What can I possibly say about this bizarre (which is an understatement if there ever was one) Takashi Miike low-budget direct-to-video horror — with its mix of mobsters and ghosts and breast milk and cow-headed men — that hasn’t already been said. For if you are a Miike fan, you’ve seen it. If you’re a fan of Asian cinema, you know it well. If you’ve seen Miike’s Ichi the Killer (WTF) and Audition (WTF x 10) and you haven’t seen Gozu, then turn in your B&S About Movies’ membership card, for ye were never a member.
You didn’t see his contribution “The Box” in the Japanese portmanteau Three Extremes?
Just stop it. You’re embarrassing yourself. Isn’t there a Jennifer Aniston Oscar-chasing-never winning boondoggle you need to stream?
Sure, everyone drops the justified “David Lynchian” critical modifier to help us dopey Americans get a handle on the twisted insanity. And yeah, I am sure Guillermo Del Toro and Eli Roth — who offer up their own insights with their joint interview with Miike on the DVD — are the go-to guys for Gozu Intel with a whole-lot-of-what-do-we-need-this-digital-critic-from-Pittsburgh-for scoffing.
So, let me give an overview . . . for the ones who haven’t experienced the . . . something else . . . world of Miike. And that the title’s literal translation is: Yakuza Horror Theatre: Cow’s Head. And a caveat: Forget the guy with the cow’s head: if the killing of a chihuahua — an “attack” chihuahua — bothers you: stop watching. No. Watch. Just close your eyes for about twenty-Mississippis, well, in context: twenty-Shinano Rivers, then open. But there’s that gooey . . . and the slimy. . . .
Yes. Gozu is about — partly — a cow’s head. It’s also a gangster film. Then it’s not. Then what is it? A horror film? A comedy? There’s nothing is the works of Lynch, be it from film with Eraserhead to television with Twin Peaks, that can prepare you for this tale of an up-and-coming yakuza who receives orders to assassinate his boss, who happens to be his best friend. And when his boss catches wind, he goes into hiding. And if our young yakuza doesn’t complete the sanction, he dies. So begins our journey into a twisted, mysterious town where nothing is as it seems or nothing is as it should be — with a nightmare that would make Lynch flinch.
This is a film where you can’t rat-a-tat-tat the plot in a review; for in the tradition of the best Spanish and Italian horrors of ’70s, Gozu — or any Miike Joint — is probably not going to make a hell of a lot of sense (see Dead or Alive and The Happiness of the Katakuris). And the character’s motivations are dumbfounded and sometimes lacking in any development for you to care about them (One Missed Call). But as with those overseas horrors (this is black-comedy-cum-horror, like Sam Raimi’s comedy-gore of The Evil Dead, if that helps) of old, we never came for the plot or the characters in the first place: we came for the atmosphere and what-the-hell-why not Chunk King-toss to the walls. And Miike is brilliant for it.
You can watch the trailer and an extended interview with Takashi Miike on the making of Gozu on You Tube.
You can free-with-ads stream Gozu on Tubi. If fact, Tubi streams several of Miike’s films. They have the sci-fi’er Terra Formars, which I really liked: how can I not, as it’s about cockroach men on Mars, as well as the really fine 13 Assassins. Remember when, in the 2000s, when every single J-horror movie was getting Westernized? Don’t do it: go to the source.
And the “source” is Takashi Miike.
About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies (links to a truncated teaser-listing of his reviews).
I found this to be a movie I just had to roll with. I think it’s meant as a comedy. It seems to cry out for some sort of psychological interpretation, but there’s no figuring it out so I think it’s all part of the joke. I like it anyway. Not quite as off-putting as Visitor Q.
Audition, Gozu and Ichi are great. The problem with Miike is that he prefer quantity to quality — he needs to slow down!