DVD Review: Meat Grinder

Directed By Tiwa Moeithaisong
Starring Mai Charoenpura, Anuway Niwartwong and Wiradit Srimalai



Middle-aged noodle restaurant owner Buss is left indebted to a shady group of loan sharks after her husband skipped town on his gambling debt and ran away with the babysitter. Rather than take her story to Jerry Springer, after a young activist winds up dead in her shop, Buss hacks the lad’s body up and uses the meat in her food. When her corpse-flavoured noodles start selling like proverbial hotcakes, it’s not long before she has to search for fresher meat to meet demand.

A gore-drenched Thai mash-up of Sweeney Todd and The Untold Story, Meat Grinder’s entire marketing campaign has been the standard for anything even close to the ‘gore porno’ sub-genre: plenty of comparisons to Saw and the usual hearty cries of “most violent movie ever!”. Sadly, to willingly compare Tiwa Moeithaisong’s film to Saw is to do it a hefty disservice; there’s infinitely more style, substance and talent on display in Meat Grinder than the entirety of the flimsy Saw franchise combined.

Moeithaisong (a cinematographer by trade) pulls out all the visual stops, gracing the film with an unusually beautiful visual style – a skillful blend of moodily-shot monochrome segments, dreamy sun-drenched saturated shots and the expected grimy, gore-splattered basement scenes. The playfully experimental visuals culminate in a gracefully-shot moment that intercuts a sensual lovemaking scene with Buss massaging and tenderly preparing her slaughtered meatpiles.
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Behind the stylish look of the film is a meaty (no pun intended) lead role impressively performed by Mai Charoenpura. Weaved throughout the film are weighty flashbacks that flesh out Buss’ backstory to impressive effect, detailing her harrowing parental victimization – a cycle of abuse that she perpetuates with her own daughter. Coupled with Charoenpura’s emotionally dense and substantial performance, it conjures up at least a sliver of sympathy for an otherwise reprehensible monster.

A sliver of sympathy is about the most you’ll find for Buss though, which is half the film’s problem; we’re never given ample reason to empathise with her, so for much of the film we’re left as uncomfortable bystanders to her icky crimes without anyone to root for. And despite the majority of the film taking gentle care laying out the backstory, the third act loses its tonal hold on the narrative, with the Buss flashbacks veering into convoluted and over-the-top daft territory (a newborn baby casually being punted across the floor like a hockey puck, for instance).

For those just in it for the gore, the film’s problems surely won’t be much of an issue, and there’s plenty of wince-inducing, eye-covering moments of stomach-churning violence to satiate the bloodlust of any gorehound. Be forewarned, though: it’s a slow burn treat of a film at heart, so those expecting a kill a minute will be disappointed. But it’s the measured pace and more substantial plot that sets it apart from the average gore flick. Despite some glaring flaws, horror fans will find in Meat Grinder a visually impressive, amazingly well acted treat. It’s a rare gore film with some meat on its bones, even if it does often require a cast iron stomach and nerves of steel to get through it.
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On the DVD:

The review copy that 4DigitalAsia kindly sent along wasn’t a final version, so I can’t comment accurately on the visual/audio quality of the final release. The DVD will apparently come with the film’s theatrical trailer and a ‘Making Of’ documentary.


Rating:



Meat Grinder is available to buy in the UK on DVD from 23rd August 2010.
Click here to order the DVD from Amazon.co.uk.