I've said it before and I'll say it again -- there's something weird going on in Japan. From their movies to their animation to their video games to Hello Kitty, it's all just a bit odd. Stephen Biro, the operator of Unearthed Films, once wrote, "The Japanese really take their horror seriously since it gives the public an avenue of release from the pent up frustrations of modern day life." Well, if that's the case, then the film "Freeze Me" should have generated a great deal of release.
The best way to describe "Freeze Me" is that it's a Japanese take on "I Spit on Your Grave", mixed in with a little Ed Gein. Harumi Inoue stars as Chihiro Yamazaki, a young woman who seems to have everything. She has a good job, and is engaged to Atsushi Kojima (Shingo Tsurumi), one of her co-workers. (Although, the DVD box refers to this character as "Yusuke".) Her happiness soon becomes a living nightmare, however, as her dark past comes back to haunt her.
As it turns out, five years ago, Chihiro was raped by a trio of men. Now, these men have come back, one-by-one to be find her. The rapists, Hirokawa (Kazuki Kitamura), a hipster gangster; Nogami (Shunsuke Matsuoka), a failed businessman; and Baba (Naoto Takenaka), an ex-convict, arrive at Chihiro's apartment one-at-a-time, and each intends to have his way with her. This throws Chihiro's life into turmoil, as she loses the trust of Nogami and her job. The repeated abuse of these thugs eventually drives Chihiro to seek vengeance through violence. She is then forced to purchase large freezers in order to conceal her crimes.
As with any film which deals with rape, "Freeze Me" is very difficult to watch at times, and it certainly isn't a fun film. The movie contains several scenes of graphic violence, but (thankfully), few scenes of rape. (The initial rape was captured on videotape (which is a key plot-point), but director Takashi Ishii has skilfully edited that video so that it is disturbing, but not incredibly graphic.) The violence in the film is in no way stylized, and comes off as very realistic. The comparison to "I Spit on Your Grave" was not based solely on the storyline, but on the level of violence as well.
And while the violence will be disturbing enough for most, it's the behavior of Chihiro that makes "Freeze Me" truly creepy. As unrealistic as some of her deeds may seem, the film accurately captures the behaviors of someone who has become a victim. At several points during the film, Chihiro has opportunities to escape from her attackers and to call the police. But, she doesn't. She allows them to totally dominate her world. And, once she begins to exact her vengeance, her actions start to reflect some real-life individuals who suffer from an accute mental disorder. She is able to lead a functional life, while her apartment hides ghastly secrets. Portraying Chihiro in this fashion was a risk on the part of the filmmakers, as it makes her character very difficult to like or to sympathize with. ("Run!", we find ourselves yelling at the screen.) Yet, the reality of this character is so shocking and eye-opening, that we watch, transfixed, waiting to see what she will do next.
Once again, "Freeze Me" is not an easy film to watch, nor will it appeal to most filmgoers. But, for those who can stomach realistic violence, but are looking for a film in this genre that has a true human side, then you may want to consider warming up to this movie.
"Freeze Me" arrives on DVD courtesy of Media Blasters/Tokyo Shock. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp, but shows a fine sheen of grain throughout. In Chapter 2, a noticeable blue line trails vertically down the screen, and there are other minor defects, such as white spots, throughout. At times, the picture becomes very soft. However, the colors are very good, and there is no distortion to the image. Some artifacting and edge-enhancement issues are present, but they don't really detract from the vieweing experience.
This disc features both the original Japanese audio and a dubbed English track, both of which are in Dolby Digital Stereo. The dialogue is sharp and clear, and there is no hiss to be heard. The stereo seperation is somewhat weak, and at times, the experience is closer to that of a mono track. The English dubbing is acceptable, but purists will nonetheless stick with the Japanese track. The English subtitles are clear and very easy to read.
This DVD doesn't contain many extras. There is a text biography and filmography for director Takashi Ishii, as well as trailers for his films, "Black Angel", "Black Angel 2" and "Gonin 2". Also included is the Japanese trailer for "Freeze Me". The only other extras on the disc are bonus trailers for the Media Blasters' releases "Blood", "Visitor Q", "Robotrix", and "Wild Criminal".
Along with being violent and shocking, "Freeze Me" may be the first film that I've ever seen which contains video game system symbolism. Chihiro has a PlayStation, while Nogami has a Nintendo 64. OK, now break up into groups and discuss how their choice of game system is reflected in their personality.