If you’ve seen Daniel Lee’s and Herman Yau’s “Untold Story” and Fruit Chan’s 90 minute version of “3 Extremes: Dumplings”, you might have an idea as to what “CRUEL RESTAURANT” (aka. Zankoku Hanten, 2008) is all about. Directed/written by Koji Kawano (Attack Girls Swim Team vs. the Undead, I reviewed before) with screenplay by Satoshi Owada, the film is a wild blend of Japanese “pink” elements, horror, comedy and well, some blood and gore. If you think this is just another cannibal film, well, you will be very surprised--it‘s not as simple as that. Oh, it also stars ex-AV star Mihiro Taniguchi (Yo-yo Sexy Girl Cop)--so do I have your undivided attention now?
Ms. Lin (Mihiro) is a young woman who has attained minor fame because of her “Tougen Dumplings” in a city in Japan. Food critics such as Hoemi Masumoto (sexy Chihiro Kaganezaki) and magazine reporter Toshika Shirizawa (Miho Funatsu) are very curious as to what the secret ingredient is in the delicacy; even a renowned cook even wishes to apprentice under the beautiful Ms. Lin. When people started disappearing along the parameters of the restaurant, Detective Goro (Katsuna Naruse) and Detective Iwanomoto (Yusuke Iwata) try to unravel the mystery.
The film is insanely goofy, silly and full of comedic elements. The soundtrack's like a rip-off from “Jaws”, “Friday the 13th”, “The Exorcist”, “Shaolin Soccer” and even “Mission Impossible”. While it does have its aura of mystery, there is a killer on the loose and it is no secret as to who but the motivations all point to a certain ingredient, until it catches you by surprise. Count on the Japanese to make a film like this, the so-called protected and “juicy” secret of the “Tougen dumplings” may likewise disgust and amuse you, but no doubt the secret is very titillating and ORIGINAL. The film isn’t at all scary or suspenseful but rather feels more like an erotic comedy.
Lin (rightfully portrayed by Mihiro) is a woman who masters the “cooking” of the “Tougen dumplings” under the tutelage of a master Hoi (Kesuke). Her training is quite amusing as to how it all relates to cooking--she takes Wu shu, she is taken advantaged of, and taught how to play with herself. Yes, the film does have a fair share of nudity and sex--there are actually two scenes. Also, Mihiro is in the nude for almost half of the time, she bathes and undresses for most of the film‘s entirety. Chin (Sakae Yamazaki) is her right-hand man and the film doesn’t waste time singling him out as the primary suspect. If you saw “Perfect Blue”, then you may have an idea as to how his character goes into play. Not to worry, the film isn’t a mind-bending affair and pretty much straight forward. The detective work to uncover the mystery isn’t immersive or gripping but rather quite silly and goofy, as it was meant to be.
There is some gore and a lot of blood in the film’s proceedings. There is no use of CGI so the effects have that old-fashioned style that utilizes prosthetics and red ink. There are scenes of animal mutilation in the sequences but not entirely offensive. The acting of the film isn’t going to win any awards and truth be told, it feels very mediocre. Then again, you’re not here for the acting but rather to see sexy Japanese actresses Mihiro, Miho Funatsu, Chihiro Kaganezaki, and Mina Arai (who plays a chick who can really eat a LOT).
“Cruel Restaurant” has all the elements of horror, exploitive eroticism and comedy. The film isn’t going to win any awards but will definitely succeed more because of its “pink” elements than its plot. The secret of Mihiro’s dumplings is very original and not at all disturbing--it may feel a little perverted but I liked the way it was executed. The film is just an excuse so Mihiro can get to show her great attributes, and being an ex-AV star, she is not shy at all and fits this kind of role. I am still rather impressed that the Japanese never seems to hold back in their exploitive ideas, its like they just go out drinking sake and then write a screenplay. While the film itself may be rather poor because of the poor acting and a “low budget” atmosphere, the film’s final scene although not exactly surprising was very sexy, titillating--even bizarre and a first of its kind.
Recommended ONLY to fans of Japanese cinema and a RENTAL for everyone else. [2 ½ Stars]
Note: Stick around after you think the end credits are about to roll, there is an added scene.