Bathed in Blood
Director Koji Shiraishi’s torture-porn flick Grotesque gets banned in Britain—and ignites a debate about Japan’s splatter-film boom
By: Sarah Cortina | Sep 24, 2009 | 9 Comments | 30,406 views
Photo by Benjamin Parks

Photo by Benjamin Parks

The camera pans across a dank, dark, warehouse-like space where a young couple is being held captive. Filthy, gagged and chained to steel tables, they exchange looks of utter fear and despair. A menacing figure clad in a green surgeon’s uniform enters the room. He walks over to the bound man and says, “Would you die for her?” A beat goes by, and he repeats his challenge. “Would you?” The victim slowly nods, his gaze traveling to the young woman. The surgeon’s eyes gleam as he reaches for a pair of pliers.

What follows is 50 minutes of torture, sadism and brutality that comprises the bulk of director Koji Shiraishi’s horror flick Grotesque. The film debuted to relatively little fanfare in a few Japanese theaters earlier this year, and even though a DVD release followed, it would have likely faded into obscurity were it not for one headline-making decision.

Last month, the British Board of Film Classification—the agency responsible for assessing and rating movies—declined to give the work an “18” rating, a move which effectively banned its sale and distribution within the UK.
Grotesque features minimal narrative or character development and presents the audience with little more than an unrelenting and escalating scenario of humiliation, brutality and sadism,” said BBFC director David Cooke, in a statement. “The chief pleasure on offer seems to be in the spectacle of sadism (including sexual sadism) for its own sake.” The film thus was determined to present a significant “risk of harm” to viewers that was unmitigated by any redeeming artistic merit.

Such a ruling is not only rare, it’s almost unprecedented. Out of the roughly 10,000 movies reviewed by the board annually, the only other film to receive the ban in the last three years was Murder Set Pieces, an American production about a photographer who rapes and kills prostitutes. Shortly after the BBFC’s announcement, the ban of Grotesque made headlines all over the world, and thrust into the spotlight an obscure 36-year-old Japanese director who is at the forefront of his country’s thriving splatter-film movement.



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  • clearsky54

    The idea that this man made this sick movie, and that Metropolis is giving him credence by featuring him in such a way, along with posting sick, disgusting pictures from the film is deeply disturbing. What is the benefit of a film like this? To cater to sick freaks? Are we supposed to think it’s funny that there is a picture of this horrible man with a bloody knife held up to his mouth? Is it all a big joke? Is blood splattered all over everything, organs hanging out, people slowly dying — is this “entertainment”? After all these years of my supporting Metropolis, I can no longer do so. It’s a sad day when people who make films that have no other purpose than to show how low human beings can go get as much attention as this piece of garbage. When I need to line my birdcage, Metropolis will now finally be put to some good use.

  • clearsky54

    I’m going to post a second comment. My “comment” is awaiting “moderation”? Uh huh. Did anybody “moderate” the horrific pictures of the young actress splattered with blood before they posted them here? I hope that no one that you’ve ever met ever is killed in a horrific way or that you never have to face the reality of seeing people hurt, maimed or killed in the way that this magazine has casually splashed (no pun intended) across its pages, as if it’s just another quirky story on the weird nutty artists that populate Tokyo. The best thing your magazine could do is to delete this story and offer something of value to your readers. This was a new low in Metropolis’s history.

  • jameshadfield

    What is the benefit of a film like this? To cater to sick freaks? Are we supposed to think it’s funny that there is a picture of this horrible man with a bloody knife held up to his mouth? Is it all a big joke? Is blood splattered all over everything, organs hanging out, people slowly dying — is this “entertainment”?

    I think you’ll find that the article poses a lot of the same questions. It’s very unusual for a film like this to be banned, and the fact that it was made international headlines–hence our decision to cover Shiraishi (and the “splatter film” phenomenon) in the magazine.

    For the record, though, I agree that back issues of Metropolis do make an excellent lining for birdcages.

  • onjenu

    I have no interest in seeing this film or anything like it – but rather than causing violent acts, I believe such films (and video games) exist because they represent some kind of reality.

    What I find more disturbing is the mass marketing of violence on American television, such as the CSI franchise series. I believe that it represents something deeply troubling about what Americans are interested in — as common place entertainment. Not that it is going to cause violence necessarily, but rather, I think it reveals a disconnect. Because they (the viewer) isn’t the tv victim, they can somehow feel safer in an unpredictable world. Inevitably, the victim has done something wrong–a choice, a place, a time. The apparent randomness of the victim’s fate reflects the fears that people have – of themselves being violently attacked – and that’s why it’s on prime time. They want to tell themselves that it’s not them, they wouldn’t have opened that door…but it’s fundamentally unhealthy, still. I suspect that “splatter” films have a similar appeal + some kind of fetishization. Anyway, I will not be watching any of this stuff.

  • MetropolisMedia

    To ClearSky:

    I have no vested interest in the splatter genre. I love horror, but I have no desire to ever see a torture porn film ever. However, your post struck a bit of a chord when I read it. I’m worried that your solution to the problem of indecency is the wrong solution. I think it’s fair for you to actively boycott the director’s body of work and even the distribution company that got it out the door and into stores. However, I don’t think it’s fair for you to boycott Metropolis for discussing his work. It’s a well written article that focused much more on the (debatable) cultural relevance and impact of that particular film and the genre than it did on glorification.

    One of the core points of the article was that these films slide into obscurity unless people get in a vocal tizzy and start condemning the film and anyone associated with it. Once that happens, suddenly the film is getting massive exposure from the people who are insisting that the film should get no exposure.

    And, just so you know, I’m not against you regarding these films. I think the whole genre is worthless trash. But, that doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t talk about whether or not the genre is trash.

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