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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Hollywood Cleans Up Its Act in ‘Kubi’

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Tetsuo Iijima, one of the most acclaimed horror film directors in Japan, founded a troupe that collaborated with Hollywood on film versions of two novels and, in 2011, decided to dig a little deeper into the archives.

“Something was staring us in the face,” he said.

The upshot is “Kubi” (Ravaged), a horror film with a startlingly graphic depiction of a sex attack that occurred in two Yamanashi prefectures in the early 1980s. Director Iijima cut together a sequence of photos to add to the realism.

“We can only show what happened,” he said. “You don’t know who did what. The language of our present age is very controlled. When we can’t believe we’re seeing it, we express ourselves through art.”

Hiroki Takano, the face behind many of Japan’s most notorious sex attack victims in recent years, said Iijima’s film gave victims the chance to tell their stories in such stark, brutally honest terms they hoped viewers would reject the horror genre as a whole.

“There are certain words that are rejected in everyday life,” he said. “That’s why I think movie audiences need to be able to be more open.”

The 53-year-old master of gore employs suspense and genuine fear in his latest film, made up of mainly slow-motion and quick-cut camera moves to heighten the suspense. There are small bursts of live action, but a remarkable amount of in-camera product placement, particularly of a rapidly growing Japanese tech company: If the audience isn’t on edge from the horror movie getting under their skin, they are likely to notice and start typing things into search engines like Google and Shodan.com.

The 47-year-old director is a horror aficionado; he has a reputation for using unorthodox devices and narratives to heighten his horror.

“The prefectures are very different from each other,” he said. “I thought, ‘How can we approach this differently, from an emotional point of view?’ and then I started putting a camera into different positions.”

Takano, the victim who revealed her ordeal in 2012, said he was impressed by the passion with which Iijima worked to give his movie a greater impact.

“I’ve never seen as many vaults and little archives in one film before,” he said. “Titles like ‘liver rupture’ and ‘robes are torn down’ seem relevant, because people would understand.”

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