“Brutal”, a tale of love and carnage from Unearthed Films, isn’t a rom-com feel-good story; it will remain in your skull and split it in half.
Brutal is not your average love story, unless average to you is a mix between Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Last House on the Left. But if you revel in torment, blood and tons of gore, then sit down and enjoy.
The first film by Japanese director Takashi Hirose packs a punch.
I won’t lie. The initial twenty minutes of the film are, like the title suggests, brutal. If you are troubled by violence and blood, this film will not accommodate you. Now, those with fewer qualms will enjoy the staggering violence.
The film opens, with the character named “Man” played by “Butch” (a story unto itself), who beats a young woman to death with his hands, while three other women who are tied up watch him unleash hell. Man spares no hint of aggression. He is angry and beats the women — using assorted sharp objects to stab, bludgeon and kill these unfortunates.
The film looks like a 1970’s exploitation film, which, by the nature of the film, it seeks to replicate. Choppy edits and shaky camera angles are by design. During the tense and visceral scene, Man is unlikable, and it’s easy to hate him.
Man murders other women and continually asks them his cryptic questions, “Do you understand me?” This leads nowhere for his victims. Man does his serial killing with a rage and power frightening to see. He isn’t a big man, but his ferocious murders are among the most gruesome I’ve seen in a while.
Director Hirose handles the vicious death scenes with great care.
Even though the film is his first, he doesn’t make many errors. I wish he would’ve lingered more on the kills of Woman (Ayano), who we meet in the second act. We watch more of Man’s attacks on women, but perhaps that’s by design. Man is more believable, while Woman lacks emotions and depth. The gore and blood look real, and at times during Man’s first segment, the film grips you and disturbs. It successfully tries to capture a snuff film look.
I don’t squirm or get grossed out by much, but the first segment had me wishing for a quick and rapid demise for Man. He nails the role with glee and realism.
I can’t say the Woman scenes comes with as much mystery, and the script fails here. The film slows during her scenes, failing to capture the emotional terror and intensity of the scenes with Man. You sense her emotional rage, but she acts with a cool detachment. While she gets the job done, it’s a tough ride for her, and her character doesn’t have the same fire burning inside as Man does.
The third act connects the two pillaging serial killers together with their benevolence to a homeless man and a sign with the words “HELL” written on it. The connection is vague, but our star-crossed killers meet. Thus begins their courtship dance of sorts. The two do what they both do best, but the finale leads to a shocking and unexpected ending — explaining our villains’ angst.
A few questions are answered, but the film ends with unresolved questions. However, the film isn’t trying to explain everything. Instead, it’s a snapshot of two twisted minds seeking love — and their traumatic minds’ reactions to not obtaining it, leading them to lead harrowing lives.
The film is short, only sixty-five minutes, but the killing and mayhem make the film feel longer. It’s concise and wastes no time making its point. The few script flaws are not too noticeable. There are scenes that could’ve gone in another direction, but are cut short to add mystery and drama.
Brutal is a remarkable film in its intensity.
While it’s certainly a film that may be too much for the average moviegoer, extreme horror fans should find a lot to love. And despite the intense violence, ultimately this an intelligent and deeply symbolic film, filled with allegorical reflections on dating and the harms of toxic love. The rage, anger and disillusion men and women face in dating can drive normal people insane…so imagine what happens to those who are insane.