Living Hell


Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

An elderly woman, Mami, and her grand-daughter, Chiyu, butcher the other members of their family. Deemed senile, Mami is committed to an asylum, while Chiyu vanishes.

A year later, Ken, Yuki and wheelchair user Yasu are none too pleased when their father announces that some distant relatives are coming to stay...

Meanwhile a journalist, Mitsu, discovers that Mami has vanished and persuades his editor to let him investigate the case, uncovering a story of medical experimentation, perversion and sadism.

The idea of a Japanese hybrid of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the Italian giallo is an interesting one. But where TCM favours a realistic, pseudo-documentary style, gialli tend towards the hyper-realistic, stylised and obviously artificial. Thus, any attempt to combine them - especially one coming from a filmmaker culturally at quite a remove from either - was probably doomed to failure.

As an exercise in the techniques common to the giallo - subjective camera, distorted perspectives and crazy camera angles, chiaroscuro lighting, emphatic scoring and sound effects, convoluted, implausible plotting and exaggerated performances - Living Hell works. But, when it attempts to combine these with social critique - albeit at the level of "the family that slays together stays together" - it doesn't.

A few effective moments early on aside, Living Hell quickly becomes tiresome viewing.

Horrifying - but mostly for the wrong reasons.

Reviewed on: 29 Mar 2002
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Japanese hybrid of American and Italian horror.
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Director: Shugo Fujii

Writer: Shugo Fujii

Starring: Hirohito Honda, Yoshiko Shirushi, Rumi, Naoko Mori, Shugo Fujii

Year: 2000

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Japan


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