The mere mention of the word cannibalism would give most of us the shivers due to the disturbing and taboo nature of the subject matter. In the world of cinema, cannibalism could be considered an important sub-genre of the exploitation film era that was popular in the 1970s and 1980s. Back then, many of these types of movies were surprisingly made by a cadre of Italian filmmakers. The most (in)famous film to come out of that period is Ruggero Deodato's seminal 1979 flick, "Cannibal Holocaust". With major parts of that film shot in cinema verite documentary-like style, the very graphic and gory cannibalism scenes seemed almost too real and it went on to frighten and disgust audiences everywhere. For better or worse, this film style was later blatantly "borrowed" to great effect by the makers of "The Blair Witch Project". More recently, we have the Hannibal Lecter trilogy of films and also a large variety of other horror films (2006's "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning" comes to mind) that delve into the realm of cannibalism in increasingly more shocking ways.
Without a doubt, the past 5-6 years have seen a burst of Hollywood interest in Asian horror films, especially the Japanese (J-horror) and Korean ones. Previously unknown Asian film directors like Hideo Nakata, Takashi Shimizu and Park Chan-Wook have become darlings of the increasingly popular Asian horror film genre in America. One name that doesn't get much attention is Kei Oishi, a Japanese horror novelist who is the unheralded author of "Ju-On", a novel that was later adapted for the screen by Shimizu in its original Japanese reincarnation and later became an overnight sensation in the U.S. when it sparked two Hollywood remakes, "The Grudge" (2004) and its sequel "The Grudge 2" (2006). Oishi's latest work, "The Shonan Flesh-Eating Doctor" has also been adapted to film as "Saigo No Bansan" or "The Last Supper" by director Osamu Fukutani. Released in Japan back in 2005, "The Last Supper" has finally reached American shores, courtesy of MTI Video and its studio partner, Saiko Films.
Dr. Yuji Kotorida (Masaya Kato) is a handsome and well-known plastic surgeon with a bizarre preference in his choice of culinary delights. This film opens with a local TV news crew filming Kotorida, one of Japan's most eligible bachelors, in his home. As the camera rolls, we see the charming Kotorida preparing a meal for the show's hostess by searing a piece of meat on a skillet. As the hostess cuts into the meat to give it a taste test, I started to cringe slightly, knowing full well the nefarious origins of the meat. When she gives the meal an enthusiastic thumbs-up, I couldn't help but break into a smile at this darkly comic moment. This opening scene more or less sums up the tone for "The Last Supper"--cringe-worthy scenes that are punctuated by simple yet effective moments of dark humor.
However, Kotorida was never the supremely confident surgeon that we see now. In college, Kotorida was a shy and gangly introvert who was barely making it as a surgeon after graduation. All that changed when he accidentally acquired the taste for human fat tissues, a waste by-product that is readily available in abundant quantities at the clinic. As time goes by, Kotorida is able to find new ways to include the human fat into the dishes that he cooks. However, as time goes by, he becomes restless at the lack of adventure in his choice of culinary ingredients and is seeking to take the next step in his evolution to becoming a full fledged cannibal. But to do that, he bumps into a huge obstacle: where to find the human flesh he needs to satiate his ghoulish appetite? Well, the opportunity literally falls into his lap when he chanced upon a girl who had committed suicide by hanging herself in a remote area. Kotorida is able to spirit the body away to his apartment and he immediately gets to work by carving the body up and storing the flesh in his freezer. Every day, he would use up a portion of the meat for his meals. And as a result of his newfound diet, Kotorida seems to gain more and more confidence in his work and in his personal life. This is in line with many other cannibalism movies, where the cannibal gains inner strength from the consumption of human flesh. Kotorida soon becomes known as "The Hand of God" for his great surgical abilities, attracting a large clientele that includes celebrities. At this time, Kotorida begins blogging about his inner thoughts on cannibalism and how it has changed his life.
AAs one might expect, the day soon arrives when the flesh from the girl who committed suicide earlier runs out and Kotorida has to find other means of satiating his growing appetite for human flesh. Well, he does what good cannibals do at this day and age: he goes on the internet and scours it for information on like-minded individuals. A tip sends him to Hong Kong to uncover an underground "restaurant" that serves human flesh. This side trip turns out to be the most bizarre and gut-wrenching segment of the entire movie. In Hong Kong, Kotorida meets an attractive Chinese girl, Christy (Zuki Lee), who later reveals to the good doctor that she would become his "meal" if he is willing to pay the asking price. I won't reveal much more at this point, you just have to watch it to believe it. Upon his return to Japan, Kotorida has become bolder and eventually resorts to killing innocent women for his meals. The spate of missing women in the area brings the unwanted attention of the local authorities, led by a detective (Hiroki Matsukata) who seems to have more than a law enforcement interest in Kotorida's dark secret.
With a small operating budget, one can't expect first rate special effects from this film and what we get is an amalgam of 1970s/1980s Savini-type slasher film effects that are more than enough to satisfy most horror fans. I would be the first to admit that many Asian horror films often suffer from the lack of a consistent narrative, often delving into situations that seem so incoherent in the overall storyline. While "The Last Supper" proves itself to be more resilient to this waywardness, some inconsistencies still arise. However, the overall execution of the story is better than I expected and it even boasts of a satisfying ending that is rare in most horror flicks. That said, except for the scenes in Hong Kong, "The Last Supper" lacks the necessary imagination to pull the cannibal genre in any new direction. Sadly, most of the movie seems somehow mired in oddly familiar narratives, albeit a morbidly enjoyable one.
Shot on HD video (according to IMDB), "The Last Supper" is presented here on DVD in a disappointing non-anamorphic letterboxed widescreen that lacks sharp details and adds a good amount of grain. As one would come to expect, films that are shot on video lacks the richness of film and "The Last Supper" suffers from this greatly. Colors are muted and muddied at best, with the interior shots suffering the most. Subtitle options include English and Spanish.
For audio, there are two options. You can either watch this movie with its original Japanese soundtrack (which I recommend) and turn on the subtitles or choose the English dubbed version. Both options are presented in 2-channel Dolby Surround.
Unfortunately, no special features are included on this DVD except for the movie's trailer.
"The Last Supper" DVD is packaged in the usual keepcase without an insert.
The cannibal genre has lost most of its luster since its heyday back in the 1970s. It appears now and again in some form but never in the shocking full-blown Italian exploitation films that many of us have come to know and love. "The Last Supper" is a passable entry into this genre and it does enough to keep the expected gory effects intact and the gallons of blood flowing. However, story-wise, more definitely needs to be done to keep this genre fresh and finger-licking good!