16th Feb2021

‘Human Hibachi’ VOD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Elizabeth Gaynor, Sopheaktra Theng, Carmine Giordano, Carley Harper, Greg Paul, Wataru Nishida, Andrew Hunsicker, Zachary Pun Chung | Written and Directed by Mario Cerrito III

Opening in a police station, where Katie Williams mother (Anne Buckwheat) sits waiting for news of her daughter, Human Hibachi posits – through the detective working the case – that the footage we are about to watch is a snuff movie, filmed and edited for the “overseas market”, which documents the death of Katie (Elizabeth Gaynor), a 35-yr old woman whose birthday is vlogged from start to finish by her boyfriend Reo (Sopheaktra Theng). And what a birthday…

Awoken with flowers, taken out for birthday breakfast, treated to a brand-new expensive dress, then out for drinks with her friends Brian (Carmine Giordano) and Meghan (Carley Harper). The event ends with a meal for the four at a Japanese restaurant where Reo works. Everything documented on camera by Reo, everything viewed by us. Eventually this daily vlog turns into something more sinister, though we already know that… Its confirmed that something is off at the restaurant Reo works when his boss, Jin, asks everyone to smile for the camera and say “Sushi” – reflecting the prologue in which a beautiful girl was asked to do the very same thing before being pummeled to death in the car park!

In case you haven’t guessed folks, we’re in found footage territory with Human Hibachi. But not your typical, running around screaming, shaky-cam found footage. This instead REALLY looks like someone filming their day, passing the camera to people to take footage, edited together to make a cohesive narrative for people, like us, to later watch. It’s a refreshing change from the out-of-focus, wobbly footage the genre normally presents us with! The use of “found footage” is totally explained away by the film – documenting a birthday is a legitimate reason to film, as is providing background footage for what is to come for the films “victims”, giving depth to proceedings for an eager bloodthirsty Asian audience (for that’s where Jin and co. are set to send this vlog once its done). The very fact the footage we’re watching is supposed to the final edited cut also explains away the use of dramatic music and effects (slow-mo etc.), in essence making THE AUDIENCE of this film the bloodthirsty audience the sadists made THEIR film for! It’s a very meta.

When Human Hibachi kicks in to overdrive in its second half, writer/director Mario Cerrito III really kicks the gore into high gear too – surprisingly living up to the expectations I had of the film given its title. Human Hibachi is also a brilliant play on the old “video nasty” era belief that snuff movies are real too. After all, there was a time here in the UK where people thought Faces of Death was a snuff movie; that Cannibal Holocaust was a snuff movie; that even Snuff was a snuff movie… They’re not, but the very idea that people film the deaths of others for [sadistic] fun and profit is the basis for the second half of Mario Cerrito’s film. And it works – the low-budget nature feeding into the cycle of grotesquery: a grotesque look at grotesque people doing grotesque things. And we’re just as culpable of said grotesquery for watching a “snuff movie” within a movie!

But thats not ALL this film is about… Human Hibachi also has a lot to say about society. Here the rich LITERALLY feed on the lower classes; people who are sacrificed by those looking to make money and thus move up the social ladder by doing so – the antithesis of the oft-used “Eat the Rich” slogan. It’s very apt social commentary given the current state of the world and the ever-increasing gap between rich and poor… Yet again a great example of horror touching on real-world themes and issues whilst satiating its gore-loving audience!

Human Hibachi is available to stream now on Troma Now.

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