|The Plot: We follow a filmmaker and his cameraman as they audition for roles in their latest pornographic video. They find the perfect leads in a male and female who are both eager to work. The cameras start rolling and they’re off to a good start filming one scene immediately. Afterward, the female lead feels a bit awkward and is possibly being spoken down to (no subtitles!) and when the next scene comes along, she does her best as she is bound in rope and the crew start pushing her into anal sex and then pouring hot wax on her. The scene gets out of hand when they try to give her an enema and once everyone is sitting around the table again, she makes her break for it and goes to put her shoes on. When she does, she is smashed over the top of the head with a baseball bat. It becomes obvious this isn’t your average porno. She is strapped to the bed and her pants pulled down below her waist. The director instructs the actor to have his way with the woman, and soon he is doing so while they begin to chop off her foot. They won’t stop either, until she is left as a Tumbling Doll of Flesh.|
The Review: Niku Daruma, the original title for our film here, to the best of my knowledge is roughly translated as Tumbling Doll of Flesh. This is also one of its more popular titles, but I list it here under the much more sensational Snuff Reels moniker simply because I think it has more of a ring to it. The title Tumbling Doll of Flesh however has much more meaning than the English counterpart. A Daruma or a Tumbling Doll, if you have never seen one looks similar to a little ball with a face. You’ll see them in many different designs, but one that caught my eye while searching is that of one featuring a girl wrapped in a blanket. When you see what happens to our actress character in this film, as she has each limb severed and reduced to nothing more than the same shape – you begin to understand the fairly disturbing title. Add to it that Daruma was also a slang term for prostitutes during the Edo period (because like one of the dolls, they would fall on their back but return right back up) and you see the dual meanings at work with the title. Regardless of how cool such a title may be, Psycho (the name of the production company) The Snuff Reels is far more insidious, and much more akin to this dark, morbid and disturbing piece of Japanese video sleaze. To say this one isn’t going to be for everyone is the understatement of the century. There was a time in my life where I would have said there’s no way you could have had me sit down for an hour and twenty minutes and watching something like Psycho, but it’s funny what being a horror fan will do to you! You’re always looking to have that experience, to be able to say you’ve seen the worst – and sometimes you really do, Niku daruma is that sort of case.
The film starts simple enough, about what you would expect from a gonzo porno movie just without being sexy at all and a little more like a “behind the scenes” type of deal. We follow Tamakichi “Anal” Anaru – the actual director of this movie, who plays the director of the snuff movie inside – as well as an additional cameraman and the two actors involved. The first forty minutes of the film are made up of these behind the scenes situations as we are shown how an actor (mind you, with no subtitles its kind of hard to tell) in a Japanese porno might fake his moneyshot – since all pelvic regions are blurred in Japan even in pornography. Then the pornography in the film slowly gets more and more rough, and after the actress is knocked out this new direction takes over and we are treated to some of the most brutal onscreen violence I have seen in a WHILE. If you’re curious like I was, whether this one was going to live up to the hype – well, it definitely does. I’m sure the case is helped by the fact that we’re all watching what appears to be a dub, of a dub, of a dub of a dubbed VHS, much like Flowers of Flesh & Blood before it was released on DVD. Sometimes watching something on a gritty, flipping and nasty looking print can effect the intended meaning of a film a lot more than any pristine remastered version. Anaru, who is also a director of adult videos as well (this would be where the “Anal” nickname comes from), offers a pretty unique look into this sordid affair and gives the film a very realistic approach. I’m not a very squeamish guy at this point in my life, but there are times where this film started to get to me. Haven’t felt like that since first viewing Cannibal Holocaust so many years ago.
For the remainder of this paragraph, there will be spoilers, just a fair warning. I don’t think anyone would go into a film like this without searching as many details out as possible in hopes of dulling it down a bit before viewing; but in case there are those of you out there looking to be absolutely shocked you may want to skip forward to my “IN CONCLUSION” remark. So, the poor character being destroyed in the film is subjected to just about every horror imaginable. Her tongue is absolutely brutalized during a sequence where they take sheers to it, a potato peeler and completely obliterate it which turns out to be FAR worse than simply cutting it off. I was surprised how much this section really affected me because there turned out to be a time or two where I winced away from viewing – which I don’t remember having done in years! Two sections of one leg are chopped off at various times, first the foot is gone and then the next section is cut off at around the kneecap. After that, her right arm is hacked off and so is her left foot. These bits, while absolutely disgusting were not as bad as I was fearing after the tongue portion of the film. That’s kind of like saying “Yeah, getting punched in the face didn’t hurt as bad after I was kicked in the groin”, but gorehounds will get the point. The bit where her arm is sawed off wasn’t helped by the fact that the actor was using your standard kitchen knife of about five inches in length and a quarter inch in width. I’m not saying it isn’t possible or anything, but it simply can’t be as easy to saw through bone with one of those puny things as they make it seem in the film. He takes his time on it, but you never see him really struggle on the bone or anything like that… and I cannot believe I am typing this out. You won’t see Roger Ebert making observations like this, let me tell you! The final gutcheck moment turns out to be… well, a gutcheck of sorts. It’s the last really big moment and is much talked about, as our forced actor has intercourse with a slit in the tumbling doll’s stomach cavity. That’s right, they cut her open and expose her intestines – then make the actor have sex with it. Family friendly sort of flick right?
IN CONCLUSION, I pretty much have no conclusion! Much like Muzan-E I have viewed this with no subtitles but there’s so little dialogue you can pretty much piece everything together. However, how do you rate this? Do you rate it as a piece of storytelling? How about on gore alone? There’s certainly nothing to “enjoy” about it, so what does one do? I’m as stumped as anybody. I will say, if you’re looking for gore and filth – this is easily a 5/5, if you’re looking for a new direction for horror and something that pushes it to edge while delivering scary and tense atmosphere – this is not that. This would be a zero out of five on that merit. It simply is what it is, if you’ve read this review and now you’re going to go Google search for more information – chances are you know if you want to see more. If you’re disgusted and a little disturbed that someone would make a movie like this, or someone like me would spend so much time writing about it then you are likely not going to have a good time – but there’s still hope for you! Check it out or not, Tumbling Doll of Flesh/Psycho: The Snuff Reels just jumped right on the totem pole for sheer excess and frightening execution of gore and horror. Love it or hate it, it can change you.