Crazy Lips/Hakkyousuru Kuchibiru (1999) -**½
The tag-line on the video box reads, “From the team that brought you Ringu, Ju-On: The Grudge, and Audition…” As usual, this is not, strictly speaking, accurate. Nobody of any consequence worked on all three of those movies, so one can hardly call Hiroshi Takahashi, Taka Ichise, and Toyoyuki Yokohama a “team” in the sense that tag-line implies; better to say, “From the writer of Ringu, the producer of Ju-On: The Grudge, and the executive producer of Audition…” In fact, considering that Crazy Lips bears no resemblance at all to any of those films, it would be better still to ditch the name-dropping altogether. My personal suggestion: “Crazy Lips… The lips are the only part that isn’t crazy.” True enough, it begins like a fairly standard late-90’s Japanese horror flick, but screenwriter Takahashi was not kidding around when he said that his aim was to make a movie which would incorporate absolutely everything he could think of. The result is an insane, chaotic mess of a film, in which ghosts, killers, cultists, kung fu, and conspiracies all play a part, and in which the lightheartedly manic tone that such a combination of elements would imply sits uneasily beside a second act that consists almost solely of one perverted rape scene after another.
It sure does suck to be the Kuramashi family. Years ago, they had to go into hiding because Dad was executed as a serial killer, and now son Michio (Tales of the Unusual’s Kazuma Suzuki) has been accused of slaying four teenage girls himself. Michio has dropped out of sight, leaving his mother (Yumi Yoshiyuki, I think) and sisters, Satomi (Hitomi Miwa, from Ju-On: The Curse and Misa the Dark Angel) and Kaori (Hijiri Nautsukawa), alone to face unending harassment from police, press, and neighbors. With reporters and camera crews camped out on the front lawn 24-7, a bullying detective (Ikko Suzuki, of Visitor Q) dropping in every day to hassle the family (and wearing his shoes in the house, the fucking barbarian!), and random strangers constantly making abusive phone calls and hurling stones and garbage through the windows, it’s only to be expected that Satomi, the youngest of the Kuramashis, eventually becomes desperate, and starts looking for unusual routes out of her fix. Satomi engages the services of a psychic named Mamiya (Yoshiko Yura, from Ring 2 and Spanking Love) to discover the real killer’s identity. Mamiya and her menacing sidekick, Touma (probably Shiro Shimomoto), come over to the Kuramashi house to perform a séance, enlisting the spirits of the dead girls to find their own killer. Unfortunately, because the murderer decapitated them and hid their heads, the ghosts are unable to talk, so the best they can do is to fan out across town to uncover their missing noggins; only then will they be able to reveal their slayer’s identity. Even so, Mamiya’s powers are sufficient to determine that the killer is female, clearing Michio of suspicion (at least among those people who are willing to take the word of a self-evidently crazy psychic). The trouble is, Mamiya isn’t running a charity here, and Satomi’s family sure as hell doesn’t have any ¥5,000,000 (something like $45,000) lying around. The psychic is willing to accept compensation in kind, however, and to consider it a down payment when Touma rapes Mrs. Kuramashi.
From this point on, Crazy Lips turns into a what may as well be a completely different movie. In fact, from this point on, Crazy Lips will turn into what may as well be a completely different movie about every ten to fifteen minutes, with no meaningful connection between the segments except for the three central characters— oh, and the rapes. They’re a big continuing theme as well. Among the bewildering transformations: While Touma is busy raping her mother and sister, Satomi sneaks out to the park for a Bollywood-inspired musical number. No, really. She also meets up with the obligatory “X-Files”-rip-off subplot when she crosses paths with FBI agent Lucy (Fallen Angel School’s Tomomi Kuribayashi) and her Japanese partner/interpreter, Narimoto (Hiroshi Abe, of Godzilla 2000 and Orochi, the Eight-Headed Dragon). For some reason, these two are working for some kind of sinister international organization under the local command of a man known only as “the Colonel” (Ren Osugi, of Don’t Look Up and Beautiful Prey), who will periodically communicate with Satomi via her TV set, disguising himself as the host of a surreal variety show whenever anyone else is in the room with her. (Because Lucy is theoretically an American, she delivers all of her lines in English— a language which Tomomi Kuribayashi quite obviously doesn’t speak— and all of her scenes rapidly turn into excuses for crudely bizarre anti-American “comedy.“) Then there’s some strange business about Mamiya and Touma representing an evil cult which hopes to bring some kind of Lovecraftian monster-god to Earth by means of a ceremony which involves— gee, go figure— raping Kaori Kuramashi, murdering Inspector Shoes-in-the-House, and forcing Satomi to have sex with his corpse. The ghost girls finally find their heads, meanwhile, leading to the revelation that the Kuramashi women themselves are the killers, and setting off a surpassingly strange scene in which Michio bands together with the psychic and her bully-boy to bring his family to vigilante justice at the hands of the dead girls’ parents. In the end, we have a running kung fu battle in the woods between the Kuramashis and the vengeance-crazed parents; a love scene between Satomi and her brother; the arrival on Earth of the cultists’ pet monster-god (which we lamentably never see— a rubber-suit monster really is just about the one thing this movie doesn’t have); the nuclear incineration of the entire cast; and the Colonel taking off his pants, sticking a gigantic dildo in his mouth, and blowing his own head off with an automatic pistol. And yes, there’s another rape or three in there somewhere, too.
I don’t know. Seriously— don’t ask me, ‘cause I just don’t know. Crazy Lips is essentially beyond analysis, if for no other reason than that it’s impossible to tell what it was supposed to be in the first place. The first act could serve as the setup to a brilliantly creepy ghost story (the headless specters negotiating the streets by touch in their little schoolgirl uniforms are the scariest thing I’ve seen in months), the second act would make for an intensely disturbing addition to the frightfully vast corpus of Japanese rapesploitation if it weren’t for the musical interlude and the intrusive subplot about the Komic Relief Konspirators, and the third act plays like a zany send-up of every non-kaiju genre of Japanese B-movie that was still active in 1999. None of the elements fit together right and all of them clash calamitously with at least one other aspect of the film, and yet somehow that seems to have been part of the point. If you’re curious as to what would happen if a group of Japanese filmmakers were given license to do a movie in which they literally just made shit up as they went along, then look no further than Crazy Lips. Looked at as an experiment in not giving a fuck, it’s fairly entertaining. But if you’re in the mood for… well, a movie, then my advice to you is to go somewhere else.