REVIEW: Gothic & Lolita Psycho (2010)

gothiclolita_posterAfter a terrifying attack kills her mother and permanently disables her father, Yuki (Rina Akiyama) boldly dons gothic lolita fashion and goes on a violent mission of revenge against the assassins who destroyed her life. That is it; that is really the extent of the story in this film. It is Go Ohara’s 2010 horror film Gothic & Lolita Psycho, featuring practical effects by Japanese pulp legend Yoshihiro Nishimura.

Sourcing watchable copies of foreign films can often be a real problem for the aspiring cineaste. If it is not readily available locally – on disc, download, or stream – it is a matter of tracking down a physical copy on DVD or bluray to purchase via an online retailer. Even if such a copy can be found, it is often a challenge to find a copy that has English subtitles. Hong Kong has historically been a godsend for Asian cinema fans, as most of their home video releases tend to include English options; a reflection of the city’s historical status as a British colony. It is where I sourced a subtitled copy of Go Ohara’s gaudy 2010 effort Gothic & Lolita Psycho. It turns out that subtitles are not the only concern for fans of this kind of over-the-top Raimi-esque fare. There is also the issue of censorship.

Gothic & Lolita Psycho belongs to a distinct sub-genre of cult entertainment that are cheaply made, fast-paced, and packed wall to wall with deliberately excessive gore. People do not get shot and bleed to death; their heads actually explode in a shower of blood and meat, so exaggerated that the only sensible responses are to roll one’s eyes and go watch something respectable or to laugh uproariously at the silliness of it all. Nishimura is probably the most popular director of this oeuvre via such films as Tokyo Gore Police (2008) and Helldriver (2010), and while Gothic & Lolita Psycho is not as accomplished as those movies Nishimura’s work here on the gore effects certainly lifts up its cult cache a great deal.

Here’s the deal: the Hong Kong edition from Panorama Entertainment cuts out all of the shots of blood and gore. It has presumably done so to ensure that the film’s classification rating stays at Category II and not the dreaded category III (equivalent to R18+ for Australians and NC-17 in the USA). It enables teenagers to watch it, sure, but in the process surgically removes the reason to watch these sorts of movies in the first place. It is like an Elvis movie without musical numbers; the only part that matters has been stripped away, and what is left – very cheaply made scenes of angst and portent – is not worth recommending to anybody.

In the end I watched Gothic & Lolita Psycho on this English-subtitled Hong Kong bluray, except for whenever a character died – then I jumped to a Spanish-subtitled bootleg on YouTube to watch their bodies explode.

It is very simple stuff, and anything that seems confusing can really be ignored in favour of the hysterically funny death scenes. The film begins in-media-res, with Yuki donning a fetishistic combination of frilly skirts and leather corsets while stabbing various criminals to death with a modified parasol. Flashbacks reveal her origin, but they feel more like something to space out the string of assassinations that comprise the plot. Each villain has their own schtick – a perverted psychic PE teacher, an eyepatch-wearing gun-wielding teenager, and so on – and Yuki uses different parasol modifications to kill them one by one. It is knowingly silly, adolescent, crude, and mercifully brief. It knows a little goes a long way, and so packs everything into a frantic 87 minutes.

Star Rina Akiyama is sufficient for the film’s limited dramatic requirements, and does come across as remarkably empowered given her costuming. One or two moments of anime-style ‘fan service’ aside, she is thankfully not as aggressively sexualised as one might suspect. The supporting cast are generally rather bland, but the performances are not the attraction here. It is all about the pretty girls in sexy outfits – which are suitably pretty and sexy I suppose – and the gore.

It is spectacular gore. People lose limbs. They get holes blown right through them. They get shot with so many bodies their flesh is shredded apart. Not one moment of it is remotely realistic, and it all looks endearingly bizarre. It is a tragedy that the teenagers of Hong Kong missed out on this stuff, because it is so wonderfully absurd and goofy. True, there are better examples of this stuff out there, and you will want to source an uncut copy to watch the thing, but for its target audience Gothic & Lolita Psycho is more than sufficient.

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