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King Of The Witches

Sabaku DVD

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"This gender-swapped take on the horrific murder case of Junko Furuta shows how Jun Furuta’s father tracks down the juveniles who murdered his son (after their release from juvie, where, just like the real perpetrators, they only served a few years) to find out why his son had to die and to exact his revenge." - The Internet


"One of the most genuinely disturbing pink films I have ever seen, yet its perversity is necessary to expose and counter all the cruelties and perversities masquerading as societal norms. A father revenges for his son by kidnapping and torturing his murderers. A storehouse where the father forces the murderers to reenact and relive the pains they cause for his son. Trauma imprints everywhere. Vengeance after vengeance, it just gets more and more vicious from there. Sabaku functions as a ghost story that covers familiar grounds like homophobia, self-loathing and patriarchal violence. It is not exactly an intricate and layered psychodrama, but it truly commits to its deranged vision, with some deeply grotesque and nerve-racking scenes that somehow pack real emotional punch. Bodies in chains, all repressive desires break loose. It ends with no forgiveness, only kisses from an angel in agony and a lovemaking act in eternal void. The fact that this film got produced and received lots of supports from Hisayasu Satō after making five gay films in his career (one masterpiece, three particularly strong works), and directed by one of his assistants, just makes me have more and more respect for this guy." - Some Dude On Letterboxd



Wow. Sabaku is a film I wasn't aware of until a kind fellow Satô fan drew my attention to it last week. The rumours go that Satô directed this under the pseudonym "Casino". It features some of his regulars (fellow Heavenly King of Pink, Kazuhiro Sano, and Kiyomi Ito in an offscreen role) and it's written by Akio Nanki. Satô is credited in the opening titles for "planning". It is also pretty clearly in tune with Satô's aesthetics. That said, I would argue it doesn't quite align with all his key stylistic and thematic motifs. It seems more Satô adjacent than Satô to me.

Putting aside whether Satô directed this or if "Casino" is someone totally different, Sabaku is a viciously good pinku. Don't let the early 2000s cover art on Letterboxd fool you. This is not a wholesome gay pinku. No, this is misanthropic as fuck. For starters, it takes its premise from the Junko Furuta murder (reviewed a film based on the case way back in my Mondo Exploito days). If you're not aware of the case, have a look at the Wikipedia page and forever destroy your soul. Sabaku gender-flips this case and moves focus away from the torture of, in this case, a boy called Jun and instead sets its sight on the aftermath, the revenge Jun's father seeks. Jun's murderers start the film captured, bound in sleazy chains and classic red underwear in the bleakest location ever. The rage-fuelled father gets them to re-enact the torture and murder on each other with increasingly brutal acts. But as we wade through the filth and violence, it becomes clear that this is not a simple case of gruesome vengeance and there are plenty of sad truths to unpack.

Sabaku is so bleak. It begins gross and dark and it only gets grosser and darker. It also has an overwhelming emotional element to its story. There is a weight and harrowing horror to every bit of violence that happens. The sex is minimal, very light for a pinku, and when it does happen it's unbearably grim (a dying bloodied man getting a blowjob... yep). Stylistically, as mentioned earlier, the film leans in the same direction of Satô. The location is cold, almost cyberpunkian. There's a lot of industrial blues and gooey blood seeping through cracks. The music is minimal and grinding. There is an incredible pace to its editing. Scenes meld together with an artistic touch. The flashbacks are hauntingly and disturbingly shot. Its visuals are perfectly matched to its fucked story.

I'm honestly surprised I had never heard of Sabaku in my Satô travels. This left me shook and gob-smacked. It ultimately doesn't matter who the director is (THAT SAID I'D BLOODY LOVE TO KNOW FOR SURE!), because this is just a damn fine, deeply disturbing piece of nihilistic pink cinema." - Some Other Dude On Letterboxd