HTF REVIEW: Living Hell

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Elliott, Jul 24, 2004.

  1. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

    Jul 11, 2003
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    Real Name:
    Michael Elliott

    Living Hell


    Studio: Subversive
    Year: 2000
    Rated: NR
    Film Length: 104 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: Letterboxed (1.85:1)
    Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround
    Subtitles: English

    Yasu (Hurorito Honda) is a troubled twenty-two year old who is confined to a wheelchair due to some sort of anxiety, which has taken over his body. The young man lives with his father, sister and brother but soon two new relatives show up at the house. Chiyo, a senile older woman and her granddaughter strike the young boy as being a bit weird but soon he realizes that they are a lot more than that. Within days of moving in the two women start torturing the boy but no one in the family will believe him because they think this is just an act to get more attention. With no one to believe him Yasu is trapped in the house with the women who go all out to serve their deadly plans.

    I went into Living Hell with high expectations but in the end I found myself checking my clock way too much to totally enjoy the film. There are many wonderful ideas floating around in the film but in the end we’re left with a pretty empty film without any characters to root for and an ending that’s so over the top and ripped from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that the eeriness the director tries for went way over my head.

    The first thirty minutes really kills the film with its boring introduction to the new family, which will soon be stalked by the crazy grandmother and granddaughter. We first see the family gathered around the breakfast table arguing about the new guests that are about to arrive. All this fighting is so incredibly annoying that within minutes you’ll be wishing they’d get knocked off right then and there. Also in this time we never really get to know any of the family members, especially the paralyzed boy who is supposed to be the guy we’re rooting for throughout the film. What we do get to see of him doesn’t make us care too much for him and the wooden performance by Hirohito Honda doesn’t help mattes either.

    Without anyone to care for I really had a hard time getting into the actual torturing that goes on. I’m quite certain the director wants us to cheer for our young hero yet since he never bothered to let us get to know him then we’re left without any real emotions going throughout the film. Another incredibly boring and pointless plotline has a local detective trying to track down the grandmother but this here turns out to be nothing more than filler, which adds an extras thirty-minutes to the running time and doesn’t offer us anything interesting. Even without a likeable character I was hoping the violence would push this into the entertainment level but that didn’t happen either.

    I think the film tries to appear a lot meaner than it actually is. Perhaps I’m just a little too jaded but the violence here wasn’t really anything we haven’t seen before and if you’ve seen any horror films from Italy then I highly doubt you’ll be shocked by this film. In the torture department we see teeth being pulled out, heads beaten with hammers, the young boy used as a dart board and to top it all off we even get to see his private area soaked with water only to have a stun gun put to test. None of this is done overly graphic and the director makes a mistake by keeping the film a bit too clean. With such films like Organ and Men Behind the Sun I’m really not sure what the point of this cleanness was. Perhaps budget problems?

    Director Shugo Fujii adds some nice touches here and there but the bad editing and constant blackouts really start to get annoying very quickly. The director does a wonderful job trying to set up a doomed atmosphere, which is nicely brought to life by the way the film is lit. Most of the scenes take place with light only coming through windows while other scenes are merely lit by candles. Another nice addition are some wickedly creepy sound effects that come into play throughout the movie. Living Hell is worth a viewing but I can’t help but feel it should have been a lot better.

    VIDEO---The movie is shown widescreen (1.85:1) but is not enhanced for 16x9 TVs. The picture quality isn’t too bad considering the low-budget nature of the film and how it was shot using natural lighting. If you’re expecting anything good looking then you’re going to be disappointed but this is simply how the film was shot and is not a transfer problem. There are several scenes that appear way too soft and the colors are faded but as far as I could tell this is just the look of the film. I say this because there isn’t any speckles or scratches on the print, so this seems like a pretty good transfer. The black levels during the fades to black are way too soft but again, it appears this is an issue with how the film was made and not the transfer.

    AUDIO---The audio is a Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround track with optional English subtitles. Again, due to budget reasons with the actual film we’re aren’t given too much to work with but what’s here suits the film just fine. The dialogue throughout the film is rather soft and quiet, although it’s never hard to understand what’s being said. There are several scenes that come off sounding very low and distant but again, this here seems to be due to the film’s production. The Surrounds are only sparingly used but when they are we get some good effects. The music score packs a nice little punch and helps add to the atmosphere.

    EXTRAS---To start off we get a nice biography of the director as well as a small section of storyboards, which are quite interesting because after watching the film you’ll be shocked that storyboards were actually used. The big extra on the disc is the audio commentary with the director, which is mildly entertaining due to the director simply sounding like a fun guy. The director speaks English, which had me nervous at first but thankfully he speaks the language pretty good and is easy to understand throughout. He starts off the track talking about his idol Alfred Hitchcock and from there he also talks about other horror films that influenced this one. There are several moments where the track is silent and even some funny moments where the director keeps having to remind himself to talk about the film. Up next are six-minutes worth of deleted scenes, which were taken from a workprint and don’t look too good. Most appear to be dialogue scenes but none of them feature English subtitles so it’s hard to understand what’s going on unless you speak the language. We also get the film’s theatrical trailer, which runs just over a minute. Also included are trailers for upcoming releases including: Gemini, The Witch Who Came From the Sea and Battlefield Baseball. Finally we get four short films ranging from fourteen minutes to twenty-eight minutes. Blackhole and Grief are black and white, silent student films that are fairly interesting but are in rough shape. The third film, Seesaw Game is the director’s thesis film, which is rather fun, although nothing brilliant. Finally we get Dead Money, which is mildly entertaining but nothing you’ll watch over and over.

    OVERALL---It seems this film has a huge cult following for it but I just couldn’t get into the film. Fans of Japanese horror will probably find some nice touches here but anyone expecting anything too hardcore will probably be let down. Subversive makes a wonderful debut with the DVD, which features a suitable transfer and audio mix. The extras alone will makes fans of the film very happy. Even though I didn’t care for the movie too much I’m very happy to know that there’s an up and coming studio that is going to deliver all sorts of cult favorites. You can tell their hearts certainly in the product and that should make horror fans happy with future releases.

    Release Date: August 31, 2004
  2. ChrisBEA

    ChrisBEA Screenwriter

    Jul 19, 2003
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    Thanks for the review! I am still curious to see it.
    Can't wait for Battlefield Baseball!

    Any chance of a review of Elite's Uzumaki?

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