Silly rabbit, Judge Bill Gibron isn't convinced this onscreen sadism is for you...or anyone.
Snuff with style? Artistically rendered repugnance?
A drug addicted prostitute named Bunny (Rodleen Getsic) roams the streets of LA, her concerns centering on one thing and one thing only: pick up a John, earn some cash, and score another hit. This leads to oral sex in back alleys, physical threats in sleazy hotel rooms, and endless hours lonely and lost. When a trucker named Hog (Jeff Renfro) comes along offering "help," she gets into his rig. Before she knows it, Bunny is knocked out, driven to a desolate part of the countryside, chained up in the back of the tractor trailer, and forced to submit to the sadistic brutality her captor has planned. In flashbacks, we see that Hog has a tendency to torture and kill young women, and our heroine appears to be the next victim. After five days of debasing her in the scorching California desert, Hog offers Bunny a chance at survival. If she can win this part of the "game," the horror will stop.
Not for the audience, however.
Back when Saw hit it big, professional complainers (you can call them critics) labeled the slimly subgenre said film represented "torture porn" and enjoyed a moment of smug self-satisfaction. Anyone who thinks that James Wan and Leigh Whannell's experiment in splatter suspense lives up to said label has never—repeat, never—seen something like The Bunny Game. Reminiscent of other independent "art" exercises like Murder-Set-Pieces and Amateur Porn Star Killer, this is violence and degradation for the sake of same, an occasionally frightening festival of humiliation and survival. Multi-hyphenated talent Adam Rehmeier uses a blatant black and white approach to keep the terror from feeling too real and he creates images and compositions that can best be called visionary. Yet it's all in service of something so shocking and exploitive that one imagines him having a hard time defending himself.
Think Picasso working exclusively in the medium of feces (and creating canvases of same) and you've got some idea of what watching The Bunny Game feels like. It's David Lynch dramatizing diarrhea. It's a serial killer's home movies spiffed up with some amazing monochrome magic and a pair of hysterical performances (not in the "funny" sense). For her part, Ms. Getsic literally loses herself in the role. The opening shot shows actual fellatio (not inferred), and later on, she squats in the street and urinates. Later, when she's locked in Hog's truck, she spends almost all her time completely naked and subject to several uncomfortably real rape scenarios. It's the kind of performance that screams "Look at me! Look at what I will do for my craft!" and you can't deny its impact. You also can't deny that it's in service of something more off-putting than engaging.
Renfro, who is a real trucker and has worked as a transportation expert on several films, starts off like a more menacing Lawrence Tierney but ends up reduced to the Jerry Lewis of psychosexual abuse. He spends so much time with his tongue wagging out of his mouth you'd swear he was a Schnauzer. It undercuts the aura of fear Rehmeier wants to create. As a result, it's Hog's actions which have to shock, and shock they do. During these intense moments, our director drops the aesthetic to turn everything into a Marilyn Manson/Nine Inch Nails video. We appreciate the change-up, but technique should never determine terror. Story and character are any macabre's best friend and both are MIA here.
The result is a cinematic seesaw. At one moment it satisfies as a solid cinematic experiment, while the next turns your stomach with its voyeuristic and inhumane context. Everyone here is skilled at what's being presented, even if said subject is nothing anyone would want to experience either as entertainment or as shock theater. There's a noxious, uncomfortable quality to the brief running time, a junk exploitative inference that threatens to remove all possible pluses from the mix. Still, the cinematography is stunning (especially in Blu-ray) and there is a level of authenticity and reality that cannot be denied. The Bunny Game may not be a significant success, but in trying, we learn a great deal about all involved.
Speaking of the production process, there's a commentary track and a behind the scenes featurette as part of the package that should raise more than a couple of eyebrows. Rehmeier and Getsic sit down to discuss the movie and the information they provide is, perhaps, more horrific than the film itself. She spells out how the narrative is based on her own life, including a couple of near-fatal abductions, while he argues that Renfro occasionally took things a bit too seriously. Both extras are jaw droppers. As for the actual Blu-ray look, the 1.78:1/1080p transfer is amazing. The contrasts are sharp and there's a nice level of black to combat the excessive whites. There is a lot of detail present, including blistered skin from hot iron brands and electric razor nicks. On the sound side of things, Rehmeier makes the mistake of larding his score with droning death metal that is so over-amplified and dissonant that it destroys the onscreen mood and does little except call attention to itself only. Even in defiant DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo, the cacophony is chaotic. At least the dialogue—what little there is—is easily discernible.
The Bunny Game may be nothing more than a "healing" process for the woman at its center, but it will drive many a seasoned cinephile to disturbed distraction. Sometimes, artistic ambitions cloud the creative process. With this film, everyone involved forges something quite compelling…and completely reprehensible.
Not guilty…and guilty. Like Piss Christ presented via pretty pictures.
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