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  Freeze Me  
  Year: 2000 "What's for dinner?"
Harumi Inoue checks her freezer
 
  Director: Takashi Ishii  
  Producer: Takashi Ishii, Nobuaki Nagae, Taketo Niitsu  
  Cast: Harumi Inoue, Naoto Takenaka, Kazuki Kitamura, Shingo Tsurumi, Shunsuke Matsuoka
 
The Skinny: A rape victim exacts bitter revenge on her attackers in this stylish film from Gonin director Takeshi Ishii.
Review by Calvin McMillin:      Whoever said, "Revenge is a dish, best served cold" couldn't have anticipated the plot of Freeze Me, a film in which the female lead murders her aggressors and gleefully stocks them away in freezers. Still, the aphorism remains an apt description for this Takeshi Ichii-directed film.
     Harumi Inoue is Chihiro, a spunky, attractive young girl with a good job, a spiffy apartment, and a loving boyfriend. But her outward cheeriness masks an inner shame. It seems that five years ago, while still in school, Chihiro was raped by three men, who videotaped their repulsive deed for profit. Unfortunately, Chihiro was so traumatized by the incident that she did not report the crime to anyone, so the rapists got away scot-free. Deciding to pick up the pieces of her life, Chihiro instead moved to Tokyo, re-establishing herself as a career woman in the bustling Japanese metropolis. But just when our heroine thought she had escaped the evils of her past, the rapists return one-by-one to disrupt her comfortable new life, each seeking a terrifying "reunion" with their favorite victim. With seemingly no options left to pursue, Chihiro murders the rapists one after the other, eventually storing their corpses in some freezers for safekeeping.
     In a sense, Freeze Me defies categorization, as the restrictive labels of "horror movie" and "erotic thriller" do not really do the film justice. The first section of the film does succeed in horrifying the audience, but not in the typical slasher movie sort of way. The manner in which the first rapist infiltrates Chihiro's life makes for a harrowing opening sequence, but once Chihiro gets her first kill, the vicarious fear factor drops considerably. Once Chihiro begins killing, there is a sense that she is in control of the situation, even though her life is technically under constant threat. Furthermore, despite the extreme nature of her behavior, her acts seem justified. Consequently, the scenes of murder lack the visceral punch of a film like Audition, in which the horror comes from the fact that violence seemingly erupts from nowhere. Granted, the revenge angle satisfactorily drives the plot, but there should have been a little more tension over the prospect of Chihiro being found out. Without these assorted feelings of dread, the movie can't really qualify as a horror movie.
     And on the question of whether Freeze Me qualifies as an erotic thriller, I would have to vote a resolute "no." As cute and nubile as Harumi Inoue is, this movie is by no means a softcore T & A romp. Sure, Chihiro runs around nude most of the movie, and the flick does include one consensual love scene towards the end, but the majority of the film involves rape or the threat of rape. Maybe it's just me, but the term "erotic" is not something I associate with rape. And if you get off on that, here's hoping you get locked up in a freezer, too.
     So what's it all about, Sanjuro? Though not technically science fiction, Freeze Me does operate under the same principle that many sci-fi creators adhere, namely social commentary wrapped in a bizarre, high-concept package. And believe me, you don't get much more high concept than storing dead rapists in freezers. But seriously, underneath the shock value exterior of Freeze Me lies a bleak commentary on the disturbing obsession with violence in our culture, particularly among males. For an example, one need only look at the grotesquely comic image presented by the head rapist in the film who, while playing video games, repeatedly shouts, "Kill! Kill!" at the screen while simultaneously making sexual motions with his hips. If all men are just like him—out just to kill and screw—what hope is there for this world? Sure, it's an over-generalization tantamount to the old "men are pigs" crack, but it's an interesting point all the same.
     And, while the film may reduce men to base stereotypes, it's a credit to the filmmakers that even Chihiro is not immune from criticism. Though her decision in no way justifies the rapists' future crimes against her, Chihiro's choice to keep her rape a secret allowed the criminals the chance to return, and it is this attachment to hiding things away, to "freezing" her past that is ultimately her undoing. It's little things like that (along with the film's ambiguous ending) which allow Freeze Me to transcend the level of crass exploitation film to become something much more weighty. Freeze Me has plenty of food for thought; just don't eat when you watch it. (Calvin McMillin, 2003)
 
Availability:

DVD (USA)
Region 1 NTSC
Tokyo Shock
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese and English Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 2.0
Removable English Subtitles
Trailers, Takashi Ishii Biography

 
   
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