Splatter: Naked Blood
- Original title
- Megyaku Akuma no Yorokobi
- Japanese title
- 女虐 悪魔の悦び
- Alternative title
- Naked Blood
- Running time
- 76 minutes
- 6 November 2006
by Jasper Sharp
After a period of almost ten years where he was seen as something of a persona non grata in the Japanese film industry, last year's high-profile horror omnibus Rampo Noir seems to have put the career of Hisayasu Sato back on track. For many his Caterpillar segment was the most impressive of the film's four stories. Since its release, the most notorious of the Four Devils of the 1990s pink scene has already gone on to bring Junichiro Tanizaki's 1909 debut novella Tattoo (Shisei) back to the screen with all his customary visual flare in Shisei: The Tattooer. Artsmagic's beautifully-presented DVD releases of three of his earlier pink films, Survey Map of a Paradise Lost (Hard Focus: Nusumi-giki, 1988), Love-Zero=Infinity (Iyarashii Hitozuma: Nureru, 1994), and Rafureshia (Sukebe-zuma: Otto no Rusu ni, 1995), shouldn't do his reputation any harm either, providing you like your sex films dark and dirty.
It therefore seems a pretty auspicious time for Discotek Media to be resurrecting Splatter: Naked Blood, Sato's much-celebrated gore title from the mid-90s (the 'megyaku' part of the Japanese title actually translates as something like Female Tyrant). The film was one of a batch of straight-to-video releases Sato directed after moving away from the pinku eiga field. These also included In the Thicket (Yabu no Naka), based on the Ryunosuke Akutagawa short story that is better known as the basis for Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon (1950); the utterly bizarre Night of an Anatomical Dummy (Jintaimokei no Yoru), and the more orthodox Let's Meet in a Dream (Yume de Aimasho).
It is not the first time Naked Blood (as it was then known) has been made available on the DVD format - the Dutch-based Japan Shock label put it out several years ago, incorrectly crediting its director's name as Toshiyasu Sato. But coinciding nicely as it does with this rekindled interest in the director's career, Discotek's re-release seems particularly timely, and hopefully should add another piece to the jigsaw puzzle for those trying to piece together the director's bleak and fragmented worldview.
The basic concept of Splatter: Naked Blood is simple. Carrying on with the research of his father, 17-year-old prodigy Eiji develops an Ecstasy/Prozac-like drug named "My Son". Its goal is to act as the ultimate painkiller, removing all unpleasant bodily sensations to leave only feelings of happiness and well-being. When three girls - a chronic insomniac with an aversion to plants (except a large cactus, with which she communicates through a virtual reality headset), an unashamedly gluttonous food-lover, and a preening hair-flicking narcissist - find themselves serving as his unwitting lab rats, the consequences are expectedly gruesome.
A remake of his earlier pink film Assault: The Real Thing (Boko Honban, 1986), while not a pink film in itself, Naked Blood nevertheless reprises many of the ideas and stylistic elements carried on from Sato's earlier work for Kokuei and Shishi Productions - mixed visual mediums such as video, 8mm, and scrolling computer text; neutral urban spaces that evoke feelings of big city alienation; and the use of visual and tactile mediating devices.
Here these ideas are put to service in the format of a gore movie that owes much to the paranoiac clinical fantasies of David Cronenberg's films of the 80s. Perhaps not quite the gory succession of stomach-churning incidents some would have you believe, after an intriguing build-up where the philosophical territory is thoroughly mapped out, events nevertheless take a turn into Grand Guignol in the final quarter with some truly nauseating scenes of self-cannibalism and a terminal case of body piercing.
It takes a strong stomach indeed to keep up with Sato's vision. But Naked Blood is made with an intelligence, artistry and sense of wry wit that pitches it way, way above the level of the low-fi ciné-vérité exploitation of the quasi-snuff Guinea Pig series with which the title has been sometimes associated. Perplexing and pretentious, some have claimed. Well, if you are looking for a high-speed bump-and-jump rollercoaster ride then stick with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Naked Blood might not deliver the same adrenalin rush, but it'll give you plenty to ruminate over, even if you do have to watch the final scenes with your hands over your eyes.