11th Oct2023

Rewind: ‘Tetsuo: The Iron Man’ Review

by James Rodrigues

Stars: Tomorô Taguchi, Kei Fujiwara, Nobu Kanaoka, Shinya Tsukamoto, Renji Ishibashi, Naomasa Musaka | Written and Directed by Shinya Tsukamoto

After spending his youth creating short films and entering experimental theatre, Shinya Tsukamoto made an indelible mark on Japanese horror cinema with his feature debut, Tetsuo: The Iron Man. The writer/director/producer/editor also appears on-screen as a metal fetishist, setting the tone for this bizarre work as his character inserts scrap metal into a self-inflicted wound in his thigh. The sight of maggots within the wound causes him to run in fear, resulting in him becoming the victim of a hit-and-run accident.

The story then focuses on a salaryman (Tomorô Taguchi), who discovers a metallic thorn sticking out of his cheek while shaving. While he later waits in a subway station, a woman infected with metallic tentacles begins chasing him. This begins a campaign of terror upon the salaryman, as he experiences strange circumstances while undergoing his own metallic metamorphosis. It becomes apparent that a connection has formed between the salaryman and the metal fetishist, which leaves the former cursed.

If the love child of David Cronenberg and Sam Raimi was raised by David Lynch to have an affinity for metal, this startlingly original work would be the batshit result. What Tsukamoto has crafted is a one-of-a-kind revenge flick which avoids a traditional narrative in favour of compelling surrealism, brought alive in intense ways which may be horrifying to watch, yet the fascinating imagery compels viewers to keep their gaze firmly on-screen.

From flashbacks unfolding through video tapes to disorientating camera work reflecting the salaryman’s mindset, and especially the wild use of stop-motion effects, this unique vision is stunningly realised. The $100,000 budget adds a scrappiness to the large-scale ideas that Tsukamoto brings alive, with the grotesque effects being an astounding highlight, although a close second is the phallic imagery peaking with the shock appearance of a drill penis. Perfectly accompanying it all is Chu Ishikawa’s score, as metallic percussion gives this work an industrial sound which helps bring alive this uncompromised vision of human fury bursting alive through cyberpunk body horror.

****½  4.5/5


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