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With: Harumi Inoue, Shingo Tsurumi, Kazuki Kitamura, Shunsuke Matsuoka, Naoto Takenaka
Written by: Takashi Ishii
Directed by: Takashi Ishii
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Japanese, with English subtitles
Running Time: 101
Date: 05/27/2000

Freeze Me (2000)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Cold, Cold heart

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Portraying rape on film is always a dicey deal. It's considered one of the most horrendous crimes a human being can commit, so in making a film about it, the filmmaker has to ask: How far is an audience willing to go? I have a theory that audiences like going to horror films because it gives them a chance to exercise an emotional muscle that doesn't get used every day. We can experience the tingle of fear without any actual danger. But seeing rape in a film crosses that line -- it does not bring any pleasure or fear. Only disgust. The new film Freeze Me, which opens today at the 4 Star Theater for a limited run, crosses the line too often and for too long to be entirely successful.

I spent a few moments trying to remember a few other films in which rape scenes somehow paid off. In Abel Ferrara's very similar Ms. 45 the two rape scenes are over and done with in the first few minutes of the film, and the heroine spends the rest of the film getting her revenge. Ferrara balances the emotions very carefully so that the film succeeds. In David Lynch's Blue Velvet, Dennis Hopper's rapist was cartoonishly absurd, in direct opposition to the small town's ridiculously cheerful facade. But in Clint Eastwood's Sudden Impact, the rah-rah "make my day" mood of the movie is doused by Sondra Locke's brutal and lengthy rape scene.

Written and directed by Takashi Ishii, Freeze Me follows a pattern similar to both Ms. 45 and Sudden Impact. Its heroine, Chihiro (Harumi Inoue), takes revenge on her three rapists by killing them and storing them in industrial-size freezers. The rapists in those other movies tend to disappear, to hide out. This time, however, the three rapists actually come back to visit their victim. It's five years later, and Chihiro has moved to Tokyo to start a new life for herself. She's even engaged to a nice guy, a co-worker at her spiffy new job. But it all ends when it's revealed that one of her tormentors has been released from jail. The three of them intend to celebrate by re-enacting their original rape. The men arrive one at a time and muscle their way into Chihiro's apartment. They each have their way with her and -- when their defenses are lowered -- she whacks them over the head and kills them.

This process takes up about three-quarters of the film, and each man is more brutal than the last. They swagger around, drinking, ordering her to bring them beer and cook them food, boasting and playing video games. But all you need to drum up an audience's hatred for a rapist is to state that he's a rapist. To show these characters in the act and give them no feelings of remorse -- and to cut repeatedly to the flashback of the original rape -- is overkill to the highest degree. However, I quite enjoyed the film in its final quarter, when the rapists were all dead and stuffed in the freezers. Without giving too much away, Chihiro finds that her apartment hasn't got enough juice to handle all three freezers running at once. And it's the middle of summer.

Ishii, who wrote Evil Dead Trap and wrote and directed Gonin, keeps the film stylish and alive by drenching it in the cool blues of darkened apartments -- about 95 percent of the film takes place in Chihiro's quarters. He also makes interesting transitions, beginning each new sequence with a close-up, slowly bringing us into the action and heightening the suspense. In addition, actress Inoue deserves credit for taking on the difficult role of the heroine and pulling it off so well. She has one delicious scene in which she brazenly and cheerfully orders the third freezer for her apartment while the third rapist is still alive and in the next room. That aside, the bulk of Freeze Me is just too frustrating and repulsive to make it worth seeing. Only hard-core Japanese cult film enthusiasts need apply.

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