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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Kirei: The Terror of Beauty
Kirei: The Terror of Beauty
Media Blasters // Unrated // November 15, 2005
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Mike Long | posted January 19, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

Physical beauty is an attribute which has always been admired and valued. In today's media-driven world, we can see pictures of celebrities in magazines, on TV, on the Internet, and even on our cell phones, so beauty (and the importance of it) seems even more prevalent in our modern world. The Japanese film Kirei: The Terror of Beauty asks the question, how far would you go to be beautiful. In response, I ask the question, how far would you go to watch a mediocre movie?

Yoko Nogachi (Yukiko Okamoto) is a successful plastic surgeon who feels the she has the right to charge her patients whatever she wants. She dislikes "ugly women" and has no shame about the greedy way in which she pursues her business. One night, Yoko is visited by Yoshie (Asuka Kurosawa), a young, disfigured woman who wishes to be beautiful. Yoshie appears to have unlimited wealth and asks Yoko to transform her face, but Yoko can only work at night and she must be alone. Yoko is unsure about this odd proposal from this unusual woman, but she can't say no to the money. So, Yoko begins a series of operations on Yoshie, transforming her into a person who isn't afraid to show her face during the daytime. But, the surgeries trigger a change in Yoshie and it becomes apparent that she's quite disturbed. In making Yoshie into a beautiful woman, has Yoko created a monster?

Kirei: The Terror of Beauty is an odd film in that it raises some interest and poignant ideas and then goes nowhere with them. The first half of the film really drives home the point that Yoko is greedy and unscrupulous. When Yoshie arrives on the scene, the audience thinks, "OK, something is going to happen and Yoko is going to get her comeuppance." And while this does happen...sort of...it's not the least bit satisfying. When Yoshie first appears, she's rather creepy with her distorted features and knit cap. But director Katsuya Matsumura wastes any power that these visuals hold, as the second half of the film becomes something more akin to Single White Female. The eerie and subtle tactics of the film's opening become cheap and tawdry by the finale.

This isn't all that surprising considering that Matsumura was responsible for the All Night Long series of films, which are essentially exercises in human suffering. With Kirei: The Terror of Beauty, it's clear that he's going for a more classy and artistic approach, but this results in a movie which has very little to offer. While the All Night Long movies aren't necessarily good, at least they are shocking and stay with the viewer. The only shocking thing in Kirei: The Terror of Beauty is the amount of gratuitous sex and nudity, which only slow down an already slow movie. The second half of the film contains a few set-pieces which are clearly supposed to be shocking, but come off as feeling out of place.

Another issue that I had with Kirei: The Terror of Beauty was the overall look of the film. I can't fault Matsumura if he was working with an extremely limited budget, but the movie was shot on videotape and in this world of digital video, watching something which had the look of a home video was quite jarring. The movie is polished in the sense that there are interesting camera angles and "real" sets, but the shot-on-tape look made Kirei: The Terror of Beauty look like something that I would have inadvertently rented in the 80s.

Video

Kirei: The Terror of Beauty gets a DVD facelift courtesy of Tokyo Shock/Media Blasters. The movie has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. As noted above, the movie was shot on videotape. Thus, the image is free from grain or defects in the source material. However, there is a noticeable amount of video noise, and whenever a light shines directly into the camera, we get that home video "star effect" which can be quite distracting. The colors are fine for the most part, although brightly lit scenes appear somewhat washed out. The darker scenes look fine. I did notice some minor traces of artifacting.

Audio

The single audio track on this DVD is a Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 track. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. There were some occasional stereo effects, but for the most part, the sound was isolated and balanced in the front and center channels. The audio was adequate but lackluster. The English subtitles are large and easy-to-read.

Extras

The DVD contains a featurette entitled "The Making of Kirei" which runs 20 minutes. This isn't your standard Hollywood featurette, as it never mentions the plot of the movie. We do get some behind-the-scenes footages, clips from the movie, and interviews with the actors where they discuss their roles and the film's production. But, the overall piece feels very disjointed and if you haven't seen the movie, it won't make any sense. The only other extra on the DVD is the trailer for Kirei: The Terror of Beauty, which is letterboxed at 1.78:1.


Considering the general wackiness of Japanese horror films, Kirei: The Terror of Beauty had a chance to be something different, as it took a more subtle approach to a real-life situation. The movie's questions concerning the lengths to which people will go to achieve beauty are good ones which could have yielded a truly disturbing film. Instead the result falls into the realm of a tawdry thriller and the movie is never able to save face.
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