Come on in, the water's horrendous...
Tumbling Doll of Flesh (Niku Daruma), 1998
Tamakichi Anaru, Japan
Welcome back to Film Gutter, where today we've decided to explore on of the most infamous stretches of water in extreme horror. There are certain films in the subgenre that are rather spoken of in whispers, that acquire an almost legendary status, and rarely is that more so the case then when Japanese cinema steps into the realm of the extreme. I'll be taking a look at the infamous Guinea Pig in the near future, but for today we hold our nose and plunge into the notorious Tumbling Doll of Flesh.
Now, for anyone who considers themselves a lover of 'torture porn' because they've watched a few of Eli Roth's offerings and some of the Saw movies, well, you'd be in for a distinctly rude awakening here. The Saw films I am a big fan of, largely because of the surprisingly intricate plotting over the whole series. Even a Hostel film or two makes an attempt at storyline. This? This is a film truly deserving of the title of torture porn, in no small part because it is about porn. But also because it makes no real effort at storyline, instead being around an hour of unadulterated and distinctly unpleasant gore.
It's pointless me even trying to go into any depth plot-wise – a man and a woman are recruited by two men posing as a small adult film production company, and taken to a remote house for a shoot. From there, the woman and the man are both horribly abused by the violent and disturbed members of the 'production company'. Sounds dead simple, because it is. Sounds horrible perhaps? Yes, it is that too, in droves.
There is a pretence for a while that there is a porn film being made – we have one censored sex scene to kick things off with – but it soon becomes apparent that we are dealing with two pretty serious deviants behind the camera here. Soon enough our female lead finds herself restrained and at the absolute mercy of her captors. The male lead – strangely – doesn't seem to see a great deal wrong with this, and is even willing to go along to a certain point with the instructions and demands of his psychopathic 'directors'. That's never really explained – 'peer pressure' seems a bit of a lame way to write off such behaviour – but he of course also meets an unfortunate and grisly end which, thankfully, was again censored.
The censorship question is a really weird one here – Japanese film seems to be very strict on showing any sexual content, but in this and many other Japanese horror movies you can show absolutely lashings of gore and hideous torture with no problem that makes a bit of pixelation around the genitals seem a pretty pointless procedure. Niku Daruma is the pure definition of 'torture porn' – the only way to truly enjoy this movie is if you like to see people being brutalised and dismembered. There are moments in this movie – even with censorship – which were genuinely repellant, particularly in the scenes towards the finale. I won't go into too much depth, but the characters from JG Ballard's Crash would have loved it...
Oh yes, it's horrible, but often all to much for the sake of horrible. If you like fountains of blood and demented sexuality, then this might just be your dream movie. If you prefer something a bit more from your films, you might just find this one a disappointment.
RATING: 4/10. Another one of those 'because I have to rate it something' kind of movies, I'm afraid. The plot is minimal, the characterisation all but non-existent and while the events here are luridly gruesome, without knowing anything about the individuals they are happening to, it's hard to be emotionally moved by them. Sickened? Yes, absolutely. Horrified this was given a release? To some extent, yes. But not a film I'd be itching to come back to – or to recommend – by any stretch. So this one tumbles in at a lowly 4/10.