More and more often I find myself more and more indifferent to such extremes as Hostel, Melancholie Der Engel, Martyrs, even the Guinea Pig films. Clearly I’m not their target demographic. These films don’t scare, anger, upset, or even sicken me particularly and not because I’m some blood-jaded splatter junkie looking for the next shocking violence fix. No, 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, and lemme tellya does it ever make me the life of any party.
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, Mother!, The Sound Of Music–each has left its own psychological scar.
There are, of course, others. The Bunny Game may or may not be one of them.
I wanted it to be. Truly I did. Let me be clear. I like this film. But “like” and “enjoy” are very different things. 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. Rodleen 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 very type of ordeal the film shows. Rehmeier and Getsic have both discussed the film as less conventional story telling and more transformative experience, a form of emotional upheaval and release or cleansing. Rehmeier has said as much openly, in particular during a 2012 interview for Ave Noctum.
Still, 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, misogynistic, low-budget torture porn? I don’t know but once read a fine articulation of this issue by James DePaolo at what used to be called Wicked Channel. Sadly this seems to have vanished, and I can’t remember what he actually said. And they say stuff you put online is there forever. Ha.
The fact that my question is unanswerable in the context of the film is not necessarily a shortcoming. The Bunny Game could have damn well been some unshakeable thing that bothered and stayed with me for a couple days. But it didn’t. “It commits the worst possible movie sin – it bores” says a recent review over at Flickering Myth.
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 my unresolved question left me, at most, mildly annoyed. On the strength of Getsic’s performance and Rehmeier’s technical merit, something much more visceral could have happened. Admittedly, this could be more a problem with me than The Bunny Game.
To be fair, I 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 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 also problematic. It’s that word “trying.” Rehmeier was trying, and that’s clear. 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 both.
That may well be the point.
BODIES- 1 onscreen
Not sure where/how I originally saw this. As of now, I can only find it on sites you have to register for.