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MEAT GRINDER
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Reviewed by: Pat Torfe

Directed by: Tiwa Moeithaisong

Starring:
Mai Charoenpura
Anuway Niwartwong
Wiradit Srimalai
Rattanaballang Tohssawat

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about

Buss is a single mother who was abused as a child, now running a small noodle restaurant. Life is hard in 1970s Thailand, and Buss has her hands full bringing up her daughter Bua while dealing with her own own past. When a dead guy left over from an anti-government riot ends up in her restaurant she decides to waste not and do a little cooking. Soon word about her delicious soups starts spreading, and more 'ingredients' start showing up for Buss to use.

Is it good movie?

I don't know what it is with Asian horror. They push boundaries, both good and bad, and end up entertaining or disgusting (in a negative way) the viewers. Takashi Miike's been doing it for a while, and taking a cue from Fruit Chan's THREE... EXTREMES entry "Dumplings" and SWEENEY TODD (minus the musical parts), Thai director Tiwa Moeithaisong churns out MEAT GRINDER, which for all intents, attempts to be both beautiful as it is violent.

Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, and MEAT GRINDER is something to behold for its visual style. Never mind the carnage on the screen, there is some great-looking cinematogrphy going on here. A mix of vibrant colours, black and white photography and sepia tones amidst some shots using filters, scratches and other assorted techniques (including some shaky cam stuff) make this horror film seem more like an art piece in some ways. Throw in a sparse but great score that compliments and contrasts (think Lecter's escape in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and you'll see what I mean), and the film comes across as a beautiful car wreck: repulsive in its content, but you can't help but not look away.

On the acting side of things, Mai Charouenpura is a standout as Buss. Able to switch Buss' psychotic rage on and off on the fly, Mai is a bloodsoaked treat. Difficult as it may seem, you sympathize with the character as you relive the traumatic moments of her upbringing through flashbacks. This is all of course despite Buss becoming a cruel, psychotic individual as an adult. It's almost sad in some ways, since Buss ends up perpetuating the cycle of violence she experienced as a child. How that turned into hanging people a la Leatherface or nailing a guy to the floor by his fingertips (as you can imagine, he frees himself in the most painful of ways), I don't know.

The problem with MEAT GRINDER is that it's all over the place with its frantic energy. The varied uses of colours and photography can seem disorienting at times, and aren't helped out by the often-confusing editing. Switching back and forth between present and past so much, I had to rewind at times to get what I was seeing. Also, despite the 'beautiful car crash' idea, this is still one of those torture porn films. Really, that guy wrenching his fingers from the nails is only one bit of the lingering shots the film features. Normally I'd be totally turned off from the film, but the beautiful shots made things a bit easier. Even then, those who go gah-gah for gorefests like these will be put off with these same shots getting in the way of their gory delights. Sometimes, you just can't win.

Understandably, this film will be hard to pinpoint for a lot of people. Mixing in beauty and extreme torture gore can only satisfy a select of the select few, while the rest are left trying to sift through the stuff they don't want. Even if you manage to get past that hurdle, the film still gets tripped up by the confusion presented by the flashbacks. I'm not saying that MEAT GRINDER is a poor film, it's just different. It being different will limit its appeal, but give it a shot if you torture porn fans want to see your grue with a bit more style.

Video / Audio
NA
The Extras
NA
Last Call

Beautiful yet disgusting at the same time, MEAT GRINDER won't appeal to those fans of Asian cinematography unless they have strong stomachs. Likewise, extreme gorehounds won't be entirely won over because the pretty shite got mixed in. Those in the middle might glean some enjoyment from both worlds, along with the story (confusing as it may seem) and acting. Dig in, if you're game.

ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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