Zoom In: Sex Apartments
Director - Naosuke Kurosawa
Cast - Erina Miyai, Youko Azusa
Country of Origin - Japan
Discs - 1
Distributor - Synapse
Reviewer - Bobby Morgan
Date - 11/28/12
The Film: 2/5
On the surface Saeko is a happily married woman in love with her cyclist husband. But moments after he takes off for a race she bicycles across town for a romantic rendezvous with her lover Takaya, a piano tuner she hasn’t seen in five years. En route to her midday booty call Saeko is attacked and brutally raped in an open field by a masked assailant dressed completely in black, right down to his gloves. Saeko collects herself and proceeds to Takaya’s place and never mentions the rape. The rapist begins targeting women who live in the area and kills them by setting their genitalia on fire. As the neighborhood becomes gripped with fear Saeko starts noticing Takaya’s increasingly strange behavior, not to mention he uses tools for his job exactly the same as the ones used by the killer. Could the man Saejo loves possibly be the psychopathic sex fiend, or is someone else, someone no one would ever suspect?
Zoom In: Sex Apartments is a shapeless mess. Attempting to apply logic to anything that happens in this movie is guaranteed to make you as confused and disoriented as the very people who made it. Sex Apartments is a rigid middle finger to the very idea of competently-told linear storytelling, preferring instead to toss random ideas against a wall like a poorly-aimed porno money shot and hope desperately that enough of them hold up long enough to pass for a plot. Director Naosuke Kurosawa (no relation to Akira) aims to make a luridly entertaining and sexually-charged murder mystery in the vein of the giallos made by Italian horror masters Dario Argento and Mario Bava, but never seems committed to the mystery portion of his movie. You think you know the killer’s identity early on but Kurosawa cares little for creating an atmosphere of tension and suspense to keep audiences riveted. When it comes to the many sex scenes of Zoom In the director shows more enthusiasm and as a result these are the only parts of the movie that matter much. Unlike most Japanese exploitation flicks some of the sex here is actually sexy, with the exception of the rapes and the opening scene where Saeko’s pudgy hubby writhes on top on her while she makes the kind of grimaces usually reserved for trips to the gynecologist. Saeko is naked for a good portion of the story when she is not in hysterics over the killings, so it helps that she is very easy on the eyes. A lesbian love scene between her and a friend we just met comes out of nowhere in the third act and then unfortunately becomes a menage a trois. Men ruin everything, damn it.
The rest of the movie shifts awkwardly in tone from psycho-thriller to twisted psychological love story and none of it makes any sense at all. At times Zoom In gets so outright goofy that it is defying you to laugh at it, and it is very difficult not to. In one scene a female character who up until that point has served no purpose in the story goes into a garbage dump to urinate and then witness the killer push a screaming nude woman into an incinerator while she chows down on vegetables she yanked from a trash bag. Throughout the movie one of the victim’s fathers walks around the neighborhood beating a drum and chanting, something that never pays off. Oh, and I should not neglect to mention the scene where the killer plays with one of his nubile victims tongue, nipple, and legs before blowtorching her hoo-hah, an oddball touch that could have offered up some fascinating insight into our slasher’s mental state had it been utilized more effectively. It all builds up to an ending that is completely and utterly out of place and just may have you scratching your head and staring off into space for a while after the end credits finish rolling. Then again, if the entire movie is very much the same way then the finale would be the only proper way Zoom In could possibly end.
Impulse has presented us with a nice-looking, clean but occasionally murky 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. It is just a shame that the movie’s visuals are not more vibrant and detailed. Otherwise the restoration work would have been justified. Complimenting the video well is a Japanese 2.0 mono audio track that comes off sounding at times slightly muffled, but at least it lacks noticeable distortion. English subtitles are included.
The only bonus features are a theatrical trailer and a insert booklet of detailed liner notes written by Jasper Sharp, the author of The Historical Dictionary of Japanese Cinema.
Zoom In: Sex Apartments could have been a twisted guilty pleasure flick but when it came to delivering on suspense and bloodshed it lacked the courage of its convictions. Some decently-filmed sex scenes are far from enough to make up for the film’s dearth of ambition and originality. Incoherent and poorly paced, its 68-minute running time will seem like an eternity unless you enjoy watching naked women having their vaginal region barbecued, you sick bastard.