Living Hell (aka Iki-jigoku) DVD Review
Written by Peter West
DVD released by Subversive Cinema
Written and Directed by Shugo Fujii
2000, Region 1 (NTSC), 104 minutes, Rated R
DVD released on October 19th, 2004
Hirohito Honda as Yasu
Yoshiko Shiraishi as Chiyo
Rumi as Mami
Kazuo Yashiro as Ken
Naoko Mori as Yuki
Shugo Fujii as Mitsu
Suwabe Hitoshi as Dr. Kurando
A couple is murdered and their dog is eaten, the only suspects a senile old lady and her granddaughter who has disappeared. Fast forward a year and a family prepares to welcome distant relatives who are coming to stay for a month with them. Confined to a wheelchaira, Yasu disappoints his family by being less then sociable to the visiting relatives. The old lady Chiyo is distant and does not appear to be in touch with reality, and Yuki, the granddaughter, is mute with a distant stare.
When Yasu's father goes to Osaka for the week to work, and his brother, Ken, and sister, Mami, also leave for their jobs, Yasu is left alone with these two strangers. What starts as a wheelchair ride into traffic becomes relentless torture by the new arrivals. With his brother and sister not believing the two relatives capable of committing such horror, Yasu's only hope is reporter Mitsu (played by director Shugo Fujii), who has been working on the case of Chiyo, who escaped from the mental hospital which housed her after the first murders.
Living Hell is an exciting film with twists and turns which will keep you on edge, as you say to yourself "How much can one person take?".
Some of the best horror films in the world now are coming from Japan and Living Hell is certainly no exception. Director Fujii, while paying homage's to some of the greatest American horror classics, has put it together in a original new twist. A grown man being abused by a senile old lady is one sight to see, but this old lady is truly a monster indeed! I myself cringed a few times as the level of torture increased and increased. This movie is what a true indie horror fan salivates for!
A couple of months ago I was contacted by Subversive to review their upcoming DVDs, with a start like Living Hell I can't wait for the next one. I was a little disappointed by it not being a anamorphic transfer, however the content made that point moot! I really have had to restrain myself a little in making comparisons of Living Hell to other classics fearing I might give something away. Living Hell is full of unusual twists and you'll being guessing till the end the true nature of the horror that is unfolding!
You don't have to be a fan of Asian films to love Living Hell. It's pure horror at it's finest! In Japan it's been called the "Japanese Chainsaw Massacre, without the Chainsaw", I can only describe it as a "Wheelchair ride into Hell". If you miss this release, you're truly missing one of the most exciting films to cross the Pacific!
Video and Audio:
Presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 Living Hell suffers some from it's independent roots. While the picture is pretty clear and sharp for a film made in 2000, it could have been better. This is explained by this note at the subversive site:
"Our LIVING HELL DVD is not presented in the anamorphic widescreen format because the original elements to the film have been sadly lost. You will indeed find there is no anamorphic transfer to any of the LIVING HELL DVDs released worldwide due to this problem. However, with extensive help by director Shugo Fujii, we did get access to the only digital element remaining from the original film elements.
We performed extensive color correction and frame-by-frame dirt and scratch removal, letterboxing the film to its proper aspect ratio, 1:85.1, and finally cleaning up the Dolby 2.0 stereo track to achieve the best quality possible. We knew from the beginning that the elements available were extremely limited, so we went through this extensive clean-up in order to give you the best transfer of LIVING HELL because we firmly believe in Shugo Fujii’s work and want to make it available to the fans in the best possible version. You will find this new, cleaned transfer of LIVING HELL with all its extras only available through SUBVERSIVE CINEMA!"
With this in mind, considering the importance of this film, it makes the fact that it is not anamorphic really irrelevant!
Living Hell is presented in Dolby 2.0 stereo track. It is full of eerie sounds and music which richly compliment the film. I found to to be sharp, clear and free of distortion or hiss.
Living Hell DVD specs include:
- English language commentary by director Shugo Fujii
- Four short films by director Shugo Fujii: Blackhole, Seesaw Game, Grief, Dead Money
- Deleted Scenes
- Complete 245 storyboards for Living Hell
- 7 page biography and filmography for director Shugo Fujii
- Trailers for Living Hell, as well as previews for upcoming Subversive Cinema releases.
Here is where Subversive Cinema has gone all out to make Living Hell one incredible special edition!
From the full length feature commentary to the four short films, the extras really display Director Fujii's emerging talent. This is one on the best collections of extras for a indie film I've ever reviewed!
Films that Peter West reviews are viewed on a Mitsubishi WS-55413 HDTV and listened to on a THX certified Pioneer Elite VSX-55TXi A/V Receiver through a 7.1 setup of JBL Northridge E series Speakers.