Tokyo Home Stay Massacre Brutal, But Dull

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Tokyo Home Stay Massacre

“…When he captured Friola he ordered a massacre accompanied by torture. Everybody was to be blinded, have their noses removed and have arms and legs chopped off. After this, they were left to die in the open. He walled up a whole family of his enemies in their castle and left them to starve to death…”

Humankind has a macabre fascination with atrocity. From the above description of the thirteenth century Italian warlord Ezzelino de Romano to Eli Roth’s Hostel films, each of us possess a morbid voyeurism that easily explains the undying allure of horror cinema, and there’s a direct link between lurid tales of medieval torture and the depravity of movies like Tokyo Home Stay Massacre, the latest release from Tokyo Bay Films Entertainment.

“Welcome to Japan!” the sinister cabbie tells Spencer (Will Harnell), Sarah (Diana G.) and John (Alex Derycz) after a harrowing ride to their destination, and his dangerously off-kilter delivery serves as a warning for what follows. The college-age American trio are YouTubers driven by Spencer’s desire for internet stardom to film in remote places, and they’ve chosen to stay with a Japanese host family, less for the cultural exchange than for the opportunity to secretly film the interior of their traditional home after dark. From the onset, however, there are immediate red flags: the family’s patriarch is overtly, overbearingly strange, his menacing elderly mother forbids Sarah’s saying of grace before supper, and the teenage daughter’s room has a plastic anatomical mannequin in it, but any forewarnings are lost amid tension between the visitors. Sarah has recently aborted John’s baby, and their relationship struggles under the forcefulness of Spencer’s obsessed intent to hustle his way to online greatness. When their filming uncovers grotesque paintings adorning the walls of a hidden room, the trio learn they aren’t the only one with secret objectives, and they soon fall prey to their hosts’ craving to use them in a sacrificial rite to appease a bloodthirsty deity.

There’s an effective slow-burn claustrophobia induced by the cramped Japanese home writer-director team Kenta Osaka and Hirohito Takimoto set their story in, but any suspense is smothered by the overabundance of blandly familiar horror weaknesses: the set-up scenario is strictly passé, indebted to the likes of Tobe Hooper’s seminal The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Roth’s aforementioned Hostel series and Takashi Miike’s Audition, the acting ranges from unconvincing to overblown (indeed, the host family seems no more than an Asian Sawyer clan, right down to the mute, mentally challenged brute). For fans of sadistic cinema, however, the real star of a movie like Tokyo Home Stay Massacre isn’t any one actor but the splattery set pieces, and once the bloodshed begins, the audience feels each tooth removal and hammer strike, every throat slash and evisceration. Yet despite the intensity of the proceedings, there’s still a ho-hum quality to the unfolding carnage--it’s brutal but dull, done before and better in the past. And while there’s grisly emotional resonance in John’s final flayed kiss to Sarah at film’s end, by then any interest has been murdered along with any hope of originality.

I give Tokyo Home Stay Massacre a 2 (out of 5) on my Fang Scale (Add a point if you’re a gorehound).

2.0 / 5.0