As a dissatisfied youth growing up in Newfoundland in the mid-1990s I used to scour over the film listings in the Video Search of Miami guides, or other similar rare movie collections, astounded at the idea of so many strange and fascinating international films that I may never get the chance to actually see. One title that always jumped out at me was Kazuo 'Gaira' Komizu's notorious Entrails of a Virgin, which seemed to hold an almost pornographic vileness in its title alone. Of course my knowledge of the film beyond the lurid title was limited, so that Synapse has gone to the trouble to release the film on DVD certainly caught my attention. Could it possibly live up to the images that floated about my teenage head?
Well of course not. I was a twisted teen. And the truth is that this combination of sex and violence (“one candy, twice the fun” as Komizu says in the special features) makes an uneasy mix, particularly the former which is expressed in endless soft-core sex scenes featuring copious amounts of dry humping and the usual Japanese digital blurring. The extremes of violence seem to imply an over-the-top, humorous attitude, but the characters are so unpleasant and thinly drawn that what could have been a lot of sleazy fun just left me cold.
The barely existent plot certainly isn't going to win points for originality. A group of female models and photographers are headed to their next shooting location when, because of some overwhelming fog, they run into what they believe is an animal. It's actually a bizarre (and unexplained) mud-man who decides to take revenge on the group when they take refuge in an abandoned cabin. That night the photographers show themselves to be truly reprehensible, humiliating one of the girls in a wrestling match before forcing themselves on the other two. Soon the mud-monster-man gets in on the action, gruesomely killing the men and raping the women -including the psychotic Kei (Megumi Kawashima) who has been driven insane by her humiliation - before targeting the virginal Rei (Saeko Kizuki).
Komizu actually fills the early scenes with some amount of style, inter-cutting shots of the women modeling with some intense, near-pornographic sex scenes. And the early scenes of forest covered in fog brings to mind The Evil Dead and similar “cabin in the woods” horror movies. These early modest pleasures are soon replaced with repetitive, tiresome scenes of the women being man-handled, along with the monster sulking around and occasionally murdering one of the cast. These murders are cartoonish, involving rubber heads and unconvincing effects, and serve only to momentarily break up the sex.
Things do start to pick up slightly in the last act, with Kei's madness adding to the proceedings – culminating in the film's most notorious scene where she uses a severed arm to masturbate with. This is one of the few scenes which are able to capitalize on the bad-taste promise of the title, but nothing else really comes close to matching it, despite some truly unpleasant shots of various bodily fluids. Komizu sometimes throws in a few interesting shots, particularly during the murders which are occasionally punctuated with a random clip of meat being pulverized, but these interesting moments are few and far between and there's little evidence that the director is trying to say anything interesting.
It's a little hard to judge acting skill in a film like this, particularly when it's subtitled, but the models are all attractive, though creepily young looking. The scummy photographers are reprehensible from the first frame, and never come close to redeeming themselves. The mud-man is exactly that, an actor with mud and grass packed over parts of his body. Special effects are weak, but it's this cartoonishness which actually keeps the film from being a total waste of time.
Despite my reservations on the quality of the film itself, Synapse has again done a wonderful job bringing it to DVD, along with its spiritual sequels Entrails Of A Beautiful Woman (1986) and Female Inquisitor (1987). The image quality is a bit dark, but that's likely a fault of the filmmakers, and subtitles are clear and easy to read. There is very little incidental music in the film, and what is there - composed by Hideki Furusawa - isn't very impressive.
The only included special feature is an interview with director Kazuo 'Gaira' Komizu, who proves to be truly obnoxious in the brief conversation. More interested in babbling on about nonsense than talking about his film, the whole thing becomes irritating rather quickly. Quite a dissapointment.
Perhaps if I had seen Entrails Of A Virgin as a teen it would have been as shocking as its title would imply, but while there are still a few loathsome moments throughout the final product is very difficult to trudge through - despite the mercifully short running time. The sex is almost wholly unpleasant, and the violence is too silly and short-lived to appeal to fans of gore. Synapse has done a good job of bringing this title to North America, but in the end it's simply too boring and repetitive to enjoy as anything but a slight bad-taste curiosity.