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Jamie Anne Allman,
William Lee Scott,
Family is the source of all evil, in this aspiring horror film which traces its descent from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre gore and the atmospheric Hammer films. Chiyo, an old woman and her granddaughter, Yuki, are the sole survivors of a horrendous crime which wipes out an entire family. They find solace under the roof of far-removed relatives. The family's son, confined to a wheelchair, has a terrible premonition when the two women arrive, which will be verified in the most horrifying way. Because, when the house is empty, the boy is made to suffer sadistic games at the women mercy, which become more and more violent making his life a living hell... Written by
Yasu is a depressed wheelchair-bound young man living with his father and siblings. He gets the news that two distant relatives (an old woman who seemingly has Alzheimer's and her 22 year old mute granddaughter) need to move in with them because their immediate family is no longer able to care for them. Upon their arrival, Yasu immediately senses something is wrong with these two strange women. When the rest of the family leaves for work, horrible things start to happen. Is Yasu going crazy or is he stuck in a...drum roll please...living hell?! Filmed in 9 days for around $100,000, "Living Hell" is a perfect example of how great, effective, and well-made a low budget quickie can be if it has the proper talent behind it. The terrific performances range from nuanced to delightfully over-the-top. There is some innovative camera-work, as well as some sequences that are clearly send-ups of more famous directors. This movie has a very gloomy atmosphere, and countless horrifying and disgusting sequences. There are some "jump scares," but the movie does not rely solely upon these. There is also some well-done gore, but (like "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" before it) "less is more" here and it succeeds in being nasty and nauseating.
The writing is clever, with a solid dose of black humor thrown in. The story unfolds at a good pace that lets the audience in on some secrets, but keeps you guessing all the way until the twisted finale. There are plot holes galore that some viewers will be unable to overlook. If you can get past these and just go along for the ride this movie and its wildly wonderful performances want so badly to take you on, it will be well worth it.
There are a few other flaws, including a synth score that sometimes evokes laughter instead of fear. But overall, this is one of the better horror movies I've seen from the recent wave of Japanese horror cinema. And one of the best minuscule budget horror movies of this decade.
The DVD includes 4 short films by the director. The only one I enjoyed was the darkly comedic "Dead Money." There is also a director's commentary that is hit (insisting the movie is more akin to "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" than "Texas Chainsaw Massacre") or miss (talking about how he filled Rumi's bra with paper, but her breasts were "still not big enough," with no explanation as to why that was necessary for the character's role.) My Rating: 8/10
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