Red Room: The Forbidden King Game (Akai Misshitsu (Heya): Kindan No Osama Geemu)
Director/Screenplay – Daisuke Yamanouchi, Producer – Tadanobu Hirao, Photography – Yasutaka Funayama. Production Company – Japan Video Distribution/Space Elephant
Hiroshi Kitasenju (Isawa Togashi), Shiina Nagamori (Kanako Yoshino), Mayumi Ookawa (Hiromi), Yuuki Tsukamoto (Masako Togashi)
A group of people enter the King Game to compete for prize money of ten million yen. Each of the four contestants – husband and wife Isawa and Masako who are drowning in debt, schoolgirl Hiromi and office worker Kanako – are locked together in a room monitored by hidden cameras. They must take turns drawing one of four cards. The one who draws the King Card can order two of the others to do anything. Anyone who refuses the challenge forfeits the prize money. The rounds become increasing more extreme in nature – from humiliations and beatings to forcing people to drink urine and sexual degradations.
Red Room: The Forbidden King Game was the second film from Japanese director Daisuke Yamanouchi. It was with Red Room that Yamanouchi started to become known as a specialist in extreme cinema. With titles such as Celluloid Nightmares (1999), Dead-a Go Go (1999), Girl Hell 1999 (1999), Blood Sisters (2000) and Kyoko vs Yuki (2000), Yamanouchi quickly gained a reputation for films featuring torture, degradation, rape, necrophilia and generally all-round twisted filmmaking. His films have become sought-after classics, even in unsubtitled bootleg versions. Later films of his such as Android Girl Nami (2003), Android Girl Rima (2003) and Zombie Bride (2013) travel in far more traditional and watered down directions.
The surprise about Red Room is that it prefigures Saw (2004) and its body of imitators to an uncanny degree with its central theme of a group of people locked up in a room and forced to undergo degradations and tortures. What we have could be construed as a version of Saw by way of tv’s Big Brother (2001– ). The interesting thing about this is that Red Room also predates the whole reality tv phenomenon. Although you suspect it would have been a much more different film had it come along a mere couple of years later. There it probably would have been pumped into an X-rated version of Fear Factor (2001– ) and with much more in the way of hosts issuing challenges, talking heads interviews with the players and contestants being voted out. By contrast, we get a flat and visually dull show that seems to take place in a single room filmed by static cameras placed on the wall.
It doesn’t take long however for Red Room to start getting twisted and depraved. This comes about the time that Shiina Nagamori is ordered to drink Mayumi Ookawa’s urine or where Yuuki Tsukamoto is ordered to tape a blow-dryer to her husband (Hiroshi Kitasenju)’s mouth with his nose held shut by a clothes peg and turn it on for two minutes (something that you suspect would have resulted in major health injuries if not suffocation in real life). Not long after, we get a nasty scene where Hiroshi Kitasenju is, according to the subtitles, ordered to ‘lynch’ wife Yuuki Tsukamoto – in actuality, beat her with his fists – which turns into a bitter marital dispute in which she is berating him for being a loser followed by he turning and tearing her clothes off and raping her. Things become even more extreme – Hiroshi Kitasenju molests office girl Shiina Nagamori, culminating in his shoving a lightbulb up her vagina, which then snaps and tears the insides of her womb. (Admittedly the nastiness of this scene is somewhat undone when the image of his forcing the lightbulb into her is accompanied by very un-vagina-like squeaky rubber sounds; or where, during the earlier lesbian makeout scene, the closeups on two mouths tonguing each other are run over with ludicrously over-the-top slurping noises). The nasty culminating scene of the show is where the husband is ordered to have sex with the office girl while she still has the shattered glass inside her, where she conducts a blowjob to help him get hard – only to end up biting his dick off in her mouth.
Daisuke Yamanouchi made a sequel Red Room 2 (2000).