Meat Grinder - Review
Review by Jack Foley
TIWA Moeithaisong stomach churning Meat Grinder is a curious film in many, many ways.
On the surface, it’s just another sorry excuse for torture porn… existing to ‘proudly’ lay claim to being one of the most extreme films in film history to get past the censor, courtesy of endless scenes of mutilation, disembowelment and cannibalism.
And yet contrary to most ‘torture porn’ entries, which follow a tried and tested formula for dishing out their macabre ‘thrills’, this one has a lot of story rolled into it.
For starters, there’s a complex history surrounding its central character, Buss (Mai Charoenpura), concerning a domineering mother, an abusive husband and a troubled daughter.
There’s also the issue that most of her victims are evil themselves, whether it be other abusive men, rapists and loan sharks.
The political backdrop, admittedly hinted at, harks back to the military clampdown in South Korea that took place in the ‘70s, which bred a violent counter-reaction among its people.
Moeithaisong certainly throws a lot into the melting pot to give it a less than conventional approach to its violence, while an awkward romance between Buss and Attapon (Rattanaballang Tosawat) adds an extra layer of emotional complexity that is usually absent from this kind of thing.
Sadly, in spite of these elements, the violence is just too hardcore to be recommendable. Scenes, while deliberately OTT, are often hideous to watch, no matter what the victim has done to ‘deserve’ them.
Hence, some of the more extreme elements involve hammers and nails, cannibalism, decapitation and sexual violence… all of which is flashily edited so as not to be too lingering, but which still leaves a sick taste at the back of the mouth. For 90 minutes, that’s a long time to feel queasy.
And with all the use of edgy camera movements, black and white editing and surreal meat-chopping sequences inter-spliced with romantic massages or profound music selections, there’s a feeling that Moeithaisong is getting a little too carried away stylistically, therefore diminishing the film’s emotional impact.
The use of fantasy elements and a continually shifting narrative also requires a little too much attention, while an ambiguous element to the ending is also less than satisfying.
That said, there are still pluses for die-hard gore fans seeking something above average for this kind of thing. The performances are much better than standard Hollywood slasher fare, while there’s a neat twist to proceedings as well (particularly once the crime thriller element has kicked in).
And the notion that violence and depravity breeds more of the same is explored far more intelligently than in the likes of Eli Roth’s Hostel.
The film also boasts high production values and a keen sense of its more OTT elements, apparently welcoming the notion that Charoenpura’s Buss could now be perceived as Korea’s very own Sweeney Todd. It’s a marketing ploy I’m sure the filmmakers won’t mind hitching a ride on.
But be warned, this is only for the strongest of stomachs… while also being far more mentally demanding than you might initially expect.
In Korean, with subtitles
Running time: 90mins
UK DVD Release: August 23, 2010