Monday, March 8, 2010

My Year in Disturbing Film: Week 10 - Iron Deficiencies

My year in disturbing film is my weekly column where I devote a few paragraphs to the most fucked up films ever made. Each week I plan on subjecting myself to the most horrific and mentally damaging imagery my mind can handle. I can't promise you this won't be the week I wind up in the hospital...

HERE is a reminder about my rating system for these films

Hmmm so what torment is in store for me this week...

Tetsuo: The Iron Man – The Man of (Stainless) Steel

What’s the movie about?
What an interestingly tough question to answer. There’s no discernable plot to Tetsuo. On the surface it just seems like a sloppily edited mish mash of crazy imagery and horrific body horror. Body horror for the uninitiated is pretty much what it seems, it’s a genre pretty much created by the Tetsuo movies and you see it around in other things like Tokyo gore police and the machine girl, but Tetsuo predates them by more than a decade. Body horror is typically described as any type of horror film in which the body is modified, either by accident or purposely, in order to create fear in the viewer. On a deeper level Tetsuo is a story of a man’s fight to maintain his identity in a society full of repression and which demands conformity. It’s pretty avant-garde so it could really mean anything though.

Is the film disturbing?
Tetsuo does quite a bit in its very short 67 minute run time to try to break your brain. That’s not to say that Tetsuo is a quick watch, those 67 minutes drag like there’s no tomorrow. You’ll want to claw out your eyes by the time you’re done; it’s a hard sit, though that’s not to say there’s nothing enjoyable about the film. If you’re versed in the films of Jan Svenkmejer you’ll be pretty much right at home with Tetsuo. There’s lot of brilliantly animated stop motion combined with live action. The film has lots of odd imagery and a ton of twisted action sequences. Tetsuo is also shot in some of the harshest black and white I’ve ever seen in film (topped only by begotten, which I’ll be reviewing at a later date)


Tetsuo hits the ground running and barely lets up with the crazy shit it throws at you. It opens with a man slicing into his own leg and inserting a metal rod. We’re then introduced to the main character of the film. A Japanese businessman whose razor breaks while he’s shaving and the metal piece becomes embedded in his face. That’s all it takes to get him going on the road to becoming a fully metal man.

Like this!

You see this is where the true horror in the body horror movies plays. It’s the assimilation into the machine. It’s the loss of one’s self, of one’s individuality. There’s a great line at the end of the film when the main character is already almost all machine. He says, “Even your brain will turn to metal”. The ultimate assimilation is to think like the machine.


Tetsuo is also peppered with copious amounts of disturbing montages. Scenes of the main character being raped anally by a woman with a giant robo-phallus made of bendable piping. Sex plays a big part in the film as well. As the main character transforms his love life suffers, lovemaking becomes less human and more mechanical. Eventually he sprouts a giant “drilldo” and although they fight at first his girlfriend soon succumbs to his mechanical charms and she winds up fucking her self to death. It’s a little too hard to go into too much more detail of the film. Like I said there’s no discernable plot or story so it’s basically just this hour long montage with minimal dialog about men becoming machines. Is Tetsuo worth a watch, sure, but only if you can suffer art house filmmaking. I happen to love that sort of stuff, call it my pretentious side.
5 Driller Killer Penis’ out of 5

Disturbitude: 9 it’s hard to ignore the filmmakers intent on this one. They were out to make a film that sent people to the hospital from either being sick on themselves or with bad persistent dreams. If the film had been a half hour longer it might have succeeded.

Next up: Vulgar - The tears of the (raped) clown.

P.S. Imagine a movie that looks like Eraserhead, but is edited like a Svankmejer film…that’s Tetsuo: The Iron Man, there are TWO sequels too, I’ve seen Tetsuo 2: The Body Hammer, but the third has eluded me.

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