Meat Grinder on DVD

Monday, 06 September 2010 08:33

Billed as the next step up from the torture porn highs (or lows, depending on your stance) of the “Saw” and “Hostel” franchises, “Meat Grinder” is a Thai horror movie that actually manages to cook up something refreshingly new in this decidedly tired genre. Mai Charoenpura stars as Buss, a sexy noodle restaurant proprietor with some rather unusual fare on the menu.

In a similar manner to Sweeney Todd, Buss murders those she has a grievance with and then makes sure that every last ounce of flesh and bone is used to make her noodle dishes the tastiest in town. As you can guess from the torture reference, though, Buss does not simply kill people. She nails her wounded victims down or hangs them up on hooks to ensure the “meat” stays fresh for as long as possible! So far, so what, you might be asking? Well, despite its horrendously unsubtle title (the superior Thai title is “Taste Before Carving”), this movie is actually quite arty in its direction, storytelling and ambience.

Meat Grinder on DVDAs events unfold, we are treated to regular flashbacks that help to explain Buss’s motivations for carrying out these despicable acts. Suffice to say that she has a very dark past. What makes the film interesting is that we cannot always tell which of these sequences are true depictions of events, and which are emanations from Buss’s fevered mind. She remains icy cool when she carves up her prey, but underneath there is a lot of mental torment bubbling away.

This is a surprisingly intelligent movie with several messages to impart. I cannot go into too much detail for fear of giving away major plot points, but part of it is a political commentary on the use of excessive force to suppress demonstrations. One key scene early on in the film involves a crowd of panicking protestors who are running away from armed forces.

The soldiers obviously have no interest in half measures when it comes to putting the demonstrators down. Buss gets sucked into this terrifying fracas as she mans her portable vending stall, prior to setting up the noodle bar. The film-makers apparently want to speak out about the suppression of free speech as well as other more personal abuses of human rights.

Directed by Tiwa Moeithaisong, “Meat Grinder” is sumptuously shot, as indeed many Thai films seem to be these days. The primary colours are intense and warm, and complemented by pools of shade that fortunately never obscure the action thanks to good lighting and cinematography. Shot are imaginatively framed and parts of the film almost feels like a very expensive cookery program, with the camera lingering lovingly over bowls of fresh vegetables, herbs and spices...and pots and pans of boiling heads, limbs and organs, of course! Some of these scenes are accompanied by sensuous voiceovers describing cooking techniques and philosophies, which re-enforces the sensation.

There is plenty of gore on offer to satisfy fans of more traditional horror films, and it is expertly and gruesomely depicted. The blood looks very real and is a deep, vivid red. It drips incessantly from severed stumps, explodes in jets from sliced necks, and coats Buss’s cellar floor like a slug trail as one of her victims desperately tries to slide his way out of her house before he has bled to death. The brutal violence looks and sounds realistic and will make even the most jaundiced fan wince from time to time. There is a strange casualness and inevitability to much of the action that somehow means it gets under your skin more than usual.

Things heat up and become more tense towards the end of the movie as Buss’s boyfriend, Attapon (Rattanaballang Tohssawat), investigates a friend’s mysterious disappearance. No prizes for guessing where he has ended up! The movie’s finale is surprising and satisfying, and hopefully there will be no cheap sequels to spoil this film’s reputation.

The DVD includes a trailer (which ideally should be watched after the movie) and a 'making-of'. The latter feature was unavailable at the time of review.

“Meat Grinder” (2009) is out now on DVD, courtesy of 4Digital Media. The running time of the main feature is 102 minutes approx, certificate ‘18’ and the movie retails for £15.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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