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"Cold is what you get in "Freeze me," a revenge tale directed by Ishii Takashi, writer of the infamous Japanese horror film "Evil Dead Trap." All revenge tales, from "I Spit on Your Grave" to "Kill Bill," share a common plot; Person is wronged, person wrongs back. "Freeze me" takes this familiar story and frames it in an uncomfortably realistic scenario of modern Japan. The stigmatism of being raped can be so strong that the majority of occurrences go unreported, but are simply buried away as a shameful secret. While this may seem unthinkable to many viewers it is a harsh truth.
The story unfolds in a fairly predictable way. It is a revenge film after all. However, there is no joy in Chihiro's vengeance on her attackers. She is a destroyed character, wronged beyond the point of experiencing any relief or possessing any strength. Even dead, her violators continue to haunt her, as she keeps their bodies in industrial freezers in her apartment, unsure of how to dispose of her evidence.
Ishii keeps the camera work tight, intimate and uncomfortable. We are brought closer into Chihiro's world than we would want to experience. The viewer is trapped into the same tight space. The colors are muted, with the frosty blue tint of the frozen corpses being the most colorful thing in the film. The lovely Inoue Harumi, who plays Chihiro, is nude for much of the film, but her nakedness emphasizes her vulnerability rather than offering the viewer any pleasure.
One of the strangest and most unexpected elements of "Freeze Me" is seeing Takenaka Naoto, who is so likeable as Butterfly Joe in "Ping Pong" and The Dolphin Trainer in "Waterboys," playing such a despicable character as lead rapist Baba. It is good to see his range as an actor.
The main weakness of this film is that it is a revenge film, and thus familiar enough to be predictable. It does not improve up the basic plot stylistically in the way that "Kill Bill" does, not does it bend the boundaries of shocking violence such as "I Spit on Your Grave." It does do a good job of presenting a capable genre flick. Definitely worth a viewing, but not something that will rock your world like "Audition.""
"How beautiful it is to be frozen"
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 07/02/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The recent importation of massive numbers of Asian horror titles has kept me busier than a one armed paper hanger. Takashi Miike's voluminous catalogue of films alone--he often makes three or four a year--is usually enough to satiate my hunger for these movies, but when I tire of "Audition," "Dead or Alive," and "Visitor Q" I cast my eyes deeper into the Far East. I can always spend time with the increasing numbers of Korean films, like "The Isle," or even start trying to keep tabs on the latest entries from Thailand. Then there are the Hong Kong Category III shockers, "The Untold Story" and "Ebola Syndrome" to name just two. These latter films are usually so disgusting that I have to spend a few weeks washing my palate out with sub par American slasher knockoffs just to recover from the general nastiness. Recently I've been on an Asian kick again, so I guess it's time to churn out a review or two. Takashi Ishii's "Freeze Me" seems as good a place to start as any. It's a movie from the Land of the Rising Sun that is more at home with a Charles Bronson "Death Wish" picture than a slasher or gore flick.
Yep, what we've got here is a good old-fashioned revenge film, but with greater depth than you would suspect. The film begins by introducing us to a beautiful young woman named Chihiro (Harumi Inoue), a gal with a good job, a nice if quite small apartment, and a caring boyfriend named Nogami (Shunsuke Matsuoka). Our buxom heroine, unfortunately, harbors a horrific secret that is about to come back and bite her in the you know what. Out of the blue, she happens to catch a glimpse of a decidedly unwelcome presence hanging around her mailbox in the apartment building, a guy she knew roughly five years before back in her home town. Through flashbacks, rather cringe inducing flashbacks at that, we come to learn exactly why Chihiro fled from her childhood digs and headed for the bright lights of Tokyo. The chap leering at her from her mailbox, along with a couple of pals, assaulted our young gal in a particularly heinous manner on a cold, snowy day. Moreover, these thugs videotaped the festivities and promptly sold copies through the mail. Now five years later the nightmare returns. All three men will eventually show up at Chihiro's apartment to relive old memories.
The three thugs--Kojima (Shingo Tsurumi), Hirokawa (Kazuki Kitamura), and Baba (Naoto Takenaka)--simply don't worry about Chihiro calling the cops or seeking other assistance. They seem to expect that her fear of being exposed to her boyfriend, whom she didn't tell about the assault, as well as concern for her general reputation should the videotapes reemerge will keep her quiet. They are correct. Chihiro goes to great lengths to keep this secret, mainly by making sure her boyfriend will not come back to the apartment. And the secret is kept to the great detriment of her tormentors. You see, they made the mistake of showing up at her lodgings one by one instead of as a group. This allows Chihiro to kill each of them in grotesque ways (a knife in the shower or a hammer to the head while a tormentor plays a videogame work equally well, it turns out), but the murders present a big problem. What to do with the bodies? She can't very well carry them through the streets of Tokyo. The solution involves ordering a big freezer, placing a body into the contraption, and then using it as a piece of furniture. A problem with the electrical system ultimately leads to a rather malodorous defrosting difficulty and a problematic choice for our heroine. "Freeze Me" is indeed a nasty bit of work.
Ishii's picture is a beautiful piece despite the rather nauseating subject matter. The cinematography works wonders considering nearly all of the action takes place in an extremely tiny apartment, the performances are good for what is essentially an exploitation film, and actress Harumi Inoue is a real beauty who has little objection to prancing about in her birthday suit. More important, however, are the numerous layers to the film. Coldness plays a big role, both metaphorically and literally. The attack took place on an extremely cold winter day, and the memory of the assault has doubtless frozen itself into Chihiro's memory. In some way, that horrific day placed a coldness in our heroine's heart that can only find expression in returning the favor to Hirokawa, Kojima, and Baba. It's no mistake that she chose to put them in freezers; it's merely her way of turning the attack back on her tormentors in a poetic justice sort of way. Of course, I could be reading far more into the film than is actually there. Perhaps "Freeze Me" is nothing more than a mindless exploitation film reveling in images of graphic violence and excessive nakedness. Why not? There will always be an audience for such fare in films, especially when they come from Asia. Filmmakers over in those parts have no qualms about showing things that would never pass the MPAA.
Supplements on the DVD are sparse, limited to a few trailers for other Asian features and a director's biography. Oh well. The film is wacky enough to hold your attention without a bunch of extras muddying up the waters. If you're a fan of films like the "Death Wish" series, any of the Dirty Harry flicks, Meir Zarchi's "I Spit on Your Grave," or Abel Ferrara's "Ms. 45," you'll want to pick up a copy of Takashi Ishii's "Freeze Me." It's a bit deeper than the average American revenge film, at least in my opinion, and the movie will help fill out your collection of films in this important cinematic subgenre.
Forget the traditional horror themes . . .
Katherine Griebe | 11/09/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Actually, I would rate this movie at about 3.7, so I rounded up. I did take off a bit for replay value. If you allow yourself to forget about the amount of (or lack of) graphic violence and gore, this movie is unsettling and I was satisfied after watching it. As for the victim, you are made to wonder how she could let things go so far. Where were her support mechanisms? Is this type of incident possible or even probable in Japanese culture, considering its views on women?I found those questions and others, (how she could have friends, but still feel there was no one to turn to) made this movie entertaining in many ways. If you are looking for a gore-fest, this is not it. If you are looking for a movie that shows the strange quirks of another culture, brutality that is stark and unflinching and an ending that is both open and apocalyptic, you could do a lot worse. I thought the ending was appropriate for this type of movie.Another reviewer mentioned the main character moving to Europe at the end of the moive. Unless this is something that is shown in another version, or appears in the director's bio, the ending is more open to interpetation. MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD:It is possible, in the new DVD release that I watched, that she killed herself at the end - however, you do not see it happen. She is standing on her balcony, there is a flash of light and then she is gone."
The Ice Queen Cometh
D | Cincinnati, OH United States | 09/05/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Is this a serious film that makes the viewer think and rouses discussion as the end credits roll? Nah, but it is FUN. You basically know whats going to happen, but watching it all (you guys out there will especially like the shower scenes) is what this is all about. Hey, the best horror movies are the ones that you can watch without feeling like the writer/director is trying to give off some moral platitude about the state of society. Horror movies are made for those of us who get a thrill out of getting scared and seeing other people die (fictionally, that is)."
Katherine Griebe | MI, USA | 10/30/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"When I got this, I was really looking for a guro-esque movie, so I will review it from that standpoint. Yes, there is rape, but it's really not shown for very long or in any degree of detail. More hinted towards than shown. Yes, there is murder, as the female lead kills all the guys that raped her at some point in the past. She is never killed herself, or harmed, really. An amusing movie overall, but not recommended for others looking for guro-esque films."