If you’d like to see the personification of the word “prolific,“ just take a look at director Takashi Miike. The Japanese filmmaker has helmed over 70 Japanese movies and TV shows since bursting onto the scene in 1991, many of which have proved highly controversial. And when you live in a country where tentacle porn is popular, that’s really saying something.
Takashi Miike movies are frequently filled with graphic violence and all manner of bizarre sexual situations. Of course, what else would you expect from a guy who lists Paul Verhoeven and David Lynch as two of his major influences (his favorite film is Starship Troopers)?
If you’d like to see what all the fuss is about, check out these 10 bizarre Takashi Miike movies. Once you’re done with these selections, you’ll have plenty more to choose from.
- Rainy Dog (1997) – Yuuji (Show Aikawa) is a former yakuza who now makes ends meet as a contract killer. But things get complicated when his ex-girlfriend (who’s also a prostitute) shows up and wants Yuuji to care for their mute son. So he does what any reasonable hitman would: He takes the kid along on his bloody jobs, then makes him sit outside while he frequents a brothel (the kid eats garbage to pass the time). Other characters include a revenge-obsessed lawyer, a bumbling hitman, and a treacherous transsexual. Part of the Black Triad Trilogy, which also includes Shinjuku Triad Society and Ley Lines.
- Audition (1999) – Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) is a lonely widower. His movie producer pal tries to help him out, holding auditions for a non-existent film in which the lead actress will play Aoyama’s wife. The entire scheme is intended to help Aoyama meet a new love interest, and it works all too well. He becomes fascinated with the beautiful and demure Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina), but it’s quickly evident to the audience that the young woman is batshit crazy. When she’s not sitting like a statue in her tiny apartment, she’s keeping an eye on a large sack that occasionally moves and gurgles. It only gets stranger, as Aoyama’s feelings for the former ballerina continue to deepen. This results in a horrific climax, where we learn more about that mysterious sack and find out just how deranged Asami truly is. Male viewers will probably be jumpy around their wife or girlfriend for at least a few weeks.
- Full Metal Yakuza (1997) – Things aren’t going well for yakuza member Kensuke Hagane (Tsuyoshi Ujiki). First of all, he’s impotent. Secondly, he’s just been killed by a rival gang. While that might normally be the end of the story, it’s just the beginning in this Takashi Miike film. A mad scientist gets his hands on Hagane’s corpse, and suddenly the gangster with a hard-on problem is back among the living. Now things are looking up. Not only does he have superhuman strength and the desire to gain bloody revenge, but his impotence has been cured thanks to his new cybernetic genitals. Yes, he has robot balls.
- Dead or Alive (1999) – Filled with the usual dose of sexual deviants and gun-wielding madmen, Dead or Alive is the first film in a popular crime trilogy from Takashi Miike. Each film in the series stars Show Aikawa and Riki Takeuchi (check that bitchin’ hair), but they play dramatically different roles in each. This time around, Show is the plucky Japanese cop, while Riki is the former yakuza member turned Chinese Triad boss. They meet, and violence reigns.
- Ichi the Killer (2001) – Of all the graphically violent Takashi Miike movies, Ichi the Killer manages to reach a whole new level. People are split in half, men are hung from hooks and burned with boiling oil, and a severed face slowly slides down a wall. The central characters are Ichi (Nao Omori), a disturbed killer who flies into a homicidal rage whenever sexually aroused, and Kakinada (Tadanobu Asano), a scarred criminal who wants to experience the ultimate pain. As these two men head towards a confrontation, you’ll witness an endless array of murders and misogynistic misadventures. Definitely not for the squeamish, but anyone who lacks a strong stomach shouldn’t be watching Takashi Miike movies in the first place.
- Visitor Q (2001) – Shot like a documentary, this disturbing black comedy caused all kinds of controversy upon its release. A stranger comes into the lives of a fractured Japanese family, and he slowly restores their unity through a series of over-the-top (and patently illegal) acts. Corpses are screwed, heroin is injected, incest is committed, breasts are milked, and numerous people get hit in the head with rocks. Whatever you do, don’t invite Takashi Miike over for Christmas dinner.
- One Missed Call (2003) – Takashi Miike tries his hand at the J-Horror genre, crafting a tale about Japanese teens who receive phone calls from the future foretelling their grisly deaths. A big hit, it would spawn two sequels and the predictably awful American remake (starring poor Ed Burns).
- The Bird People in China (1998) – The beautiful and mystical nature of China is explored in this change-of-pace film from Takashi Miike. Masahiro Motoki is Wada, a Japanese businessman who’s sent to an isolated Chinese village to appraise gemstones. Ujiie (Renji Ishibashi) is the yakuza member who travels along to make sure his organization gets their cut. What they find in the village will change the lives of both men, and Miike offers up a thought-provoking look at humanity and the delicate co-existence between nature and technology.
- Fudoh: The New Generation (1996) – For some crazy-ass reason, Time magazine actually listed this film as one of their 10 best for 1997. While it’s certainly entertaining, it’s hard to imagine a mainstream American publication recognizing such an offbeat film. When Riki Tanihara (Shosuke Tanihara) witnesses his yakuza father behead his brother, he sets about gaining his revenge. He forms a gang, takes over his high school, and surrounds himself with bodyguards such as a gun-wielding sex kitten and a hermaphrodite who can shoot poison darts from her vagina. Based on a manga, which couldn’t have possibly been any weirder than the big-screen adaptation.
- Gozu (2003) – This cult film from Miike is considered one of the stranger cinematic works in the history of Japan. I can’t emphasize what a distinction that is, as Japanese films are routinely crazy as hell. While young Minami (Hideki Sone) searches for older brother Ozaki (Show Aikawa), he gets his face licked by a cow-headed creature, a cute little dog is smashed into a pulp, and a crime boss sticks a soup ladle up his own rectum. And that’s just part of the weirdness you can expect in this film that places tongue firmly in cheek. Look for screenwriter Sakichi Sato in his role as “Charlie Brown” in Kill Bill: Vol. 1. Without a doubt, Quentin Tarantino is a big fan of Takashi Miike. He borrowed at least one scene from Rainy Dog for the first installment of Kill Bill, and he also co-starred in Miike’s Sukiyaki Western: Django.
I only included 10 bizarre Takashi Miike movies, but you might also want to check out the following: Imprint, A Human Murder Weapon, Osaka Tough Guys, Crows Zero, Zebraman, and MPD Psycho. You’ll find these titles just as deranged and wonderfully creative as those listed above, and you should more than meet your monthly quota for lactation and beheadings.