Meat Grinder

Meat Grinder


Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

From its opening monochrome images of a woman bleeding, butchering and spicing human flesh for the pot, Meat Grinder appears to be setting out its stall as a Thailand Chain Saw Massacre for the 'torture porn' generation. This is an impression that will only be reinforced by the parade of corporeal abjection and gory depravity that follows – but there is more to Tiwa Moeithaisong's artful horror than mere visceral sensation, as the politics of gender, family and society all find their place at the perverted feast.

In order to give the noodle soup that she sells its unusually delicious piquancy, Buss (Mai Charoenpura) follows an exclusive family recipe, handed down by her mother (Duangte Tungkamani), where one of the chief ingredients is human flesh.

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It is a traditional recipe that also just happens to be a conventional formula of horror narratives from Sweeney Todd to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre to Delicatessen to Dumplings – yet Moeithaisong disorients our perceptions and confounds our sympathies by adhering to the unreliable, frankly unhinged perspective of a woman serially scorned and driven to the extremes of madness. With delirious flashbacks revealing the identities and circumstances of the stall owner's 'livestock', Buss herself will emerge as both a piteous victim of male abuse and an implacable embodiment of female vengeance.

Meat Grinder is also a strange kind of love story, as Buss' developing relationship with the gentle activist Attapol (Rattananballang Toksawat) might just give her a stab at salvation. This, however, is no ordinary affair. Their 'meet-cute' takes place at a violent clash between students and police, and their first sexual encounter is intercut with scenes of basement butchery – in a bizarre montage of rampant carnality where it becomes impossible to distinguish the literal from the metaphorical.

In fact Attapol is in bed with Buss in more ways than one. Buss may be a product of her own tragic history, but it is Attapol who will declare: "I'm the victim", Attapol who will be accused of conspiracy in the violent outrages of others, Attapol who will be doggedly pursued by the authorities – and while, in the end, we are never quite sure what Buss actually does and what she merely imagines, the documentary footage of riots and police brutality leaves it clear that Attapol's parallel experiences are all too real. Here Buss' deluded atrocities reflect those of a nation whose troubled past is always returning – and so Moeithaisong's expertly handled genre elements ('torture porn', psychological thrills, supernatural T-horror, etc) are brought into the service of broader sociopolitical concerns. It is a rich and heady soup that will appeal to those with a taste for bitterness.

Reviewed on: 04 May 2010
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A noodle soup store's recipe has a worrying 'special' ingredient.
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Director: Tiwa Moeithaisong

Writer: Tiwa Moeithaisong

Starring: Mai Charoenpura, Rattanaballang Toksawat, Weeradit Shimalai, Atitaya Shindejanichakul, Pimchanok Luevisadpaibul, Duangte Tungkamani, Piyawat Niwatwong

Year: 2009

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Thailand


Terracotta 2010

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