Kelly's Taboo Terrors: Brutal (2018)
Follow Kelly’s exploration into the darkest recesses of horror. Once a month she takes a twisted turn and dissects the most graphic, disturbing, controversial, and obscure films the horror genre has to offer. These are immoral, indecent and offensive; the ugly films that few people talk about and even fewer dare to watch. The films that will stay with you long after the credits roll and infest your nightmares.
Disclaimer: Movies that depict real animal harm for the sake of film making will NOT be watched or discussed (ie: Cannibal Holocaust)
Viewers Discretion is Advised.
The isolation of a global pandemic has led me down into the deepest, darkest trenches of extreme cinema and I have Tubi TV to thank for that. With the free time allotted, and the severity of the state of our world, extreme horror has actually been a place of solace and community for me. In my exploration of Tubi TV I stumbled across another Unearthed Films release which begins like many other extreme horror films -- with the graphic bludgeoning of multiple women -- but then takes a fascinating turn, making this a dissection I have been anticipating for months. So let’s take a stab at Brutal (2018)!
From writer and director Takashi Hirose (in his first feature) comes an unflinching gaze into the life of a psychotic serial killer (“Man”) hell bent on destroying women, one by one. But, as you come to learn, there is a female counterpart to his bloody facade, someone named “Woman”. “Woman” is out to kill men without hesitation and remorse. Once their bloody paths merge, a romance occurs, but of course, only one can make it out alive.
When we first meet our protagonist, he has three unknown women tied up in his apartment. He asks one of them “Do you understand what I am doing?”. She tells him tearfully, “No”. He then punches her in the gut and she vomits through her mouth gag. Throughout Brutal we see “Man” engage with women, violently, asking them questions like “Do you know what I am doing?”, “Do you feel my power?”, “Do you feel my anger/pain”? To which he then proclaims that “Nobody understands”.
“Man” has conflicting feelings towards women, mostly because he feels misunderstood by them. His past is unknown, so we can only truly speculate this based on his attitude (and actions). But, this doesn’t prevent him from hoarding numerous girl’s heads in his apartment. In a revealing, yet hallucinatory, conversation with a girls’ head, he wonders if he “really wants to fuck?”, as he is watching pornography but isn’t aroused. The talking head reassures him that the women he has killed have been “saved” by him and that they - the dead women - are the ones that will only love him. By ending their lives, “Man” has shown these women how to find “true love”. After the head stops talking, he stomps it to a bloody pulp.
In another scene with a captive woman, “Man” asks her “Do you want me?”, and she responds “Yes, you are strong. Please cum inside me”. This perhaps could have been a complete delusion on his part as we will, ahem, come to see later on as a part of his pathology. “Man” ends the dialogue by stating that “I won’t cum inside you” and stabs her in the crotch, over and over again. After he dismembers the women in his tub and places their body parts into plastic bags, he bathes.
So far, “Man” is a deranged killer with a mean streak against women. Yawn.
Like a needle to the eye, we are thrown into the life of “Woman” as we see a montage of her murders - the dick stabbing, choking, and drowning of men. She is a vicious Murderess. After finishing one of her kills off, she stands in front of the bathroom mirror (miraculously unbloodied) and asks herself “It’s ok, isn’t it?”. In a later scene we see her sitting alone on a park bench, smoking, and busy in her own thoughts when she is harassed by a random man who touches her scarf and says how pretty she is. She later kills him.
Time proceeds forward and “Woman” is enjoying a delicious blue cocktail at a bar when a man starts a conversation with her. He seems nice, and she indulges in a poignant conversation, showing her vulnerability. She says to him “Let’s go somewhere I can completely disappear.” They end up back at his place (or a hotel?) where she is hesitant and says “I don’t know what to do”. Up to this point we have seen her cruel nature, and this moment of exposure moves us but as she turns around, she sees a large knife in his hand. He knows she has been killing people, and he says to her “I’ll accept all of you.” A fight between them ensues and he dies. She waxes poetically that “Everybody’s the same”, and as she is stabbing him in the dick (her signature move), she says “It’s painful to get fucked”. Afterwards she is back in the mirror asking “It’s OK, right?”.
“Woman” has a complex, but familiar to those female identifying, relationship with men. Though she is totally unstable, you almost feel for the men she brutalizes.
“MAN” MEETS “WOMAN”
“Man” sees “Woman” walking down the street and is immediately drawn to her. He takes her back to his apartment and once she steps foot into it and sees the blood stained walls and heaps of people’s belongings, they start fighting. As they engage each other, knives are cutting all parts of their bodies and tearing their clothing to shreds. In an accidental reveal, this is where Brutal takes a compelling turn: “Man” has been castrated. Also called “emasculation”, his penis and testicles have been removed, leaving only a small stump. He says “Do you understand what I am doing?” Then, “Woman’s” dress is cut away to show us that her nipples have been removed and her labia sewn together. Both of them are taken aback; they have something deeply personal in common. He cries and they embrace.
Up until this point, Brutal was playing out to be a generic, flashy, slasher, serial killer film lacking any real guts, but the reveal that these characters have removed their external sex organs is really important. “Woman”, like many women, has been objectified and clearly, she is tired of it. There is symbolism in removing aspects of your body (called genital nullification) that make you a sexual being, parts that for “Woman” (and “Man”) are no longer being used. Nipples, thought only for breastfeeding, are an erogenous zone for many women; they are removed (nipplectomy) and are scarred, creating a less sexually appealing look. In genital nullification, the clitoris is removed (clitodectomy), and the labia sewn to make a smoother, less identifying/sexual aesthetic. This is reminiscent of Ruby Real Girl in American Mary (2012) who desired to look more like a doll so that she would no longer be fetishized, but appear gender neutral.
It shows perhaps that “Woman” (and “Man”) have given up hope on finding “true love” and creating healthy sexual relationships. On finding someone who isn’t there to use or abuse her for her beauty, and cares for her mind as well. Though women are less likely to have this type of extreme body modification willingly done; the peace of de-sexing yourself might have been overwhelming for both of them.
For “Man”, our Eunuch, it’s hyperbolic as his delusions of sex and ejaculating are intermixed with his bloodlust and anger. He wants to be desired but knows that he isn’t. “Man” has given up on women, relationships, and love, because they don’t understand him. We don’t know when -- or how -- “Man” was emasculated, nor when or how “Woman” changed herself, but they wanted to be seen/understood. And by removing the organs that sexualized them, they believe that this will bring them what they desire.
Their fight scene is intense, violent, and erotic; “Woman” is being penetrated in the only way “Man” can provide, and that’s through stabbing her. In an awkward and disturbing scene, “Man” tells “Woman” that he “can’t cum inside her” but that he does want to. “Woman” reassures him that he is inside of her (mentally/emotionally) and that she can feel him there. Their connection goes beyond physical arousal, sex and orgasm - it’s through blood (murder) that they express themselves (and create attachments) and in death become complete.
At first, I thought that Brutal was commonplace, a bland entry into the extreme horror world, but with this dramatic twist it turned into a hypnotizing tale of grim, star crossed lovers. It’s aesthetically appealing, though, despite it looking like it was shot on film, it wasn’t. It attempts a grindhouse style but it’s much too clean to make it feel truly gritty and underground (it’s quite well produced). The score is at time cheesy, and it begins (and ends) with metalcore. Woof. At a brisk 67 minute runtime, it was well paced and an enjoyable watch.
I would give Brutal a ⅘ on the Nightmare Scale for equal opportunity genital stabbing, vomit, and extreme body modification.