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Freezer
cast: Harumi Inoue, Naoto Takenaka, and Kazuki Kitamura

director: Takashi Ishii

103 minutes (18) 2000
widescreen ratio 16:9
Tartan Asia Extreme DVD Region '0' retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Ian Shutter
A recent addition to the violent terror subgenre of rape and revenge, Ishii's bleak yet subtle drama of male arrogance and desperate female rebellion strikes viewer sensibilities with crushing waves of repressed emotion.
   Chihiro (Harumi Inoue) is an office worker in Tokyo, engaged to be married, trying to forget the horror of her past when, a schoolgirl, she was gang raped by three men. Then, one of those men arrives at her small flat and, in blithely hostile scenes that are all the more disturbing for their initial lack of violence, decides to stay with her until his friends arrive. Too ashamed to ask for help, and frightened to learn that the rapists have made and sold a video of the assault (shown only in brief grainy flashbacks), Chihiro is forced to submit to repeated attacks, until she sees an opportunity to get rid of each of these rapists in turn. Anxiously, she plans how to dispose of their bodies afterwards...
   Freezer (aka: Freeze Me) is a devastatingly powerful thriller, and a merciless, shattering drama - that recalls Meir Zarchi's controversial I Spit On Your Grave (1978), and echoes Polanski's hallucinatory Repulsion (1965). The audience feels compelled to care about the female lead here, not simply out of instinct to protect a pretty girl threatened by wicked men, but because Harumi Inoue is such a great young actress, convincing us of the bitter reality of Chihiro's terrifying ordeal and subsequently overwhelming dilemma. She portrays her character's stifling fear of confrontation, yet reveals steely reserves when pushed too far, and there's a keen moral sense about the action she must take to get rid of these cruel men who have invaded her life, again.
   This is not a likeable film in the usual sense of screen entertainment, but the efforts of the director and his cast make it an admirable one. Chihiro's cold fury as she bludgeons her victims to death actually seems a just and fair response to their vile, taunting behaviour. There's a kind of off-colour amusement in the fact that the rapists observe the Japanese custom of removing their shoes on entering Chihiro's flat, while they ignore her weak protests - as if she is obliged to let them stay there. Later, after the brutal and protracted killings, Ishii's nasty little drama of vengeance flirts with black comedy, in scenes where the heroine chats amiably to corpses stashed in chest freezer units that she uses as designer furniture tables and sideboards, draining the limited amperage of her flat's electricity supply, and we soon realise that Chihiro has cracked.
   Freezer is also a ghost story... Not a conventional one, obviously, but a stylised version where genre elements are presented metaphorically. Chihiro retains vivid memories of the rapists - recognising each of them instantly, when they return to haunt her. That's one of several meanings that Ishii is exploring in this deceptive, complex film.
   DVD extras: filmographies, a stills gallery, film notes by Justin Bowyer, Asia Extreme trailers
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