Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Serial Rapist (1978) Koji Wakamatsu

For a film of such legend, Serial Rapist actually surprised me a little. While other Wakamatsu films of my experience thus far use explicit socio-political contexts or experimental storytelling and technique to deliver character and underlying radical theme (Wakamatsu being famed for his political pursuits), here almost everything drops away, outside of the avant garde Serial Rapist is as close to real nihilist cinema as you're ever likely to see. A chubby oddball cycles around, stopping every now and again to rape and kill. A twinge of dark humour, the end. Closer to the emergent misogynist serial killer scene of US exploit cinema at the time, pinku fans are as likely to be bored and depressed as enthused by the film, lacking as it does the power dynamics, historical guilt and characterfully twisted plotting conventional to the genre.

We don't even get to know our heroes name, still less anything that motivates him other than some shapeless, powerful hatred of the fairer sex. Only hints are there, his few moments of dialogue, the odd, intermittent music. Scratchy strings (guitar?), sax saxophone, weird, wavering mouth organ, atonal spirits of lonely dysfunction that sometimes take over natural sound (and natural sound has its own like role to play). The camera too, peering long and calmly at surroundings when he leaves sight, or slowly pulling away from his form. Roads, river, construction site and boarded up house, the hustle and bustle of anonymous city full of little people and little lives. The killer is we may suppose just another little body, just an inevitable of modern living. So being perhaps inevitable his deeds have little fanfare, the scenes vicious, sexual but not erotic, no sensation just violence. No blood other than a few evocative daubings, no gore. Nothing to really titillate, just violence repeating into cold, cold creeping through the bones. It's a bold treatment to shun the exploitative and incendiary, and were the film better known I'm sure that any praise would be balanced out by boredom, but as a fan of the bleak as much if not more than the entertaining Serial Rapist rates as a triumph. Not many films interest me as much as bum me out, and still fewer get beyond bumming me out to creeping me out without making me giggle somewhere along the way (bathos is a close cousin of pathos). Serial Rapist gets it right, and though not my favorite from Wakamatsu it's still among the best Japanese exploiters I've had the pleasure of so far.  Highly recommended.


  1. Cool review, I watched this after you brought it up on imdb, good film but not even close to being as good as go, go second time virgin

  2. It isn't as powerful as Go Go Second Time Virgin sure, but the two are very different approaches. Serial Rapist is almost as good at being a pure nihilist shocker as Go Go Second Time Virgin is at being a bleak drama.