Monday, June 28

Visitor Q: Reviewed!

**WARNING** Since I don't think very many people will be watching this film (especially after this review), I decided to include major spoilers. You've been warned.

It would be impossible to start any decent review of Visitor Q without any form of warning for potential viewers. What I'll do is give out the short version here. Those of you interested to actually read more, can scroll down. Okay, here goes:

This film is disturbing, downright gory, and sick. Before the 84 minute mark rolls about you'll have been treated to scenes of incestual sex, anal rape, parent-beating, extreme lactation and necrophilia. There are scenes of incomprehensible surrealism and weirdness you'll wonder if you've lost your mind by even watching this. This is not for the faint hearted, or if you're anywhere near mainstream.

Good. Now that we've scared all the others away, I'll just continue on with the full skinny. Don't say I didn't warn you..

Equal parts family drama, horror film and social commentary, Takashi Miike's Visitor Q is a disturbing look at the disintegration of Japanese familial values and the emergence of reality TV as the entertainment of choice for the masses. Made in 2001 and shot on digital (with a very limited budget), Q is a romp into dysfunction and madness but proves to be ultimately hopeful.

The story opens with a young prostitute (Fujiko) cajoling Kiyoshi Yamazaki (Kenichi Endo, who later proves to be her father) to have sex with her. After being charged extra for ejaculating too early, he wanders back home and in the meantime is brained by a rock carried by the mysterious Q (Kazushi Watanabe). Kiyoshi is a TV executive who is fixated on making the next big reality show with his reluctant co-worker and lover Asako (Shoko Kawahara), especially since his last effort ended up with himself being sodomised with a microphone (which we see in full colour later).

At home, his wife Keiko (Shungiku Uchida, in a role that has to be seen to be believed) cowers in fear as their son Takuya (Jun Muto) beats her again and again with one of many paddles he keeps in his closet. After being beaten, she limps into her room to look at her scars, cover them up and shoot up with heroin, while her son goes up, dons a mask and hides as his school mates attack the house with firecrackers. Finally the father returns home with Q in tow, and the weirdness doesn't stop...

There is something to be said about Miike. In a time when other genre directors seem to have run out of ideas, he delights in taking the most taboo things and shoving them into our faces. Simply put, he dares. Like the bloody perversion in Ichi and gruesome revenge of Audition, Visitor Q grabs you by the (metaphorical) nuts, twists, pulls and takes you on a trip of such content you're left gasping for breath after, a little woozy and very shaken.

That's as close as I can come to describing it. There are no holds barred, as he takes the viewer into the lives of this family the only way he knows how. This is the ultimate reality TV, where you know you can't possibly watch what's happening but you do anyway, because..well because it is there. From the early sex scenes between father and daughter, to Q's awakening of the mother's lactation fixation, leading to the final gut wrenching 20 minutes as Kiyoshi kills Asako and then tries to have sex with the corpse (and getting stuck as rigor mortis sets in), him and his wife killing Takuya's bullies to the gloriously bittersweet redemption of the family, the shock is non stop, punishing and brutal.

At the end of the day, the family is on the mend, Q is nowhere to be found and yes, even the daughter is back in the bosom of the mother (literally, thanks to Q's rock) and we pull away from the still disturbing sight, finally relieved that it is over, that at least for now, there is no more hurt.

There are some messages to be found in this almost unstomachable tale, this reviewer believes. Miike rues the degeneration of the family unit, the obsession we have with reality TV, and our dependence on a third party (Q?) to make it all better, when in fact the solutions are with each other. The family is stronger for all their pain (and weirdness) and for once Kiyoshi doesn't need to be behind the camera, taping another sick story, Keiko doesn't need to turn tricks to feel beautiful and the daughter comes back home.

This is not one I recommend to anyone, unless you know what you're getting yourself into. It takes a lot from you, but it also gives it back, with interest.

The Ox gives it a 4 out of 5 with tons of warning.