Thriller Theater Reviews: Master of Horror’s Imprint
Welcome to the Thriller Theater, girls and ghouls!
I have always been fascinated with the horror and suspense genre, and my love for all things strange, gory and disturbing has lead me to some of the most compelling sights on TV and the big screen. However, a good, fresh scare is so hard to find nowadays. Thus, I share with you some of the more bizarre, not typically mainstream films, series or episode’s I’ve dug (if you have any suggested titles, just comment away and I’ll look it up).
So brace yourself, dear reader, as we jump into the rabbit hole and see what lies beneath six feet under.
Imprint: The Forbidden Episode
Imprint is the 13th episode from the first season of the Masters of Horror, a series whose name gives itself too much credit for what it actually delivers. I watched Imprint first, and, being fairly satisfied with it, hoped the other episodes would just be as good, if not better (especially in the acting department). Unfortunately, everything else turned out to be bland, B-rated, prosthetic softcore porn. The eight episode, Cigarette Burns, had Norman Reedus in it and would satisfy vore fans, but there is nothing noteworthy about the whole series aside from the forced nudity and awkward sex scenes. I would recommend you just buy/rent Tales from the Crypt and/or The Twilight Zone as even the black and white episodes of the latter is amazingly more entertaining than what Masters of Horror has to offer.
But Imprint, based on Bokkee Kyotee by Shimako Iwai, proudly stands on its own. Though flawed, it certainly has the bloodcurdling touch of Takashi Miike, a true master of horror whose films like Ichi the Killer and Audition have made him a well-respected director among suspense film connoisseurs. Unfortunately, the episode was not aired due to its extremely graphic nature, and was instead released directly to DVD.
Set in 1800, this descent to madness begins with Christopher (Billy Drogo), an American journalist, entering a whore house in search of his Japanese girlfriend, Komomo (Michie Itô), to whom he promised to free from prostitution, and take with him to America. His fate is sealed when he picks and spends the night with a seemingly helpless disfigured young woman (Youki Kudoh), who hides secrets that should have been left unspoken.
The story is told in three stages by Youki Kudoh’s character, first showing her ideals, then the horrid reality, and finally, the revelation. It’s up to the watcher to discern reality from the lies and illusions, with things sneaking up from the background without any visual and audio warning.
Unlike most horror flicks that stick to dim tones, this one contrast its dark story with a vibrant set and costumes. One thing I’ve noticed about Japanese-styled horror and suspense films is that very few of them pull off that grittiness their Western counter parts compose naturally to make the scenes more believable. But for Imprint, the lack of grit and bright colors made their world more ethereal and stunningly beautiful.
And coupled with a good story is an adequate amount of gore and violence, bordering on misogyny. This is not for the squeamish; it contains burning and needle torture, rope bondage, implied child abuse, and abortion, the last probably being the reason the episode was unaired because the fake fetuses are too uncanny. What I like about these scenes is that they don’t seem placed simply for the shock factor. They are part of the flow, not just a momentary show of viscera until the next mutilation.
Unfortunately, the episode suffers heavily from mediocre acting. My eye kept twitching whenever Billy Drogo and Seiryu Ichino, who played a monk in the girl’s flashbacks, tried to act, or even speak. Their forced accent, which the actors lose at times, was almost as excruciating as the torture scene.
The scare tactic of this movie is more psychological: instead of having a lumbering, prosthetic covered, chainsaw rapist coming to get you, the film’s impact lies with the dementia hidden behind a seemingly innocent mind that has been tarnished and warped by years of maltreatment.
If you prefer the more traditional Scooby Doo formula, then check out the other Masters of Horror episodes. For those who want a more cerebral kind of fear, Imprint is sure to satiate those little sadistic voices in your head if you can survive the second-rate acting.
Image credit: Masters of Horror