Hisayasu Sato’s 1996 film has been long revered and condemned as one of those disturbing, disgusting and not worthy of commentary films for an exceptionally long time. However, upon closer inspection of Splatter: Naked Blood it is clear to see that Sato explores male vulnerability and the perception that young men must follow in their father’s footsteps in order to make headway in the world and be seen as ‘the man’ of the family. This tradition is not only a concept in Japanese culture, but across the world there is a predetermined conception that young men in families should be the ones that ‘replace’ their father if the man is not present or is eradicated due to uncontrollable circumstances. But within this causes a problematic trope, one that leads these young men to self-sabotage and a disturbing incestous protection for their mothers or female siblings. Which in Splatter: Naked Blood becomes the unbreaking and devastation of Eiji, destroyed by his own shortcomings.
Pain and pleasure are inherently linked, and young Eiji begins to explore this when uses his scientific knowledge to create a drug entitled ‘My Son’ which switches the person’s pain and pleasure receptors around, allowing them to experience euphoric feelings instead of severe pain. His mother, Yuki, also happens to be within the scientific field and is amidst an experimental trial to test a new contraceptive on three different women. These three women happen to become the perfect subjects for Eiji to test his new drug on as well, and therefore he utilises his mother’s experiment to incorporate his drug into the dosage given to the three women. Each woman has her own distinct persona, something they discuss at length during lunch, and which ultimately becomes the reasoning behind their pain and pleasure experiences, and how they inflict particular acts on themselves. The first woman is obsessed with food; she believes that her life is better with food in it, and only cares to consume the very best food in the world. The second woman is obsessed with her looks, and wants to forever be young, slim and beautiful to the outside world. The third woman, Rika, seems different to the other two, with no one particular aspect becoming her sole focus point, which therefore becomes the reason why Eiji finds her alluring and more attractive than the other two women. From here, we begin to see the effects of Eiji’s drug take hold on the first two women in a bloody, brutal and disturbing manner, with it initially seeming like Rika is unaffected, but that perspective soon changes.
Splatter: Naked Blood is most notoriously known for a scene that has been described as one of the most appalling shown in Japanese horror, but this seems like a vastly misinformed opinion; not only has director Sato produced some of the most horrific horror and pinkgu films, but Japanese CAT III and extreme films have some of the most abhorrent acts of violence ever witnessed on screen. Director Sato has an extensive list of films to his name, including titles such as Wife in Mourning: Pubic-Shaved Rope Slave, Lesbian Rape: Sweet Honey Juice, Horse and Woman and Dog (you can only imagine what happens in that one…) and one particular film which really turned my stomach whilst watching, Lolita Vibrator Torture. That particular film is tough to sit through and features some really disturbing imagery, especially as it focuses on the torture of underage girls by vibrator… And if you search for that particular film on the internet, you get a warning not to view child pornography. Therefore mentioning that Splatter: Naked Blood has one of the most appalling scenes ever, seems a little exaggerated, but that’s not to say the scene in question isn’t gruesome. This film was a remake of Sato’s earlier 1987 film which was titled Genuine Rape, however this version of the film doesn’t include any rape and is not pornographic in any means. Regardless, it is a film that features some horrific imagery, with the particular scene in question being the first girl who is obsessed with food, devouring her own labia.
But even with this extreme horror film going on to show a very graphic depiction of an eye being removed and eaten, severely distressing self-harm and more, the real meaning behind this film seems to be lost within iits notorious reputation for violence and gore. Admittedly there is no escaping from the gruesome and bloody aspects of this film, but the underlying message talks about how young men are expected to become their fathers when they become the sole male of the family. In Splatter: Naked Blood the audience sees how Eiji is now the only male in his family, and lives with his mother after their father disappeared, which is presented to us as bizarre and mysterious vanishing when the man simply leaves his pregnant wife on a rock and wanders off into the sea. It might not be particularly coherent, but it certainly says something. Before his disappearance, the father tells Yuki how the baby will be a son, and will bear the same name as him, and will also grow up to be an accomplished scientist just as he is. Although Yuki does not argue with her husband, it is clear to see that the preconceived ideas he has regarding the sex, name and future of the baby come across as a little far fetched and hard to be definite. However, we learn that Eiji has grown to become all of those things, but in doing so, seems to have perhaps tried to become his father in too many ways. In a brief moment within the film, we see Eiji awkwardly make a pass at his mother; it is not a greeting kiss or anything that would be appropriate for their relationship, it is very clearly the young man making a sexual advance towards his own mother. Even though this is never explored further nor revisited in the film, it does make an impact. This shows how Eiji feels so fathomed to be the man of the family, and mould into the form of his father, that he even begins to see his mother in a romantic way, rather than in a familiarial way.
This confusion over his identity becomes more clear when he decides to make the drug ‘My Son’, which in the name alone indicates that Eiji has childhood trauma from the absence of his father. Perhaps he feels as though he were the reason his father abandoned his mother, and therefore is plagued by feelings of guilt regarding his identity, therefore causing him sorrow towards his mother who is alone with only him as a companion. Although Sato doesn’t further explore Eiji’s emotions in the film, it seems that when he creates the drug he is doing so to please his father and create something that will turn his pain and suffering into an experience of pleasure instead. This provides us with the potential context that Eiji is suffering from the absence of his father, and therefore is seeking a way to transform the pain he feels into a form of pleasure instead, yet what he creates comes with dire consequences, ones that ruin the lives of innocent women within the film. The destruction of these women at the hands of Eiji, and his clear lack of conscious regarding their downfall indicates a sense of misogyny and misinformed opinions on the treatment of women; without a father figure there to teach him, and having seen how his father abandoned his mother after impregnating her, perhaps Eiji knows no better and therefore uses these women as guinea pigs for his experiment that he feels will only benefit himself. There are so many ideas here that unscrambling them within the film becomes difficult to do as essentially the film gets carried away from this underlying ‘daddy issues’ trope, and instead focuses on the brutal gore and violence inflicting by the women on themselves, and eventually on others as we begin to see how Rika is affected by the drug.
As the film continues, it transpires that Rika has been affected differently to the two other women – instead of harming herself and finding pleasure from inflicting severe pain, she reaches ecstatic heights through causing pain to others and it is discovered that although women one and two both did harm themselves, it was Rika who finished their lives. Even after discovering that Rika is psychotic, the two become entangled with one another, making love in one of the most bizarre sex scenes to brace the screen. During the final scenes of the film, we learn that during this copulation that Eiji impregnated Rika, which although not directly shown, could have been the cause of his death as immediately after they both finish, he succumbs to his final breath. We see that the child Rika bore was in fact another son, whom she names Eiji, just like his father and his grandfather before. Just after Eiji’s death, we also bear witness to some horrifically disturbing yet powerful scenes involving Yuki and the re-appearance of her dead husband, who comes to visit her and become one with her again. In one of the most perturbing scenes depicted on camera, we watch as the fully grown man climbs inside his wife’s womb, sealing the wound closed behind him and coagulating the couple as one together moments before Yuki dissipates into death.
Splatter: Naked Blood bizarrely portrays aspects of how young men are expected to follow in their father’s steps and become the man of the house if the father figure is no longer present. The way in which the father disappears whilst the mother is pregnant, symbolises reincarnation and a spiritual connection between the father and son that spans far beyond the reality of the everyday. This point is further reiterated when we see Eiji making a pass at his mother, perhaps a confusion caused by the lingering wants of his dead father that resides within him. It also begins to insinuate how young men will often feel protective of their mothers and want to be everything for them, which therefore causes conflicting emotions when they begin to have feelings for another woman other than their mother. When we see the father climbing into the womb of Yuki, this represents that regardless of how much a mother loves her son, he cannot act as a replacement for the husband she has lost – a child never fully completes her like she felt completed with her husband and the love of her life deeply saturated within her. Perhaps Yuki has forever been tormented by the thought of Eiji; a constant reminder to the loss of her husband, and one of the reasons why she was experimenting with a new type of contraception, ensuring that young women like herself wouldn’t be left with a child and without a father figure. As we watch Rika stare into the distance, ready to spread My Son to the entire world with her son Eiji by her side as an accomplice and her only companion. Once again the process of reincarnation has begun, and even though young Eiji does not know it yet, he will also grow older absent of a father and have to find ways of becoming the man he believes his mother will need him to be. Even though Splatter: Naked Blood is an extremely disturbing, strange and at times confusing film with far too many ideas and scenes of shocking violence, it seems that Sato had an underlying meaning regarding the perceived expectation for boys to follow in their father’s steps. However, without the theme being explored emotionally further throughout the film and by smothering it hints of misogyny and labia consumption, it easily becomes lost amongst the bloody body parts and leaves the film feeling as though it was purely made to disgust and outrage the viewer, rather than incite any meaningful thoughts. With a closer inspection viewers might find there is more than gauges the eye in this gory Japanese horror film.
Rating: 4 out of 5