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Film Review: Niku Daruma (Psycho Snuff Reels) (1998)

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Niku-Daruma-Psycho-Snuff-Reels-Tumbling-Doll-of-Flesh-movie-3SYNOPSIS:

Kana tries to end her starring role in an abusive P*rno. For her, the end comes only after she’s been reduced to a “Tumbling Doll of Flesh”.

REVIEW:

Tamakichi Anaru is a Japanese director with a very disturbing vision. I really can’t think of a better way to start this review, so I’ll just reiterate that this man has some sick thoughts going through his head. He is the director of such movies as Satsu Satsu (Ayame) (aka Suicide Dolls), Watashi No Akai Harawata (aka Hungry Mouth), and a handful of incest-P*rn titles. But what Anaru is most famous for is the 1998, shot on video Niku Daruma (aka Tumbling Doll of Flesh, aka Psycho: The Snuff Files, aka Psycho: The Snuff Reels, aka Judge For Yourself). If you’ve heard the title, you have probably seen it as well (or at least tried to track down a copy for your sick, sick collection), and if you’ve seen it, you most certainly remember it.

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Niku Daruma is in the same vein as the Guinea Pig films, but filmed about a decade later and not quite as (in)famous. We open with separate scenes of a woman, then a man, sitting on a couch and discussing something with an off-screen voice (this is one of those no subtitle movies, but honestly, aside from these first couple scenes, dialogue is irrelevant in this movie). It would appear that they have contracts in front of them, and we soon discover, after a van ride to a convenience store, that the two have signed up to film an amateur P*rn film together.

And then comes the P*rn (pardon the pun). The full-on, Japanese hardcore, genitals-blurred P*rn. And we sit and watch as the guy and the girl have sex in a small room while two other dudes watch/film/direct the action. It’s awkward, to say the least. But it only gets more awkward from here on out.

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Somewhere in that contract, it must have said that there would be S & M and/or fetish scenes, because after a lunch break including a seafood dinner, they get back to business, only now the woman is being tied up. Pretty soon, we realize she doesn’t like what they are doing to her, what with the hot wax and tight knots and butt stuff. And when she tries to leave after a short break, we assume she likes even less the baseball bat to the head.

From here on out, it’s no holds barred. We have amputations, bludgeoning, screaming, bleeding, and, of course, more hardcore sex, but now with so many new and creative avenues to explore. Feet are cut off, tongues are cut in half, arms are severed, and all in a very realistic, almost found footage/snuff film style. If there’s one thing about Tamakichi Anaru that we know, it’s that he loves seeing women mutilated on screen, and some will say that Niku Daruma is his personal masterpiece in this arena.

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You may have heard the story of Charlie Sheen seeing one of the Guinea Pig films and contacting the authorities, reporting it as a snuff film. You may also recall never hearing the same type of mystery surrounding Niku Daruma. This could be because we are ten years removed from that situation, and people watch with a more discerning eye. This could also be because the effects are not nearly as realistic. Don’t get me wrong, this is a disgusting movie, but only a child would think this is real (and really, why are you letting your child watch this? Come on now.). The entire movie is gritty and looks like an old home movie, but the spongy appearance of the severed limbs pulls the viewer off the ledge and allows them to put the phone down before calling someone. The tongue scene, however, is pretty nasty.

The other problem with this movie (“problem” taking on a very interesting meaning in this context) is that genital mutilation loses any and all shock in a culture where genitals are notoriously censored and covered by a big blur across the screen. It’s possible that a penis is cut off of someone near the end of Niku Daruma, but how can we be certain? And if this does happen, and it’s meant to be a final blow to the gut, a last hurrah in an attempt to remove our lunches from our stomachs, we have no way of telling just how good the effects are, as even a severed penis is considered offensive here. And so we see a reddish blur of something on the floor of the room, and we just have to imagine, “Wow! That’s a super nasty castration scene…maybe?”

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Niku Daruma is a movie that serves a better purpose to collectors than to casual horror fans. If I found a copy somewhere, and the price was right, would I buy it? Yes, definitely. Would I ever watch it again? Probably not. You can only really experience a plotless gorefest once, maybe twice, before it’s seen as exactly what it is – a plotless gorefest. Yes, Niku Daruma is very nasty, and some of the effects are impressively done for what I can only imagine is a micro-budget. But at no point did I mistake this for “the real thing.” If you get a chance, sure, check it out, but maybe wait the seventy-two minute runtime before eating lunch.

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