Zoom In: Sex Apartments (1980)
Director: Naosuke Kurosawa
Writers: Chiho Katsura
Starring: Erina Miyai, Youko Azusa, and Yoko Oyagi

The Plot: Saeko (Erina Miyai) is a lonely wife who fears the concept of having children. She always makes her husband wear a condom out of fear that it will lead to her having a family that she is not ready for. When her husband leaves town again on one of his long trips (he is a cyclist), Saeko decides to visit her former lover. While on the road to his apartment, Saeko is is attacked by a hidden assailant who throws a stone and knocks her off her bike. During this attack, all the audience can see is that the assailant wears a black skull cap, black gloves, and a long trenchcoat. His weapon of choice seems to be a very sharp poker/screwdriver as well, and he appears to be bloodthirsty. After her rape, Saeko arrives at the apartment of her former lover. He is a piano tuner who also happens to wear a long black trenchcoat, a skull cap, and black gloves. Despite this fact, the two quickly start back up their romantic relationship. However, things start to get tense when it becomes apparent that Saeko wasn’t the only local woman raped. There’s a serial rapist on the prowl, and he likes to end his sessions by either lighting his victims on fire or purposefully burning their genitalia. Is Saeko’s new boyfriend really the killer? And if so, will she survive?

The Review
Despite its title, Zoom In: Sex Apartments is indeed a sequel to the notorious Zoom Up series which can be found in the Roman Porno catalog. So far, Impulse/Synapse has already released Zoom Up: The Beaver Book Girl and now we have Zoom In: Sex Apartmens, but hopefully we will see more of this series as the Roman Porno collection continues to roll out. As I have mentioned before, this series is incredibly loose in its ties between each film. Sex Apartments seems to have less to do with the others than any other movie found in the series. Aside from the fact that it has the basic framework of a thriller, there is very little that ties it to anything else within this line. Even the main title of the movie has moved from Zoom Up to Zoom In, for whatever reason. Throughout the other movies found in this series, it seems that cameras were used as plot devices in order to tie them together, but instead Sex Apartments focuses only on the inner dynamics of a very messed-up relationship. This is the crux of our story, and after some very surreal detours throughout the movie it does manage to prove itself to be a very interesting project.

Far from being a typical piece of Roman Porno, whatever that might mean, Zoom In: Sex Apartments more closely resembles an Italian giallo film or American slasher movie. Only with more rape, obviously. Most noticeably, the movie has a hidden killer who wears leather gloves, features some rather gruesome violence/death sequences, and the plot follows along the familiar beats that made both of the previously mentioned genres famous. However, the focus of the story is less grand in its scope than a full-on criminal investigation, but instead it stays tightly wrapped around the two central figures within our story. Characters who come into the plot and then die are truly “filler characters,” and their sole responsibility is to move us from one key sequence to the next. In this regard, the sex and murder seems more like unrepentant exploitation than even the most blatantly excessive Japanese exploitation titles that audiences might run into. Still, that sort of open-handed approach is fitting for this movie, and audiences will get exactly what they expect from a movie like this. And perhaps even a little more.

There are definitely some things being said in this film about male and female dynamics. Our main actress has an on/off lesbian relationship with her friend, but during their sex scene the best friend’s husband becomes involved in the action and our main protagonist immediately loses interest. Then the film introduces a young female who watches in the alley as our lead villain burns another one of his victims alive. This girl, who was urinating in the garbage at the time, becomes obviously aroused while watching this murder take place. Then, at the height of her sexual arousal, she begins stuffing her mouth with the food she has found in the garbage. I feel that, even on a very generic and base level, these characters are representative of different attractions and problems within human relations. Are these ideal or perfect examples? Not at all. This isn’t a movie that is helped a great deal by repeated examination, because it doesn’t truly reveal a whole lot. Ultimately, it seems the filmmakers hoped to include something a bit more fertile for the mind than just being soft pornography, but ultimately they cannot hide what they truly are.

The use of fire within the film is pretty over-the-top. During the final quarter of the movie, things start to become very surreal and the fire starts to become symbolic instead of literal. What the fire shown in the movie represents is likely up for debate. Being that our killer uses fire on women, often burning their genitalia, and knowing his prudish anger towards the opposite sex, it seems likely that the character views the fire as a form of purification. Not to get too heavy while discussing a movie named Zoom In: Sex Apartments, in many major religions fire has been viewed as a form of cleansing. In an idea that predates even Zoroastrianism (one of the oldest middle-eastern religions), it was once thought that the soul would need to go through cleansing fire before inevitably finding “heaven” or a firm state of being. In our film, it seems very well that the fire of our killer could very well be his way of cleansing his victims before sending them on their way. In the prudish world of our film, sex is seen as a dirty act, and pregnancy is the most visibly noticeable representation of that act. This explains the fear of male/female sex from our lead, and the way that she turns away the opportunity for a threesome during the movie. Ultimately, our lead character finds herself inevitably coming to terms with her own desires and in doing so she embraces the figurative flames, even if it means that she is damned by society. These are just basic interpretations however, so take them with a grain of salt.

The Conclusion
Although it isn’t perfect by a long stretch, the pace actually has some issues for a movie that clocks in at barely one hour, Zoom In: Sex Apartments is another welcome addition to Impulse Pictures’ excellent Roman Porno collection. Unrepentantly strange, filled with excessive sex/violence, and featuring more burned genitalia than you can shake a stick at, Zoom In: Sex Apartments is absolutely worth tracking down. There are many who will not enjoy the surreal nature of the film, but if you like your movies open-to-interpretation, rush into this one. I give it a four out of five.

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