Disclaimer: This article contains graphic depictions of the film Kuso.There are a variety of movies that attempt to use shock value as a way to tell a story. Sometimes shock value overshadows a story and audiences are expected to witness brutal images and take it as a one-note experience, whether horrifying or not. However, Kuso is a moving and complex film. Directed by musician and artist Steven Ellison (also known as Flying Lotus), we certainly see an eye for the aesthetic…a pretty crude aesthetic. The film is unforgettable and, according to a review from The Verge, it was called the grossest film ever made.
The plot of this film is dispersed through several storylines told in vignette form. Audiences have seen this format most recently in the Netflix series, love death and robots. After a terrible earthquake, crippled civilians are supposed to endure the new world. These characters are exposed to the raw and sometimes fantastical elements that plague a world broken by adversity. But it’s a pretty deep dive after diving into the disgusting images depicted in this movie. To contextualize a film like Kuso would be like trying to figure out a painting that was made by taking his hands, throwing them into buckets of paint, and smearing the mixture on a wall.
The pure emotion behind the Grotesque Kuso
There’s raw emotion in art like this, just like there is in every thumbnail of Kuso, and there is an emotional line here. Sadly, all the thematic elements are buried under brutally gruesome images that are by no means safe for the job. The story is divided into four segments that loosely connect. Each tells the story of an individual overcoming adversity or fear, but is overshadowed by visceral, disturbing footage that leaves viewers queasy.
There’s no logic around the things that happen in Kuso, which makes the experience all the more confusing. However, seeing a boy using feces and (for lack of a better term) smearing it all the way to a life form growing in a hole in the woods was quite unforgettable. From a cinematic perspective, however, there were great uses for practical effects to make the viewer’s stomach turn.
Head-spinning sequences also include a woman smashing her teeth in concrete, the close-up language exchange with booming, sticky sound effects, and a man communicating with a doctor through his “dark side.” of the moon” to cure him of his fear of breasts. Let’s also not forget the unassailable sequence where a woman reveals a talking boil protruding from her neck, and what ensues with her boyfriend involving the boil moments later surely isn’t appropriate for discussion. So that begs the question…why?
Excrement Art in Kuso
“Kuso” has a variety of meanings in Japanese translation, including a more common, profane version of “feces”; the title of the film, essentially, is Shit. However vile or juvenile a title is, it also reflects the audience’s identification with part of the character’s experience. Watching the anthology version of this film of this rick and morty would call “interdimensional cable,” characters in one scene are exposed to brutal acts of violence on male genitalia. A character makes a statement that represents the entire film:
“This is art. This is shit. Art is shit.
Just as these characters wobble through the channels containing gross imagery, the audience sees a variety of disgusting footage that is separated by flickering static that symbolizes a Chicken Robot-sort of transition from one scene to another. Art is certainly subjective, but even when someone smears paint aimlessly on a wall, there is emotion and maybe even intellect behind it. Although the end result may seem hideous and grotesque, the feeling of going in and out is what makes the art unique to the individual. Some people might see nothing in Pollock’s or Kandinsky’s abstract stains, while others might see the meaning of life.
Returning to the sequence with the living boil, which is voiced by David Firth, there ensues a profound conversation about life itself. In a strange way, the boil understands that its existence is meaningless, because it is attached to a host who despises it. There’s a moment of genuine understanding and empathy for a disgusting boil, but the film immediately steps into the realm of absurdity and in that same sequence shows the most gruesome act of intimacy in the entire run. It’s almost as if the film wanted the audience to focus on the absurdities and horror of life. In the end, this is what sticks the most to the viewer.
Kuso may not be horror, but it is horrible
In terms of visuals and practical effects, they are up to the task and quite realistic. Every gross and disturbing image is shown in detail and sometimes from quite close angles, every bodily fluid and grotesque protrusion looking lifelike. There are also cartoonish interludes reminiscent of psychedelic visions or unbridled imagination, like a mushroom trip gone completely wrong. A movie like Kuso is definitely meant to be disgusting.
Compare this experience to a movie that once caused mass disgust like the horror movie The Exorcist, which has breaks with the disturbing scenes and even moments of levity, Kuso does not have. There’s no time for the audience to breathe and absorb what they’ve seen, as there’s still more blood, guts, feces and other oddities just tossed out there. screen a few seconds later. Since there’s no break from the grotesque, there’s a believable argument for this movie to be the most disgusting of all time.
There have certainly been other disgusting movies, from what many consider the trash of A Serbian film to the unsettling horror of Category III films in Hong Kong. But Kuso finds disgust and sickening horror even in the mundane moments of existence; it doesn’t depend on shocking exploitative trash histrionics that uses sexual assault, cannibalism, or anything else terrible to gross out audiences. Nope, Kuso creates disgust by recognizing human biology and our physical society itself as disgusting organisms. As audience members who stepped out at the Sundance screenings would likely agree, this film is unforgettable and sometimes… impossible to watch.