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The Bunny Game

A film that feels painfully real and dangerous to watch, “The Bunny Game” is a shocking ode to grindhouse cinema worthy of its reputation.

Bunny Game

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ABOUT THIS COLUMN
And so it begins… one man’s monthly quest to venture into the darkest corners of cinema. It’s a journey to seek out the shocking, disturbing, and most notoriously deranged films in existence and to determine if they live up to their ghoulish reputations. WARNING: The following program contains material that might be inappropriate for some viewers. VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED. 

THE BUNNY GAME (2011)

THE PLOT:

A young prostitute named Bunny (played by Rodleen Getsic) spends her days in a drug and alcohol-induced daze, turning tricks in a desperate attempt to fuel her addictions.

Amid one sexual encounter, Bunny passes out, waking to discover the client has made off with what little money and drugs she had left. In a state of desperation, Bunny crosses paths with Hog (played by Jeff Renfro), an imposing truck driver who moonlights as a serial killer. He kidnaps her and ventures deep into the desert to begin a ritualistic torture ceremony.

THE BLOODY BACKGROUND:

The breakout film from Adam Rehmeier, The Bunny Game, was conceived in collaboration with the film’s star, Getsic, who claimed that certain aspects are based on her own experiences. Said to have been largely improvised during production with the director wearing multiple hats on the technical end of the spectrum (cinematographer, editor, and even contributor to the score), Rehmeier’s ode to grindhouse cinema has garnered a reputation of being one of the vilest modern motion pictures, crawling on gnarled hands and knees to the forefront of the shocking and transgressive cinema rat pack.

THE DAMN DIRTY DETAILS:

Making its debut at the PollyGrind Film Festival in Las Vegas, which is an annual affair that prides itself on giving a platform to underground cinema, The Bunny Game found itself instantly banned by the British Board of Film Classification, with director David Cooke issuing the following statement:

“It is the Board’s carefully considered view that to issue a certificate to this work, even if confined to adults, would be inconsistent with the Board’s Guidelines, would risk potential harm within the terms of the Video Recordings Act, and would accordingly be unacceptable to the public.”

This naturally sparked an increased curiosity in Rehmeier’s film, which became something of a modern-day “video nasty,” finding itself banned right alongside 2011’s The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence). However, the BBFC ban would only comprise half of the outrage, as nearly everything glimpsed on screen throughout The Bunny Game is real, making it especially triggering for some viewers.

Aside from the drugs and alcohol that are consumed, the film’s graphic sexuality is authentic, as is the knife play that is seen periodically throughout the second half.

Thirteen years on, The Bunny Game retains its underground street cred, a merciless ride routinely mentioned on “most disturbing” lists. Attempting to see Rehmeier’s shock piece will be tricky, as a copy of the Blu-ray holds a hefty price tag, with copies pushing $300 on Amazon. A DVD copy fetches around $100, and a digital purchase or rent is currently non-existent.

THE HORRIFYING TRUTH:

Often lumped in with the “torture porn” legion that rose to popularity in the early-aughts with the arrival of James Wan’s Saw, a quick peruse over the gist of The Bunny Game could easily lead you to believe it deserves that classification.

But here comes the big twist: the film is largely bloodless! Rehmeier instead favors sizzling our senses with an endless barrage of sexual assault and psychological torment, which are more damaging than open wounds that cough corn syrup.

No, what The Bunny Game actually dares to be is an unapologetic throwback to grindhouse cinema.

I’m talking about the films that felt fucking dangerous because they were made under conditions that would make the contemporary film industry quiver in the corner. I recently saw Rehmeier on an episode of Severin Films’ The Severin Cellar (I strongly encourage you to check those out!), where he promoted his newest film, Snack Shack.

In the episode, he instantly expresses his passion for grindhouse cinema, stating that he doesn’t particularly like “Hollywood stuff” and that the grindhouse catacombs are his “church.” Watching THE BUNNY GAME, this guy fucking means every inch of that statement!

If we turn the clocks back and take a look at a small handful of films that we could classify as “grindhouse movies” made under the umbrella of distress, one of the first culprits we could stick under the microscope is Tobe Hooper’s 1974 masterwork The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

According to reports from Leatherface actor Gunnar Hansen’s 2013 non-fiction Chain Saw Confidential and countless other retrospectives from various websites throughout cyberspace, Hooper’s breakout film was plagued by a tumultuous shoot.

The stench from the farmhouse set made crew members sick, and several actors suffered various injuries, most notably Marilyn Burns, who had her finger sliced open so the actor could suck the blood from the wound (the special effect was malfunctioning). The gruelingly long film schedule in the swelter heating also left tensions boiling like an egg on the blacktop.

If one goes into The Texas Chain Saw Massacre unaware of these details and completely green to what they were about to see, I think it’s safe to assume that most could feel the strained energy reverberating across the Texas plains. Every inch of this slasher classic seems weighed down by an anvil of anger and madness, giving the final product an aura that watching it might cause us physical harm.

I’d be so bold to say it feels dangerous…

Thriller: A Cruel Picture

Let us now hope over to 1973 Sweden to get acquainted with director Bo Arne Vibenius’s Thriller: A Cruel Picture, which relishes the reputation of being the “roughest revenge movie ever made,” at least according to exploitation king-pin Quentin Tarantino. I’d say there is some truth to Tarantino’s statement, as Thriller certainly is a hard-charging tale of revenge, presented to us in two versions, the unflinching Thriller: A Cruel Picture and the toned-down They Call Her One Eye.

While the on-screen trail of death vibrates the vertebrae, the way that Vibenius accomplished it is particularly unnerving.

The actual corpse of a suicide victim was used for the eye-gouging effect (get ready to grab for the barf bag), live ammunition was fired during the gun fights, and star Christina Lindberg injected saline solution into her veins when the script required her to shoot up heroin. And let us not ignore the genuine copulation, presented in static close-ups that leave no thrust to the imagination.

This steely-eyed approach to crafting Thriller makes it arguably the first and last word in revenge cinema. It exaggerates the bleak subject matter, allowing it to cut into you like a serrated blade.

You’ll be left diving behind your couch when the bullets fly, and it will rattle you with its blistering sense of danger…

Cannibal Holocaust

Last but certainly not least is our previous entry in Viewer Discretion Advised: Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust. In the years since it first premiered to controversy, rumors have circulated about the toxic environment of the set, everything from feuds between the actors and the director to the unforgiving jungle set that was nightmarish to navigate.

According to star Robert Kerman, Deodato was a bully to many of the crew members, particularly the individuals from Italy. It’s also become known for its animal cruelty, with one slaying not turning out the way Deodato had envisioned, so he shot the scene again with another poor creature, leaving the crew rightfully aghast.

The shock, distress, and the unsavory filming locations injected a deeply profound aggression into Cannibal Holocaust, making the unwieldy violence on screen even more persuasive than it already is. You can feel particular beats rush up on you, and you’ll catch glimpses of a fiery resentment burning in the eyes of various characters.

It feels like you could tumble into the murky jungle brush and be lost in the savagery that awaits. It feels deadly. It feels dangerous…

While there are plenty more examples I could dig up, I feel The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Thriller: A Cruel Picture, and Cannibal Holocaust all share a common verve.

These are, of course, motion pictures, but they lack a theatrical sanitization that allows you, the viewer, to disassociate yourself from the violence occurring within the confines of its cinematic realm. No one may actually perish on screen, but each one of these films pushes the envelope.

You can’t exactly wave off what is taking place because there is a projection that extends from beyond the camera.