It's not horror, but it's not anything else I can think of either. It doesn't have a genre, although "it's Japanese" sums it up as well as anything.
What it is, though, is reviewer-proof. Let's see if we can't paint some kind of picture of the story.
It starts out like a real movie, with a mother and two daughters living under siege. Reporters are camped outside their house, people are throwing rocks through the windows and the younger daughter comes home bleeding because she says someone cut her. Someone's been decapitating schoolgirls and everyone seems to think it's their brother, including the pig of a policeman who swaggers in whenever he wants to. This is pretty nasty. It doesn't help that their father was executed years earlier, presumably for doing something similar, and the family are going stir crazy. The younger daughter (Hitomi Miwa) is talking to psychics, while the older daughter (Hijiri Natsukawa) is on the point of being dumped by her boyfriend, sexually frustrated and a bitch.
Things start getting weirder when the psychics arrive. They're theatrical and expensive (5 million yen), but fortunately they regard permission to rape the mother as a sufficient downpayment. Don't worry, she enjoys it so much that she later helps them rape her eldest daughter, who enjoys it even more. The rape theme is continued later. Meanwhile the psychics' powers appear to be real, as is demonstrated by the female one summoning the murdered girls' spirits and getting them walking about as four decapitated ghosts in schoolgirls' uniforms. At least, I hope they're ghosts. Maybe they were zombies. Hitomi Miwa finds two FBI agents in Japan, vomits up lots of semen and sings a song. Lots of people die. The film ends with what I think is the offscreen arrival of what I think might be aliens, Godzilla or perhaps Great Cthulhu, but the only way to find out which is to watch the sequel.
In case you haven't worked it out already, this film is nuts. However what makes it ten times as nuts is the fact that for the most part, it thinks it's completely sane. It's taking itself seriously. Only very occasionally does it openly wink to camera, while for the most part you're sitting there wondering in what spirit you're meant to be watching these impossibilities. 1. Is it meant to be taken literally? Surely not. Police murder investigations don't work like that, for a start. 2. Is it theatre of the absurd? That's a seductive theory. 3. Is it a representation of subjective reality according to our mentally fragile protagonists? Not impossible, but it would be a stretch. 4. Is it out-of-control nonsense from a director who doesn't know when to stop? Obviously that's true, but it's also awfully reductive.
In its own way, it feels honest. The world of our protagonists is too claustrophobic and horrible for us to be able to write it off as camp. The women who enjoy being raped aren't just a misogynistic cliche, but people with specifically broken psyches who maintain a psychological reality both before and afterwards. You believe it. It feels like a real movie...
However then the weird stuff comes along to break your brain. You've got the FBI agents, one of whom speaks nothing but English and yet is played by an actress who doesn't understand her own dialogue and hence has an accent thick enough to require subtitles just like everyone else. They're silly enough that you could put them in a Monty Python skit. You've got climactic kung-fu fighting with funky 1970s music. You've got an Amicus Dalek movie title sequence. You've got horror movie sequences that look just like Ringu
, down to the grainy blue monochrome camera footage that would suggest the Japanese broadcast media in 2000 were using 1970s video equipment... except that here, the killers are the protagonists. It's surreal, in the strictest sense of the word. If you can just manage to keep watching, it's mind-bending.
Then there's the sexual side of the story, which is probably extreme enough to make the film unwatchable for 70% of the population. The most unbelievable scene is something that I don't think normal people would even be capable of imagining in the first place. Even if you knew the gruesome bit of trivia required to make it even anatomically possible, you surely couldn't be in a healthy mental place if you could conceive of putting it to this use. However it's such outrageous grand guignol that somehow, in its own way, it works. You still might want to avoid watching in mixed company, though.
After all that, the incest revelations at the end are almost an anticlimax. I'm also left with the feeling that the sex is intended as symbolic rather than any kind of wank material. I'm still wondering about the meaning of Hitomi Miwa's apparent semen-puking and Ren Osugi's dildo, for instance.
I could have coped if the whole film was silly. It's not. It's doing lots of silly things (e.g. the florid music and dramatic posing of our psychics), but almost always with a straight face. I want to be able to watch it like a proper film with real characters and a lot of the time I can, but then something nearly impossible will happen and five minutes later the plot's moved on to sulphuric acid.
The movie contains no crazy lips. Apparently they liked the title and never got around to changing it, even though it ended up having nothing to do with the story. In addition reading the script apparently killed the actors' interest in making the movie. That's understandable, although you'd think that for Ren Osugi at least it wouldn't have been entirely foreign territory.
If nothing else, this movie is an experience. I don't believe I've ever seen anything like it. It's frequently stupid and/or gross, but it's also quite a well-made movie with subtle touches and a cast I rather liked. The decapitated ghosts fumbling through the streets are creepy, for instance. The comedy FBI agents are ridiculous, but in the end they're so ridiculous that they're kind of magnificent. I was laughing out loud at the end for instance when a gun-toting Tomomi Kuribayashi was inflicting grievous audio harm on The Star-Spangled Banner. I don't think I could recommend this movie to anyone in the entire world, but I think I admired it. It's entertaining, anyway. It's dark, disturbing and wacky, which is an achievement when it's in the same film.
"They're tighter when they're dead." Don't ask.