... aka: Darkroom Fantasies
... aka: High Noon Ripper
... aka: Midday Splitting Demon
Reporter Noriko Okumura (Kaoru Orimoto) is working for a struggling magazine that needs to hit on something big soon or else risk going under. The magazine, Parallax, was once a classy literary publication but they're going to need to get a little sleazier and more exploitative if they're to survive in today's climate. Thankfully, there's a serial killer ("The Ripper") terrorizing the city and Noriko's working in tandem with moody freelance photographer Kaiji (Shirô Shimomoto). The two don't get along at all. He finds her pushy and annoying. She finds him arrogant and is frustrated he never follows her directions. However, they somehow work well together and decide to team up to do more work on the Ripper case, especially since Noriko's latest article matched with Kaiji's graphic pictures have created a sudden boost in magazine sales. As her editor (Yutaka Ikejima) notes, "People love gory photos!"
When photos that appear to capture The Ripper actually in the middle of killing a victim are leaked to rival mag Photo Journal, both Noriko and Kaiji attempt to locate the taker of those photos, credited to Shun Tatsukawa (Tôru Nakane). Kaiji manages to track him down and is surprised to discover that he's just a teenager and lives alone in an apartment. As for his parents? He claims they both ran off with other lovers and he could care less where they are now as long as they continue to send him money. Instead of worrying about them, the voyeuristic Shun spends most of his time with his binoculars and telescope spying on his (female) neighbors, plus taking photos, often of his naked (female) neighbors.
Though Noriko leaves her number on Shun's "answering machine," he never returns her call. She starts receiving threatening phone calls soon after. And then Makiko (Yûko Aoki), another worker at the magazine, is found dead in a stairwell with her stomach cut wide open. Shun eventually attempts to blackmail Noriko, who lives in the apartment house across from him, with nude photos he's taken of her. Meanwhile, Kaiji sends his girlfriend Miki (Usagi Asô) out to trail Shun. While Kaiji's busy trying to get into Noriko's pants, Miki finds herself in trouble when the killer surprises her in the shower with his weapon of choice, a utility razor. When Kaiji returns home, Miki's been slashed up and is barely alive, but he decides to snap some pictures of her bleeding to death instead of calling for help. While he may very well be the world's worst boyfriend, is he also "The Ripper?"
This doesn't really amount to much, but there's some good camerawork and lighting, the shower kill is pretty nasty and bloody (most of the rest of the murders are off-screen or seen in silhouette), there's a pretty amusing surprise twist at the end and, of course, there's a lot of sex, which is primarily why this movie was made in the first place. The Noriko character is frigid because she was gang raped and beaten within an inch of her life by three men years earlier. As a result she spends half the movie masturbating with anything she can get her hands on, like a shower nozzle, a belt and even a door (!) In addition, there are a few shower scenes and three pretty graphic simulated sex scenes. As per the usual with Japanese erotica, all frontal nudity is concealed with strategically placed hands and props, creative camera placement and a pubic hair-free cast, but they pretty much show everything else in abundance.
Surprisingly enough, the director went on to much bigger things, including a handful of Best Director nominations from the Japanese version of the Academy Awards. He finally won on his fourth nomination for the 2008 film Okuribito / "Departures," which also won the U.S. Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Kiyomi Itô, best known for her appearances in Hisayasu Satô shockers, has a cameo as the first victim.
Though never officially released here in America, there's a Japanese DVD that includes English subtitles. The running time is only 60 minutes.