Joe Bob's Drive-In: 'Freeze Me'

By JOE BOB BRIGGS, Drive-In Movie Critic of Grapevine, Texas  |  June 19, 2002 at 11:20 AM
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Only the Japanese can take a horror flick and make it look like an art film. "Freeze Me" is the latest in the avalanche of blood-and-sex-drenched thrillers to come out of Asia over the past three years.

You could even say there's an international war going on between Japan and South Korea to see which country can gross out the most international film festival juries.

Harumi Inoue stars in "Freeze Me" as a shy country girl who gets brutalized on videotape by three sadistic members of the local yakuza. (Thank God we only see snippets in flashback sequences. When the Japanese do these scenes, they really DO THESE SCENES. American horrormeisters are Puritans in comparison.)

She moves to Tokyo to escape her past, gets an apartment, a boyfriend, a job at a computer company and a group of fun-loving, hard-drinking friends.

And then they come back.

Three of the most foul messed-up degenerates in film

history -- vile even by the standards of the Japanese criminal underworld -- track her down and plan to celebrate the five-year anniversary of their original crime by partying in her apartment, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

Slowly the little round-cheeked beauty turns into Lady Macbeth with a hacksaw as the film turns into an Asian "I Spit On Your Grave" but with better production values.

First she learns to kill. Then she learns to hide the bodies. Then she starts ordering industrial meat lockers so that she can keep the bodies frozen until she figures out what to do with them. (She would scatter them in the mountains, but she would have to learn to drive and get a license first.) Then she starts TALKING to the bodies every night. At first it's just something she feels like she has to do when she goes into the freezer to get ice cubes (precariously balanced on an ex-rapist's stomach). Pretty soon she starts to regard them as beautiful and serene in their rigid frozen DEAD state. The girl is losing it, and her fiance is NEVER going to understand why she keeps blowing electrical fuses in the apartment.

What keeps this from going way off the believability scale is the performance of Harumi Inoue, who is actually a fairly well-known Japanese fashion model, although you would never know it from this movie, where she mostly appears makeup-less and blood-spattered. Of course, she DOES have to occasionally take long cleansing showers to get rid of evidence, but by that time, anybody who thinks the flick is erotic has long since been reduced to a whimpering "Mama, make it stop" mushpile.

What's interesting about her performance, though, is that she's so tiny compared to her attackers that she has to come up with wildly imaginative forms of gruesome death. I don't wanna give away any of the plot twists, but let me just say there's a lot of damaged-spinal-cord TWITCHING after the initial blow.

At this point there's only one theater in America cool enough to show "Freeze Me" -- Cinema Village in New York -- but I hope it will become reason enough to overcome America's prejudice against subtitles.

If there were drive-ins in Japan, those drive-in totals would be:

Five dead bodies. Sixteen breasts. Arm-crushing. Beer-guzzling. Slapping. Symbolic cucumber-slicing. Jagged glass water bottle to the head. Bloody bathtub. Steel-hammer braining. Bloody shower-curtain brain-bashing with neck-taping and twitching counter-attack. Head rolls. Hacksaw Fu.

Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Kitamura Kazuki, as the blackmailing creepola who starts plastering her apartment building with nekkid photos, for saying "You're a video star!"; Tsurumi Shingo, as the insecure alcoholic who says "Wow! Are you cutting up a body or something?"; Takenaka Naoto, the jailbird video-game addict who specializes in grotesque face-licking and rib-kicking as a form of foreplay, for saying "If it weren't for me, you'd be the talk of the town!";

Matsuoka Shunsuke, as the boyfriend who keeps trying to figure it out, for saying "This place is a mess"; Inoue Harumi, as the slapped, abused, tortured, weepy little girl who becomes an avenging woman, for saying, "They're so beautiful when you freeze them"; and Ishii Takashi, the writer/director, for doing things the drive-in way.

Four stars.

Joe Bob says check it out.

Web site for "Freeze Me": Media-Blasters.com.

(To reach Joe Bob, go to joebob-briggs.com or e-mail him at JoeBob@upi.com. Snail-mail: P.O. Box 2002, Dallas, Texas 75221.)

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