Monday, June 17, 2024

Island of Misfit Boys: Grand Guignol (2022)

Grand Guignol (Japan, 2022)
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Rio Komiya, Riku Ichikawa, Rina Koike

The word Grand Guignol pertains to short plays that were popular in 19th century Parisian cabarets for emphasizing violence, horror, and sadism, embracing shock value through illicit subject matters and over-the-top practical effects as entertainment. This seems to be part of the case for director Hashiimoto Hajime's homoerotic slasher Grand Guignol (2022) which does feature a splatterful amount of bloodwork for its murders, as well as a bout of surrealism which makes its basic premise of a typical backwoods horror flick a bit more... odd.

After getting involved in an incident where a student got his face mutilated with a box cutter, Homura Itsuki sees himself transferred over to a boarding school set at a solitary island where only troublesome kids get to attend. All communication to the outside world is cut, the staff running the joint are unnervingly suspicious and there's a study group dedicated to the art of Grand Guignol drama, the strange scenario gets even more uneasy when a new teacher waltzes in and starts making advances to some of the boys there. That, unfortunately, is little compared to the violent figure out prowling the woods, decked in animal skulls and armed with a razor-sharp chain flail. It isn't long before this thing starts to hunt down students, though it seems this hack-and-slash gig may not be the only craziness going around in this island...

Independent J-horror does have the tendency to go overboard on the bloodletting and craziness, something Grand Guignol (2022) can attest to seeing it's basically running on extreme gore, murderous cults, backwoods bodycounting and an abundant amount of homoerotism. If anything, this movie has the vision to be an outlandish queer horror flick and it does succeeds on that at a decent level, albeit on a noticeable budget and a lack of solid direction; as a slasher, the effects are practical yet shoddy, nowhere impressive on a technical sense but delivers greatly on the messy blood and gore. The killer's get-up also leans on the cheap and silly side considering it kinda resembles a suit of confetti decked out with a badass mask consisting of arranged animal skulls, making the maniac look awfully like a walking, stalking piñata from hell!

The homoerotic elements are ever-present with how much the boys here get on with one another, though it's less emphasizing on romance and more on shock factor, especially when it dives into taboo subjects of forced feminization and creepy adults prowling on younger victims. In fact, the horror of Grand Guignol (2022) is more on the intensity of the madness and kills, focusing on nightmare logic, sexualized depravity and macabre violence thinly disguised as the work of dark supernatural forces and the maddened individuals under its command. The end result succeeds in drawing out the explicitness of its overt violence and fetishisms, as well the over-the-top insanity that is this movie's arthouse plotting and tone, pretty much in tune with original Grand Guignol stage plays that inspired it.

An over-the-top mish mash of the sensual and the savage that comes with a rough edge and spotty quality control. Not exactly a good example of queer horror done right, but it win points for just how off-the-wall bonkers it is! 

1 male slashed to death with a bladed chain flail
1 male repeatedly slashed with a bladed chain flail, decapitated
1 male stabbed through the gut with a sword, gutted
1 male had his skin flayed off with shearing tools, dies from injuries
1 male shot through the mouth with a shotgun
1 male repeatedly bashed with a sledgehammer, neck snapped
1 female bashed on the head with a sledgehammer
1 female dies from a sword impaled through her back
1 male stabbed on the gut with a sword, bashed to death with a sledgehammer
Total: 9

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