NOTE: For those wanting the subtitles, I was hosting them here, but I was asked to remove the link by Unearthed Films who have a DVD release in the works. Sorry.

Some months ago, my lady partner and I began working on subtitles for the infamous Muzan-E – a film by Daisuke Yamanouchi (Red Room) that has, quite bizarrely, never received the fan-sub treatment. Being that my partner is fluent in both Japanese and English, I asked her to translate it while I synched up the subs (and hopefully improved my Japanese a bit along the way). We figured it wouldn’t be too hard, but I’d forgotten how incredibly dialogue heavy the film is. Between moving house and the usual drudgery of life, it ended up taking a whopping 21 weeks to finish.

Muzan-E has been something of a holy grail for fans of filth. Before I even get into the review, I can tell you, it in no way lives up to the hype (in fact, I’d say Yamanouchi’s Girl Hell 1999 is far more disgusting than this), but it’s still solid piece of gory entertainment.


original title: 無残画~AVギャル殺人ビデオは存在した! (Muzan-e: AV gyaru satsujin bideo wa sonzai shita!)
aka: Mu Zan E
aka: Celluloid Nightmares
Japan, 1999, Daisuke Yamanouchi

Shot like a current affair styled exposé, Muzan-E follows Kazuyo Fujimori (Yuki Emoto), a reporter, as she covers the disappearance of Mai Tsurumi – a popular AV (Adult Video) idol who featured in many menstruation fetish videos. Yes, you read that right – menstruation fetish videos. There is a rumour that Tsurumi was the unwilling star of a snuff video that circulated after her disappearance. Fujimori manages to find a copy of the tape and attempts to track down Tsurumi’s murderers. Muzan-E is repetitive. The bulk of its first section is made up of interviews with Tsurumi’s co-workers – they often endlessly repeat information we already know. I suppose this repetitive nature is very much in tune with the sort of trashy programs Muzan-E is imitating and, admittedly, I didn’t get bored at any point. Though, entertainment value aside, it must be said that the film has a cop-out ending that will infuriate some. Without revealing the content of the ending, I’m kind of in two places about it. Yes, it’s frustrating, but, at the same time, it is definitely representative of Yamanouchi’s twisted sense of humour.

While Muzan-E fails to live up to its sicko reputation (and especially so when watching it with subtitles and in a clean DVD print), there are some fantastically sleazy scenes. Yamanouchi is often branded as a gore director, but his films aren’t so much gory as they are plain demented and depraved. Much like Girl Hell 1999, there is little onscreen death and violence in Muzan-E, instead there’s plenty of impressive demonstrations of absurd and foul fetishes. There is a lot of nightmarish menstrual-fetishist sex shown through inspired parodies of stereotypically bizarre Japanese rape-pornography. And, like all of Yamanouchi’s work, it falls comfortably between hilarious and utterly nauseating. The first time we witness “menstrual mania” (this is how an AV producer describes the phenomena), in the form of a scene from an AV film titled “The Bleeding”, I was giggling while holding back the vomit chunks.

As I said before, the violence is minimal. But it is reasonably effective at times. Muzan-E – like most Japanese productions – has any shots of genitals pixelated from view. It also – I’m assuming deliberately, as it’s supposed to be in the style of a television/video expose – blurs out the penetrative violence. While some would complain about this, I believe it actually adds to the effect of the two murder scenes we see in the film. It’s not quite a matter of “showing less it more”, as we do get geysers of blood flying around on the screen and severed nipples held proudly to the camera lens, but it hides any obvious effects, adding a sense of realism. The realism of Muzan-E is assisted by the performances, which are surprisingly good – especially Yuki Emoto, the leading actress, who manages to encompass many different facets of, without trying to give to much away, a character that goes through some major changes towards the end of the film. In moments of terror, the cheese of her TV presenter persona disappears, making the brief moments of horror work well.

Muzan-E will probably leave most gorehounds and purveyors of sick cinema disappointed. The hype around Muzan-E is mostly unwarranted. However, if you enjoy Yamanouchi’s shot-on-video films, you’ll most certainly have fun with this. I think it lacks the pure stomach churning nihilism of Girl Hell 1999, but its faux-documentary format (mockumentary seems the wrong word) is nicely implemented and never for a moment is it dull. A few stand out scenes of sickness and its reputation make Muzan-E a must-see. Just keep your expectations in check and prepare yourself for something that often leans more towards comedy rather than horror.