptable for the public to view. Such films depict graphic violence, unsimulated sex, and other taboos that regular people dare not speak of, with some movies including all of the above. Here in the United States, films like August Underground and Faces of Death gain an audience in the underground circuit and obtain recognition mainly through notoriety and word-of-mouth. But across the Pacific, Japan has its own brand of extreme cinema, with an emphasis on combining both pornography and unapologetically brutal violence. Niku Daruma (aka Tumbling Doll of Flesh or Psycho: The Snuff Reels) is such a film, even though it may seem tame to fans of extreme movies.
The film begins in a dark room, with a man sitting watching the gorey aftermath of an ax homicide on a small television set (according to many other movies about psychopaths, this is shown to establish his craziness). Next, we are shown several men picking up a female porn star, and they are taking her to the set (aka some guy‘s shitty apartment). The scene they are shooting gradually becomes more extreme, as they start off with normal foreplay and move into rope-bondage. It is when they introduce her to an enema that she objects and wants to take a break. While going to the restroom, one of the men come in and beat her over the head with a baseball bat. The three men tie her to the bedposts with ropes, and proceed to perform multiple amputations and other graphic acts (which would lose their impact with curious readers if I mention them).
Niku Daruma is directed by Tamakichi Anaru (his surname actually translates to “anal”, which is very telling, considering Niku), who has made other gore-soaked fares as Suicide Dolls and Women’s Flesh: My Red Guts. He is also known for his pornographic work, with such titles as Mother and Daughter: Spit-Swapping Seduction and Near Relation Lesbian Kiss. Anaru no doubt has a peculiar taste when it comes graphic sexuality, and he incorporates this into Niku and has the narrative (or lack-there-of) take a violent turn for the worse in this respect. Although he does, in a way, cater to the wishes of gorehounds and fans of obscure extreme cinema, Anaru has clearly made this film just for the sake of being shocking and perverse.
I must admit, I expected more going into this film. Having read other reviews for Niku, I was awaiting the chance to be shocked and disturbed. However, what I got was a 69-minute film that was a 40-minute porno (a rather boring one at that) and a 20-minute faux snuff film. I probably would not have minded this, were it for how painfully long and unnecessarily tedious the snuff portion of the film was. It also did not help that there were no subtitles, which makes you care about the characters even less. Niku Daruma has a very limited release here in the United States, and can probably only be found on eBay or the darkest corners of the internet. If you are into this sort of movie and you have a morbid curiosity to see it, then go for it (if you can find it). But Niku Daruma is too painfully long considering its short running time and has incredibly sub-par effects that I cannot actually recommend it to anyone.