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Written by: Itaru Era

Directed by: Takashi Miike

Starring: Kazushi Watanabe, Shungicu Uchida, Kenichi Endo, Fujiko, Jun Mutō

Takashi Miike’s Visitor Q is brutal, disgusting, ugly, hard to watch and entirely based on a single conceit but let me be clear: it is masterfully made, darkly perceptive and it’s blacker-than-black sense of humour drive it’s constantly gruesome content. It’s not as though shock gore is unexpected from Miike, whose career includes children’s films, fantasy, and crime drama but whose best known work is in the gruesome genre of J-horror. In my time with Miike I’ve seen a  woman methodically cut off a man’s foot with piano wire, a man hung from hooks have hot oil poured on his skin and a woman give birth to a full-grown man with the head of a cow and yet Visitor Q‘s brand of graphic content still comes as somewhat of a shock.

Visitor Q is a searing indictment of reality television, or at least if it’s not about that then I’m out of ideas. All reality television has two defining features: cheap sex and human suffering. Reality television of any sort, but especially the Big Brother type, features human garbage running around in bathing suits cattily torturing other contestants for meagre gains. Miike turns the cameras on a Japanese nuclear family, one that just happens to gleefully engage in all of the worst forms of debauchery. The daily activities of this family include, but are not limited to, murder, abuse, incest, and drug use. The members of the family are selfish and are destroying each other, but the unexplained, unquestioned appearance of a strange visitor (Kazushi Watanabe) provides a bizarre salve for their suffering. The father (Kenichi Endo) is some sort of documentary filmmaker and he is almost always filming the violent behaviour of his family, including a scene in which he films himself sleeping with his prostitute daughter (Fujiko) and another where he passively films as his son (Jun Mutō) is tortured by bullies.

Of course all of this is pretty difficult to watch, but what elevates it is Miike’s tongue-in-cheek presence behind the camera. Visitor Q looks terrible; the visual quality is about that of a home-video and the sections of actual home-video are nauseating. Miike has completely avoided any amount of composition or style, giving the film a very amateurish feel which ends up being both disturbing and hilarious. Miike is a very talented filmmaker whose films are frequently polished and well made so I conclude that the aesthetic of Visitor Q is intentional, it’s part of the point. As the mother (Shungicu Uchida) prepares and injects heroin, the boom-mic dips comically into the shot; Miike’s playing this film for laughs. The sex is totally unsimulated and graceless, and if the (many!!) scenes featuring breast milk aren’t real then I’ve been fooled. The point is this: Miike could’ve made any film and he made this one. He’s dragging a family through hideous depth and allows them to re-emerge as a healed unit but why? Well, if reality TV is about taking pleasure in the debauchery and suffering of others, then Miike is offering a feast! This is the very worst of human activity, put on display and Miike is just daring you to look away.