Kichiku: Banquet of the Beasts is a really nasty film. Brought to you by writer and director Kazuyoshi Kumakiri on a budget of just $30,000 and featuring a cast of film students this is certainly unlike anything I have seen before. What little plot there is follows some kind of political student group on their shared descent into madness and sick violence.
The leader of the group, Aizawa, is in prison and he has left his girlfriend Masami in charge. She struggles to keep the group together using sex and violence by turns to try and cajole obedience from the remaining all male members. The first half of the film follows a kind of power struggle for control as Masami presides over some petty robbery and messes with the heads of her companions. They are all tied together by a love or admiration for Aizawa and so when he kills himself in his cell things start to go badly wrong.
Masami is already a spiteful character and she soon has the group tying up a couple of former members in the woods and beating them. Each of them seems to be under some kind of hypnosis as they blindly follow her warped orders and things soon get out of control. After Masami blows off the top of one unfortunate guy´s head in a truly astoundingly manky scene the murders start to come thick and fast and you get the certainty that there isn´t going to be a happy ending here.
The direction is fresh and exciting in places but the constant dizzy motion soon becomes tiresome and the cheap nature of this movie is very evident. Shot on 16mm film the quality isn´t great and there are many badly framed shots and far too much spinning the camera round and round.
The script is minimal and didn´t do enough for me to explain events. The violence feels sick for the sake of it and if there was a point it is definitely lost in the second half of the movie when things just descend into a disturbing bloodbath. The desperation to shock leads to an orgy of gore which diminishes the impact of any one scene and simply isn´t very entertaining.
The sound certainly adds to the cloying atmosphere but as with the violence it is over done and began to give me a headache after about an hour. The acting is pretty amateurish and the dubbing in places didn´t seem to fit very well. However considering the actors were amateurs I don't think they did too badly.
Kumakiri did manage to find a series of great settings and I liked many of the incidental shots which hinted at his potential talent as a filmmaker. There is also a nice mixture of warped footage at the start of the film which initially sparks the interest but none of this was explored later as the purpose of the group is never stated and their political actions do not feature.
The gore effects are very impressive and I guess this is where most of the budget went. Fans of extreme violence will probably quite enjoy parts of this film although it is not exactly fast-paced. After a slow ponderous start it goes mad along with the cast and I really couldn´t make any sense of what transpires, other than to say they have collectively brutalised themselves to the point of no return. You could maybe argue for some kind of exploration of the group psyche gone wrong in a twisted cult kind of way but the characters don´t have enough depth and the nature of the violence is all too obviously sick and depraved for the sake of it.
This is about as far from mainstream cinema as you are likely to get and most people are unlikely to enjoy it. A raw, visceral experience with few redeeming features this is harrowing viewing. Whatever pretensions the makers may have had are swept away in a sea of blood as the sickening scenes pile up and it is difficult to take away any deeper meaning.