More and more often I find myself more and more indifferent to such extremes as Hostel, Melancholie Der Engel, even the Guinea Pig films. Clearly I’m not their target demographic. These films don’t scare, anger, upset, or even sicken me particularly.
If they manage to do anything (which does not happen often), it’s merely to confirm my long established, pitch black suspicions about humanity. Not far at all beneath the coiffed, clean shaven, but flimsy veneer of decorum lurk the writhing coils of depravity.
I already know this.
It’s not that I’ve become desensitized to such ultra-graphic displays as, say, August Underground. It’s that I just don’t care. Still, sometimes I’ll seek a film out knowing it will haunt or trouble me for two or three days to come.
During such a period, I wonder, “Why do I do these things to myself?” π, Eraserhead, Martyrs, Requiem For A Dream, Sound Of Music–each has left its own psychological scar.
There are, of course, others.
The Bunny Game is not one of them.
I wanted it to be. Truly I did. Let me be clear. I like this film. There are elements that director Adam Rehmeier pulls off astoundingly well: some gestures toward Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet, some edits that remind me of the The Art Of Noise video for “Close (To The Edit)” or the dance scene from Calvaire.
That said, I was looking for something that The Bunny Game just didn’t deliver. I fully expected to walk away, possibly with a limp, having been emotionally beaten and branded. Never happened. Not even a bruise. I’m still not sure how I feel. I don’t think it matters.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The plot is as barebones as you can get and still have a plot. That’s not a criticism. Getsic plays a prostitute who is abducted by a truck driver (Jeff Renfro) and endures days of systematic sexual torture. Before I go any further, I’m obligated to point out that Getsic is phenomenal. She’s so raw and real that before she hooks up with Renfro, the film could pass as a documentary about the street life of a drug addict/prostitute.
This makes sense. Getsic is said to have survived the kind of ordeal the film shows. Rehmeier and Getsic have both discussed the film as less conventional story telling and more transformative experience, almost, for Getsic, a form of emotional upheaval and release or cleansing. Rehmeier has said as much openly, in particular in a 2012 interview for Ave Noctum.
I found myself unable to answer an extremely important question. Is this an attempt to humanize Getsic’s character and create empathy in the viewer, or is it just objectifying and misogynistic? Anyone interested can read a fine articulation of this issue by James DePaolo at Wicked Channel.
The fact that this question is unanswerable in the context of the film is by no means a shortcoming. This should have damn well been the unshakeable thing that bothered and stayed with me for a couple days.
But it didn’t.
The question neither troubled me nor pissed me off. Either would have meant Rehmeier did his job: incite a reaction.
The closest I can come to reaction is to say this unresolved question left me, at most, mildly annoyed. On the strength of Getsic’s performance and Rehmeier’s technical merit, something much more visceral should have happened.
Admittedly, this could be more a problem on my part than Rehmeier’s.
To be fair, I also realize this was not an attempt to make anything along the same lines as Ruggero Deodato or Fred Vogel. In the same interview, Rehmeier expressed mixed feelings about viewers coming to the film looking for potential snuff or because it was banned in the UK.
Fair enough. Those things hold no interest for me either.
This is not to suggest this is easy viewing. Far from it. The Bunny Game is indeed a rough go, but neither the most watchable nor the most unwatchable film I’ve ever seen. My overall impression was that Rehmeier was trying to do two things.
First, to make Getsic’s ordeal, and by extension her catharsis, ours. Second, to create what’s been called by some “a violent fuck you to mainstream Hollywood.”
Sorely needed and laudable to be sure, but this also poses a problem.
Rehmeier was trying.
For some of us, once we see that, the spell, whatever spell that might be, is broken. I like what Rehmeier and Getsic accomplished. This was not my favorite film to endure. This was not my favorite review to write. I am less than happy with it.
That may well be the point.