I was asked once why Japanese director Takashi Miike is more appreciated in the Western world than in his own native land as a master of the macabre, the darkly twisted and of truly unnerving material; well, my answer was because Japan has been doing all sorts of twisted and sick films that may make one wonder just how it is they’ve been pulling off this stuff in the 70’s while we in the U.S. have just began to get used to the term ‘torture porn’. When European filmmakers produces a film that pushes the boundaries of taste and gruesome content, it is art but when Asian countries do the same it is considered exploitation and extreme. It is a double standard if you ask me. Well, in the world of exploitation and cult cinema, there are a lot of cases when a film is purely offensive and sleazy but there is that very rare opportunity that you would come across a film that transcends that reputation which becomes a compelling piece despite its graphic violence.
Such is the case with “The Star of David: Hunting for Beautiful Girls” by Japanese director Norifumi Suzuki, the director of “Sex and Fury” and “The School of the Holy Beast”. Much of Japan’s best directors began their filmography directing “Pink” horror films and on Suzuki‘s resume, “Star of David“ stands out. Suzuki is a maestro of delivering movies with an explicit subject matter such as gratuitous nudity, sexuality, depravity and brutality with a malicious, arresting and “artful” manner.
The film begins with the sound of police sirens. The police are looking for an escaped rapist, robber and murderer who we now see as having taken refuge in a huge house. This fugitive has taken a professor and his pretty wife hostage with the intention of robbing them. While there, this monster of a human being decides to have a little fun by tying up the professor’s wife and taking advantage of her sexually while her husband is forced to watch. It is bad enough to have a husband watch his wife get violated and her reluctantly enjoying the act; what’s worst is that the woman gets left behind pregnant with this killer’s child and a husband who now gets his kicks by beating on his wife for the dishonor brought him by enjoying sex with her attacker.
Many years have passed and we now see a young man named Tatsuya (Shun Domon) who looks normal on the surface but has been become obsessed with Hitler’s views on extermination; Tatsuya is also preparing to embrace his own genetic depravity. He begins by murdering his own recognized father, killing his mistress, and kidnapping other young women to practice on this view of his. He takes them to his own private torture chamber where he sexually molests and humiliates them. Now, when his natural father shows up at his doorstep, what further evil will happen?
“Star of David: Hunting for Beautiful Girls” can easily be written off as an excuse to display one taboo subject after another and the film does flirt around with the boundaries of taste; it does execute its intricate storyline with a daring style and impressive scheme. Sure, the themes of mental torture, serious sadism, necrophilia, some bestiality, (there’s even a guy who whacks off while looking at World War 2 holocaust photos) seem very commonplace in the film but it does package it neatly behind a thought-provoking message (albeit twisted) behind all the graphic violence and madness. There is actually a compelling story behind all the elements of exploitation as the film presents a study in how to take those extreme elements to the boundaries of genre pushing.
Norifumi Suzuki is a good director and displays skill as he frames the twisted sequences that comes very close to becoming pure smut. The film’s provocative elements comes over Suzuki’s fondness for Nazi/Jewish themes. I guess this is his way of condemning the evils of the holocaust and as to how the madness may awaken the darkness of man. Suzuki makes a bold statement that all men are born good; but they all have the ability to degenerate to pure cruelty depending on their experiences. The film succeeds in making its viewer uncomfortable with its very discomforting sequences; if this film is any indication, the Japanese really do like their twisted violence.
The film also has a romantic angle to it as there is also hope for Tatsuya in finding true twisted love in the form of his childhood friend Yumiko, played by Miss Japan Hiromi Namino. Yes, this film can be a good valentine’s day movie but please wait for a year before showing this film to your significant other. This film achieved attention when it was promoted as the film where Namino debuts as an actress and sheds all clothing. Much of the film’s burden falls on Shun Domon in a very complicated role. There are a lot of supporting female characters in the film; all of them gets naked and gets to be put in very uncomfortable, extreme situations.
“Star of David: Hunting for Beautiful Girls” was also known under the moniker “Fuck or Die”; and a title like that would just say it all. It is a crude horror movie that just requires a twisted talent to deliver the brain-scorching material, titillation, violence and weirdness with an outward nastiness that complements its subtext. Genetics or upbringing…morality or immorality…predestined or choice…conquest and sacrifice. It is a wonderful piece of cinematic perversion and still stands as one of the seediest pieces of exploitation cinema ever produced. It is essential to any fan of pink films and Japanese cinema.
Recommended timidly because of its content [4 Stars]