EAT THE SCHOOLGIRL: OSAKA TELEPHONE CLUB (1997) Dir. Naoyuki Tomomatsu, Japan, 60 mins
Welcome back to Film Gutter, and today's movie came with the sort of bonkers title that I simply couldn't resist checking out. Japanese cinema can have a propensity for being fairly on the nose with the names of its films, but the significance of this one is simply lost on me. There was some phone sex, which I suppose explains the latter part of the moniker, and maybe one of the girls featured was a schoolgirl, although if that was the case it certainly passed me by. But if the sole function of a title is to grab a viewer, then I suppose it was job done...
Anyway, away from such ridiculous semantics and onto the content of the actual movie! This one follows two young men who work for the Yakuza, obviously a pretty dubious line of work before you say anything else, but add in the fact their work is basically to help create snuff films and you're on an even darker road. Even worse, the two of them both have a strange sexual quirk – one can only get off on phone sex while the other is aroused by the sight of dead bodies. So when you throw all that into the pot you should have a pretty unpleasant end product. Right?
Hmm... yes and no. This film is a very strange melange, a series of scenes that it's often hard to detect any strong connection between. There are some very dark montage scenes of bloody murder, one notably unpleasant scene in which one of the snuff films is being created – with what (I think and hope) is a fake enema scene. There's also a double rape that isn't quite hardcore pornography but leaves little to the imagination. Finally, there's a pretty grisly murder towards the end of the movie, and some of the sexual content is pretty off centre.
Ultimately it does have some of the problems that Japanese cinema of the time has – these kind of 90's Japanese splatter features are often near incomprehensible, and have paper-thin plots that are basically more justifications for violence and sexual violence. At least this one has a semblance of plot, unlike numerous others I could name – the flat out torture porn of Guinea Pig 1, Guinea Pig 2 and Tumbling Doll of Flesh well among them – but it's slim at best. I suppose at the time this kind of gore and torture was far more extreme and cutting edge, but many of the features from this era don't seem to have dated well to me. That's not even to say it's just effects, but something more about style, approach and generally the degree of thought that goes into them. There's something that ultimately feels lazy and exploitative – the poor characterisation makes even the most gratuitous acts on display little but macabre spectacle, not really something that rocks you or shakes you the core the way it probably should. I'm certainly not trying to be deliberately unfair, but these were early days for this kind of film-making and the 2000s and beyond have bought far better as this subgenre has grown. Without movies like this we would never have had the likes of Audition – and that's a movie I would have hated to have missed out on.
RATING: 4/10. It's a strange experience watching some of these Japanese splatter movies, as the seem to almost have come from a time capsule and only really reflect a pretty short period in time and in film-making. This one has some interesting visuals, for sure, and if you're a real fan of disturbing content then this one should keep you watching for an hour. But it's not one likely to live long in the memory – there's not enough by way of characterisation, plot or genuine intelligence to really make the sort of impact it could. If you're a fan of these kinds of movies, you'll probably be happy enough, but if you like extreme horror more generally I'd say give this one a miss.