During a time when all the horror films seemed to have the usual plot devices, great looking actors and PG-13 ratings with an obligatory approval from test audiences, along comes Takashi Miike who has shocked us with his unpredictability, eccentric approach, unique style and controversial themes. Miike shocked us with “Audition” and with this film, “Visitor Q” (2001); he has been hailed as one of the best directors of this century and has been critically acclaimed for his contributions in the horror genre. Miike is brimming with twisted yet inventive ideas. One can argue that Miike does these shocking movies just for the sake of shocking his audience, but myself, I rather believe that Miike does what he does to make his viewer think.
A failed TV reporter named Kiyoshi (Kenichi Endo) is sent on sabbatical after his embarrassment on camera a few months ago. Kiyoshi provokes the most unusual reactions from his subjects that ended up with a microphone up his rear end. He becomes the laughing stock of his co-workers but even with this huge setback that threatens to end his career, Kiyoshi is determined to do a documentary about sex and violence among Japan’s youthful generation. He is so obsessed with this project that he exploits his own family’s misfortunes and issues to create material for his own documentary. One day, a mysterious stranger arrives to stay with the family for awhile, little do they know that their lives are about to change forever.
“Visitor Q” has got to be one of the most twisted, most bizarre films I have ever come across. We are familiar with the themes of a dysfunctional family, but none taken to the extreme such as in this film. Miike brings the focus of the film to certain things that are undoubtedly taboo such as drug use, incest, prostitution, murder, necrophilia and rape but these things are just previews of what you are into with “Visitor Q”. I was shocked in the film’s opening sequences as Miike approaches his audience with three twisted questions that reflects this family’s really messed up issues. The film is full of social taboos that come into play and presents these issues with a darkly satiric undertone. The film generates a genuine feeling of uneasiness and discomfort but I guarantee that as soon as the shock wears off, you will be laughing a little about the stuff that happens in the film. Well, maybe not so much as laughing with excitement but maybe a diabolical laugh?
Most of the film’s focus is on the family. The 5 characters in the movie are the main reason why the movie is just so wild and bizarre. As the film opens, we see Kiyoshi in a conversation with a young attractive prostitute who is about 15-20 years younger, their conversations eventually lead to sex. He gets charged double because he ended his ‘business‘ too early. Kiyoshi shows some remorse to his action because he just did it with his daughter? The mother, Keiko (Shungiku Uchida) is even more bizarre. She allows herself to be beaten by her son Takuya and has some S & M sessions with men to fulfill her addiction to drugs. Fujiko (Miki Yamazaki) is the daughter who runs away from home and becomes a hooker; she also has no problems with incest. Takuya (Jun Muto) is the son who is treated like crap in school; bullied and beaten all day. The bullies are so bold as they even throw fireworks in their house. Mr. Q is the ’visitor’ who doesn’t really say much, but seems to be the one who brings some light in the household by using an approach that just has to be witnessed; it involves some squirting, beating and even some use of a camcorder. Mr. Q makes them realize their mistakes by bringing their transgressions to an extreme, in a very bizarre and unbelievable manner.
Miike has several underlying brilliant ideas in the film. He seems to be challenging the male insecurities about sex in an ironic style, explores the image of a father figure in this society and makes a strong commentary about today’s Japan. There are several uses of symbolisms such as the jigsaw puzzle that represents the pieces of their lives, the mother’s milk, even the use of a camcorder. The movie is also very graphic, there is an abundance of sex and nudity although the crotch areas are “fogged” to make them blurry. (I rather thought that Miike was making a statement against censorship that he believes is pretentious) Miike also utilizes a cinematography that is quite unlike his previous films. “Visitor Q” has that aura of voyeurism and some scenes are seen through the lens of a handheld camera while some are seen through our characters‘ eyes matched with the usual filmmaking approach. The angles are kept simple but gives the viewer a feel of being “present” throughout the film.
The film has several twisted images guaranteed to repulse, shock and make you laugh. There is one scene that a living male has sex with a corpse and ends up getting stuck (talk about rigor mortis), but instead of being disturbing, the following sequence just becomes very humorous. I will have to omit the film’s details because the film just needs to be seen to be believed. You wouldn’t believe just how many times I said “WTF?” in my mind. The film’s entertainment value is felt through its shock value and twisted dark comedy. One has to be very open-minded to appreciate this film, that you have to not take it too seriously otherwise all you may feel is an objectionable sensation. I am pretty twisted and open-minded to any film, and I found “Visitor Q” to be a very good film.
Takashi Miike has once again given me reason to ponder just what is done in good or bad taste in filmmaking. Cultural viewpoints vary from every country and evolving society is forever pushing the limits of filmmaking. “Visitor Q” is the type of film that would be banned in several countries but remember, many mainstream films we see today were considered to be ‘shocking’ or smut some 40 years ago. Miike’s “Visitor Q” is a just a little ahead of its time that what may shock us now may be just ordinary in the near future. If you think I am twisted to like a movie such as this, then just try to remember, didn’t the Romans used to watch gladiators kill each other in their games?
Let yourself go and enjoy the guilty entertainment that is Takashi Miike who has been banned from “Masters of Horror” for his contribution “Imprint
Highly Recommended to those with open-minds and appreciate dark humor. [4 Stars]