Teruo Ishii’s HORRORS OF MALFORMED MEN is an exceedingly peculiar acceleration into depravity. What starts out as a strange mystery builds up and rounds out as a psychedelic gasm of lunacy. Based on the stories of Edogawa Rampo, HORRORS OF MALFORMED MEN begins with a man inexplicably imprisoned in an asylum. He escapes, finds himself framed for murder and discovered that he has a doppelganger – a fact he finds by reading his doppelganger’s obituary in the newspaper! From there, a circus performer points him in the right direction – if by “right direction” you mean the direction where there are answers to these questions (as well as to questions one didn’t know one had) but where there are also things that can’t be unseen and knowledge of lots of really bad shit one will probably want scrubbed and scraped out of the brain. Let’s just say once the main character digs up his doppelganger so he can steal his clothes and INFILTRATE THE FAMILY OF THE DEAD MAN, he embarks upon a journey of discovery – including self-discovery – that is also a downward spiral into madness. Whose madness, I won’t say. And the precise nature of the madness I’ll also leave largely unspoken. HORRORS OF MALFORMED MEN itself is a journey of dark discovery. When our mystery chaser and those of us watching the film get to the first major reveal, we encounter a world ripped from “Island of Lost Souls” and “Human Centipede” if both of those influences were askew to their original form, dunked in LSD and stitched together into a Felliniesque horror show. From there, shit gets really weird. The last quarter of the film is told heavily via exposition and flashback. Normally, this is against the rules. But, (A) HORRORS OF MALFORMED MEN doesn’t care about the rules and (B) the way Ishii handles this narrative structure makes it not a huge info dump from some sloppy writer’s screenplay but rather the final dizzying spin of the freak show pinwheel. The rule may be “show, don’t tell,” but this film shows AND tells and, dammit, it’s the most fascinating portion of the film. Surprise upon surprise spills forth and it is these surprises that make the movie make sense. Remember, this is a horror mystery (but no Agatha fucking Christie, I’ll tell you), and Ishii keeps the viewer as much in the dark as the lead character. We learn as he does. And what he learns … whew.
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