Who says horror fans don’t have any fun? There seems to be a misconception among those unfamiliar with the genre that horror fans are simply excited by the sight of blood and guts, and that this is all horror movies are good for. It is a convenient way for the morally squeamish (or perhaps those adults who still, after all this time, have to check under their bed before going nighty-nights) to wash their hands of an entire genre. “I want to ENJOY my movies, I want to have fun. Why would I want to see movies where people only get killed?” Is another typical refrain.
A notable exception, of course, is the horror comedy. Gremlins is beloved by many a rad dad who wouldn’t go anywhere near Ghoulies or Critters. Army of Darkness is gleefully quoted by plenty of people who have no idea the first film contained a tree rape scene. As far as the Asian variety goes, films such as Tokyo Zombie often succeeds at pleasing the gore whores as well as those who “just like to laugh.” However, how does a horror comedy work when it is the subject matter and themes, not on-screen carnage, that is the horrific part? That is the main issue of today’s subject, the captivatingly named “Stop the Bitch Campaign.” Depending on your source, this is a horror comedy, an erotic thriller, or just softcore porn with a bunch of nonsense in-between the T&A. Its cast is largely comprised of amateurs and porn stars, and you’d think it was long forgotten bargain bin fodder…if it weren’t for the fact that this film actually started a franchise! We’re going to take a look at the first one, a weird little B movie that started it all.
Stop the Bitch Campaign was released in 2001, but takes place in the quaint year of 1997. The significance in this lies in the fact that in the intervening period, the practice of “Enjo Kosai” was made illegal. “Enjo Kosai” is a Japanese term for compensated dating, the primary theme of these movies. This was a hot button issue at the time, with frequent news reports of men being caught soliciting high school-aged girls for “a good time.” The other angle of course, was to focus on the girls themselves: why do they do it? Don’t expect a thoughtful answer from this film, or much of a message at all for that matter. The filmmakers take this potent material, and make something entirely bizarre and somewhat unappetizing, like pickling spaghetti instead of cucumbers.
The film stars Kenichi Endo as Kuni and Mikio Sato as his assistant, who both work at a sex shop in downtown Tokyo. Being good, conscientious employees, they have tapped all the phones in the building, and while eavesdropping one day, they begin to realize that their sex crazy customers have been on the prowl for high school girls. Kuni decides that “for the good of the country” this evil practice must end, and so decides to teach a lesson… to the girls. Said lesson is basically the solicitation version of “Dine and Dash,” in the hope that the girls, discouraged by being used and with no money to show for it, will give up their evil ways and return to their happy school lives. This is music to the ears of Kuni’s assistant, who has apparently been suffering a rather long dry spell, but as we will soon learn, ol’ kinky Kuni has a few other itches he needs to scratch.
And thus begins the tonally odd odyssey of two would-be sex offenders to restore the honor of Japan’s women. The film is shot in a way reminiscent of found footage films, and in its own way it is equally scary as something you’d see in Blair Witch or Hostel. You can, of course, try to ignore the context, for a time, and just enjoy the goofy hijinks of some fun-loving perverts trying to get with girls, like Revenge of the Nerds or Animal House remade by the inmates of a Japanese psyche ward. That is, until the guns, nails, and fire crackers start coming out. You see, the high school girls in question have some ideas of their own, and rather than consent to being used for cash, think of the more expedient method of simply robbing their customers, with a bit of torture thrown in for good measure.
You’d think that this was where the film would finally get into familiar territory, at least for those of us who’ve watched enough trashy horror flicks – to hell with lighting and cameras, as long as you’ve got that money shot bucket of blood when the helpless so-and-so gets the spoon shoved in his eye – only that isn’t the kind of movie Stop the Bitch Campaign is. Indeed, it seems as if the filmmakers blew their budget on everything BUT the gore; half the time the camera just cuts away. I honestly don’t get it; for all the amateurish still shots and close ups on bare breasts why couldn’t we get just a little bit more ketchup for the heck of it?
It is hard to know exactly what this inscrutable piece of cinema is trying to achieve: it is, after all, talking about a real issue, and at times it almost seems educational in the trite after-school special way. Or that could just be the horrible acting, with the exception of Endo, who carries the film. You see, Kuni is positively insane, and this grounds the movie in insanity, and almost puts you in a mindset where you’d be able to enjoy this mess. The ladies of the cast are all porn stars, and seem as if they aren’t used to delivering actual lines (that is, when the mic is positioned well enough to actually pick it up, sometimes you can barely hear what anyone’s saying!) There is, as I said, lots of sex, but it’s off-putting rather than titillating. If you enjoy women crying and squealing like a pig while seeing off-center close-ups of a hotel room bed and maybe someone’s ankle’s off to the side, then this movie has your fetish covered.
As with any horror movie with enough rape, there’s gotta be revenge, which is also gleefully portrayed, with some happy-go-lucky punk music thrown in for good measure. The twist at the end is bizarrely upbeat considering everything that just happened, but if you’re able to get through the film, chances are you’ve given up thinking of this as a horror film, or a black comedy. It fails miserably in the context of any genre film, but there’s something entertaining and fun about it all the same. It’s not a good movie, or a so bad its good movie. It’s just a movie, and one that got a sequel and a remake. Make of that what you will.
Note: I found trailers for every film in the series but this one, but here’s the 2009 remake, also starring Kenichi Endo.