Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Starring Mai Charoenpura, Anuway Niwartwong, Wiradit Srimalai
Directed by Tiwa Moeithaisong
Distributed by 4Digital Media
Since it’s rapidly being hailed as quite possibly the goriest of recent home video releases to escape the knives of censors, it’s hard not to get excited about the UK DVD release of Meat Grinder if you’re a fan of extreme violence. It’s a good thing I am, then — but what’s surprising is that Tiwa Moeithaisong’s film actually delivers on more than just the blood and shapes up to be a very effective slice of twisted psycho mayhem.
The film centres on noodle stall purveyor and single mother Buss, struggling to raise her daughter alone under the pressure of local crooks and loan sharks to whom her absentee husband is indebted. Apparently, he’s jumped ship with his mistress and left her there to cope. After becoming caught in the middle of a street riot, Buss discovers the body of a shot rioter who had hidden in her noodle cart. Desperate for money, she grinds the body up into food, and lo and behold, the local populace love it.
So she decides to make her fortune by turning her home into a noodle shop where she can serve up her own special recipe (a secret blend of herbs and spices stuffed into victims’ mouths and wounds). Problem is, she of course needs more meat to keep cooking – and as the local “Missing” posters pile up and people begin asking questions, Buss finds it much more difficult to both hide the heads bubbling in her pot and prevent herself from slipping further into insanity. Along the way we’re treated to some horrific revelations of her past and learn the true deep-seated depths of her madness.
Meat Grinder is a hard one to describe without giving away just about every detail of the unfolding of the story. With Buss as our driving character, we learn very early on that she’s a few cards short of a full deck. Within the opening minutes we witness her mutilate a visitor, smack him in the head with his own severed leg and nail him to the floor through the fingernails. While the film does play around with some fractured chronology, it’s mostly in the form of flashbacks revealing the very early background of Buss’ psychotic issues (let’s just say that the mix of special herbs and spices is a family recipe), so you’ll probably find yourself very confused as to when we’re going to be introduced to the present-day her before all of the killing started. Well, tough luck there – Meat Grinder isn’t so much a “descent into madness” flick as it is a “descent from madness into sheer fucking debilitating lunacy” one. It’s a savage film with an effectively sustained tone of hopelessness that could only be possible by its use of such a damaged individual as the narrative’s mule.
Now, considering the film’s title, if you’re reading this, then you obviously want to hear about the grue factor. Well, gorehounds are in for one hell of a time with this one. Meat Grinder contains some of the most vicious, graphic and bloody displays of violence to hit the small screen in some time: Severed limbs, decapitations, disembowelments and arterial spray (and that’s only the tip of it) drench the sets as Buss’ noodle shop quite literally becomes an abattoir with some first-rate effects work bringing it all to convincing life as our chef’s meat supplies increase. This crazy cook ain’t playin’ around – in fact Meat Grinder could quite easily play as a sister flick to the CAT III classic sickie The Untold Story. Those with a weak stomach, tread carefully! It certainly doesn’t hold a candle to gore movies on the utter extreme of the scale, but the recent advertising hype is definitely worth it.
In terms of construction, Meat Grinder is very well put together by director Moeithaisong with some strong use of focus and overexposed footage during Buss’ psychotic episodes. Flashbacks presented in black and white are stark and effective, and of course there’s the aforementioned tone of the film: Just when you think things are bleak enough in the present day, the next flashback comes along to knock you down another peg. Use of stock footage during the riot scene is very fitting and never feels hokey, instead adding to the raw tonality of the flick.
The fantastic score is both creepy and emotional when it needs to be, adding an extra weight to the film that elevates it far above the realms of a simple excessive splatterfest. Meat Grinder does, unfortunately, tend to drag slightly around the beginning of the third act but picks itself up again for an absolute knockout of an ending. No, it isn’t bombastic, in-your-face splatter spray but a collection of scenes in which the film takes on a much more sincere and affecting attitude to mental breakdown than the basic cleaver-wielding presented thus far. Buss’ final collapse is displayed in full glory with lead actress Mai Charoenpura proving herself an absolute treasure as she throws delusion, grief, rage, violence, acceptance and crippling confusion onto her every movement and expression. In these moments you find yourself becoming sympathetic to a despicable character while the score forms a brilliantly symbiotic relationship with the images. There is some truly exceptional craftsmanship on show here, which one certainly doesn’t expect from a film entitled Meat Grinder. It’s a shame that many may feel the same way and not give it the chance it really deserves.
4Digital Media has come up trumps with delivering this one to our shores and is quickly becoming a label to look out for. The DVD presentation is perfectly suited to the film with no immediately noticeable visual or compression issues. The screener disc contains only the excellent (original Thai) trailer in terms of special features. The full release, however, is advertised as holding both a making-of documentary and music video in addition. Due to being unable to confirm the quality of the doc and video, a mid-range score has been given.
4 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5
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