Film Review: Psycho Gothic Lolita (2010)

Blood, watery though it may be, is much, much thicker than plot.

PSYCHO GOTHIC LOLITA is one of those films that must be seen to be believed - which is not the same as saying it "must" be seen - or even should be. Essentially, this is a vaguely futuristic, Japanese rip-off of KILL BILL, with a nod toward a Tokyo fashion trend that you can probably surmise from the title. Filled with sound and fury but signifying very little, the film is not all bad, but the good parts can - and pretty much do - fit into the trailer.

See? This movie really is set in the future!
See? This movie really is set in the future!

After a briefly glimpsed exterior suggesting we're in one of those gloomy movie worlds that might be the future or just an alternate reality, PSYCHO GOTHIC LOLITA gets immediately down to business, with its title character graphically killing a bunch of people in a nightclub before facing off with the female owner in a vengeful duel to the death.

Just in case you've never seen a Quentin Tarantino movie, I will now pause to explain that this sequence is essentially a reprise of the Crazy 88 episode from KILL BILL, VOLUME 1. I will also pause to explain that, individually and/or collaboratively, director Go Ohara and writer Hisakatsu Kuroki are no Quentin Tarantino. Taking cues only from the over-the-top violence, they do not bother to replicate KILL BILL'S time structure; instead, after the initial carnage, they settle into the monotonous rhythm of a bad porno movie, in which every scene of spewing bodily fluids is alternated with a dull dialogue scene that "advances" the "plot."

Which amounts to this: Yuki (Rina Akiyama" and her father Jiro (Yurei Yanagi) are seeking revenge for the murder of Yuki's mother. They talk about this during the plot scenes, without every really saying anything important. There is no trail of clues they seem to be following, nor any particular long-term strategy; they're just plugging away at this one killing at a time. One presumes they are working their way up the pecking order of villains until they get to numero uno, but it scarcely matters.

Consequently, after the first ten minutes, you've pretty much seen the movie; everything else is repetition, except insofar as the fight scenes can upgrade the insanity with ever more outrageous invention, some of which are, admittedly, worth a chuckle (such as an umbrella that shoots like a rifle).

The gore effects - the real star of the show - are, of course, way - way way beyond belief, which is good, because the watery red geysers are too fake to induce nausea, allowing us to laugh as Yuki slices and dices her way through her various targets.

There is a tiny break in the monotony when one of Yuki's victims is being attacked by some thugs for unexplained reasons: Yuki must first kill the attackers before killing her victim. I guess the irony of her "rescuing" someone only to kill him is supposed to be amusing, but the effect would have been more effective if this had been the opening scene, before we knew what to expect from her.

The movie picks up a bit when Yuki confronts another young, hot female warrior, whose weapon serves double-duty as a cell phone, allowing her to chat with her boyfriend during the no-holds-barred death duel. It's not much, but when you're in a desert, any drop of water feels like an oasis.

In the last reel we get a "development" that is no doubt intended to suggest that there really is a "plot" to be developed: we finally learn the motivation of the murderers who killed Yuki's mother. It has something to do with mom being  a demon or something, whose power the murderers wanted for themselves (don't quote me on this - the exposition was so perfunctory that I couldn't bring myself to commit the details to memory).

This leads to the big finish, in which Jiro is kidnapped and put on a guillotine, forcing Yuki into a situation in which she figurative fights with one hand tied behind her back - or in this case, one hand holding a rope to prevent the blade from dropping on her father's neck.

That this sounds suspenseful is a testament to my poor writing skills, which if they were up to par would clarify that the absurdity of the sequences utterly squelches any rooting interest. As Yuki battles back and forth, advancing and retreating, the blade goes up and down so many times that when it finally does fall, the inevitably has been forecast for what seems like hours, and the only emotional response is relief that an overextended sequence has finally ended. (And no, this does not count as a spoiler, because even without reading this review, you would have seen the outcome long before it happened.)

Anyway, Yuki kills the bad guys, but in the way of Japanese films, we're left feeling that maybe that's not a good thing, because there was that demonic aspect to her mother, which - who knows? - might be hereditary or something. And anyway, Yuki's an orphan now, and it's not as if her mission in life has really helped her develop the skills to make friends, so she's rather a lonely soul. But at least she still looks good in that Gothic Lolita garb, so what the hell, right?

Psycho Gothic LolitaThe denoument provides another glimpse of a gloomy exterior, which reminds us that PSYCHO GOTHIC LOLITA is supposed to be something other than mundane in its setting, even though much of it looks as if it was shot on locations available to any student filmmaker (gymnasiums, warehouses, empty roads), often with available sunlight. At least the interiors occasionally show some stylization, with Bavaesque colors proudly beamed across the screen quite regardless of realistic light sources.

PSYCHO GOTHIC LOLITA is apparently part of a a Japanese splatter sub-genre that includes such titles as TOKYO GORE POLICE. The unabashed exploitation zeal of these films - in which blood, watery though it may be, is nonetheless much, much thicker than plot - has a certain charm - but not nearly enough to sustain a feature. We'd really all be much better off if the fight scenes from these films were repurposed as three-minute YouTube videos.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.

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