Living Hell (2000)

DVD Cover (Subversive Cinema)
Shugo Fujii Shugo Fujii
Hirohito Honda Hirohito Honda
Yoshiko Shiraishi Yoshiko Shiraishi
Rumi Rumi
Kazuo Yashiro Kazuo Yashiro
Naoko Mori Naoko Mori

5.6 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Horror, Psychological Thriller, Slasher Film
Family is the source of all evil, in this aspiring horror film which traces its descent from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre gore and the atmospheric Hammer films. Chiyo, an old woman and her granddaughter, Yuki, are the sole survivors of a horrendous crime which wipes out an entire family. They find solace under the roof of far-removed relatives. The family's son, confined to a wheelchair, has a terrible premonition when the two women arrive, which will be verified in the most horrifying way. Because, when the house is empty, the boy is made to suffer sadistic games at the women mercy, which become more and more violent making his life a living hell... --IMDb
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Review by Chad
Added: November 24, 2004
We open the movie with a couple asleep in their bed, when the wife hears some noises coming from downstairs. She attempts to wake her husband up to go check on things, but he's snoozing just a bit too hard to be awoken for all that noise. The wife decides to grab a baseball bat and check into things herself, and finds a young lady eating the family dog. After screaming due to the shock of all this, an elderly lady comes out from behind her and disposes of both members of our family. Later in the evening, detectives show up at the scene and find the elderly lady in the house and assume that she was part of the murdered family. They find the old woman to be quite senile, so they lock her up in an institution pending further investigation. Skipping ahead a year, we find our main family settling down for breakfast. The father works in the next city over from where they live, so he's gone throughout the week and leaves the house to his kids. Ken (Kazuo Yashiro) and his sister Mami (Rumi) work during the day, while wheelchair-bound Yasu (Hirohito Honda) sits at home. Over breakfast, Ken mentions that some family members need a place to stay, and will be showing up in a few days to crash for a month or so. A few days later, the senile elderly Chiyo (Yoshiko Shiraishi) and her twenty-two-year-old mute granddaughter Yuki (Naoko Mori) show up, and of course, these are the same two who we witnessed murdering that couple in the opening scenes. Yasu is forced to stay at home with them while Ken and Mami go off to work, and quickly finds out how sadistic these two ladies are when they start torturing him daily. However, Yasu's family members think that his disability is driving him crazy, so they don't listen to him when he tries to tell them what happens while they're away at work. Meanwhile, detective Mitsu (director Shugo Fujii) has reopened the case on Chiyo and is attempting to track her down and put an end to the case. Things only get worse for our clueless family as things roll along...

"A Japanese Chainsaw Massacre" is the tag-line for this movie, and damned if that isn't a fitting way to describe the movie. There's some very brutal torture scenes here, and as seems to be the norm in Japanese cinema, the last half of the movie just gets completely bizarre. Without giving away any spoilers, the movie is comparable to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in more ways than just the gore and effects, and things got pretty damned interesting when all was revealed. There's some great atmosphere setup throughout the film, which ended up turning some scenes that would normally be pretty tame into very effective pieces of cinema. The only downside to the movie is that it moves a bit too slow for my tastes during the first half of the movie, and the torture sequences are very short as well as few and far between. While they were interesting enough as is, I think they could have done a few more scenes or put some more time into the existing scenes and wound up with a better product, but maybe that's just me.

The acting was a huge boost to the movies effectiveness, with some great performances from all involved. Hirohito Honda (of Battle Royale fame) does an excellent job playing the crippled Yasu, and does more than his share to make some scenes much better than they could have been. Shugo Fujii, the director of this movie, also has a small role as the detective in charge of tracking down the old lady, and also did a great job. This is the first full-length film that he's acted in, so I was quite surprised at his acting talent. The stars of the show, however, were definitely the antagonist ladies. Yoshiko Shiraishi (Chiyo) was the star of the movie, hands down. I'd have never guessed that a little old lady could be made into such an effective villain, but she manages to pull it off with ease and comes off as being creepy as all hell. Naoko Mori (Yuki) has a grand total of one line consisting of three words throughout the entire movie, but manages to pull of an incredible performance nonetheless. She did wonders with her presence and body language, which seems to be an all but forgotten art here in the states, sadly enough.

Well worth the viewing if you're a fan of horror and know what to expect from Japanese horror films. 8/10.
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Cryptorchild #1: Cryptorchild - added 12/20/2004, 03:24 AM
This movie is pretty cool. I really enjoyed it. I think the best actor would have to be Ken, Yasu's brother. I personally think he steals the last parts of the movie. He's a great crazy person. I think the end is really cool when everything is said and done.
Tristan #2: Tristan - added 09/02/2008, 12:16 AM
This movie was not at ALL what I thought it was going to be. I was expecting some graphic torture film. I'm kind of glad it wasn't, because this turned out to be a fantastic horror film.

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