VISITOR Q (2001) – The Dungeon Review!
Takashi Miike is one of Japan’s most interesting directors working today. More accurately, Miike is one of the most interesting directors working today in any country! Miike’s director list is huge, and I must admit that there are numerous titles I have yet to see. His body of work covers a variety of genres but generally speaking you can count on the inclusion of violence. Some of my favourite Miike titles I have seen thus far are Audition (1999), Ichi the Killer (2001), The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001), Gozu (2003), Three… Extremes (Box segment) (2004), Big Bang Love, Juvenile A (2006), 13 Assassins (2010), Dead or Alive: Hanzaisha (1999) and the subject of this review; Visitor Q. Miike also did one of the best and nastiest Masters of Horror episodes; Imprint (2006). I have many Takashi Miike films still to see but I have enjoyed the man’s work enough to watch several of his titles multiple times.
I bought Visitor Q in Chinatown a bunch of years ago, and the DVD had no English option, but I watched it anyway. It left me glove-slapped and slack-jawed. If you have seen Visitor Q you’ll understand why and if you have not you are in for a head trip. I have now visited Visitor Q three times and it still messes me up. Visitor Q is definitely not a straight up horror film. It is more of a dysfunctional family drama with comedy, thriller, mystery and horror elements.
Visitor Q opens with a middle-aged man documenting the life of a teenage sex worker. The man proceeds to have sex with the teenager who we learn is actually his daughter. Visitor Q is a mysterious stranger who comes into this man’s life after bashing him on the head with a rock. Visitor Q comes to live with the family and changes their lives in various ways. As mentioned the film opens with a father paying his daughter for sex. At home a teenage son is beaten and bullied by a group of his peers and in frustration violently lashes out at his mother. Mother is covered in raw and painful-looking lash marks and limps from the beatings. Mother is a heroin addict who occasionally turns tricks to pay for her habit. In the end Visitor Q helps the family to re-connect and in their twisted way the family loves again as you will witness in the film’s sunshiny-disturbing final image.
While the family takes dysfunctional to new extremes they nonetheless represent a typical family unit at their core. A father going through a mid-life crisis, a mother running for the shelter of “mother’s little helper”, the teenage children estranged, distant and attempting to find their place in the world. A family unit we have seen in a dozen films before. Takashi Miike however shows the breakdown of the family unit in his own unique and twisted way.
Visitor Q himself reminded me a little of Coffin Joe. Coffin Joe is a character from Brazilian horror films portrayed by José Mojica Marins. Coffin Joe is an evil character who despises morality and religion. Coffin Joe taps in to people’s darkest desires and inspires them to embark on a path of sin and depravity. Visitor Q is a more public-friendly generic version of Coffin Joe but his goal is much the same. According to Wikipedia Visitor Q’s plot is similar to Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Teorema. Oddly enough I had borrowed Pasolini’s Medea from the library only a week ago. I have not seen Teorema so I can not comment on the similarities. I added Teorema to the library queue though so you’ll be reading a review soon. Visitor Q does in fact help the family find cohesion and happiness through their depraved acts. By the time the final credits role you will witness incest, necrophilia, violent death, copious body fluids and a family unit strengthened.
Visitor Q is done in a documentary style; which nicely complimented the dark material. The father is a television reporter whose current subject is today’s youth. He is, in fact acting as reporter in the opening scene where he has sex with his daughter. The film is stark and its flawed characters are exposed like an open wound. The voyeuristic nature of the film made me feel a bit uncomfortable at times. Miike balances these elements with humour, although it too, is of the warped variety. The actors and actresses in Visitor Q were called on to put themselves out there in a big way. The film is very well cast and everyone is perfect in their roles. Although I think Ken’ichi Endô and Shungiku Uchida who played the father and mother deserve special mention.
Visitor Q is an unclassifiable, joyfully warped curiosity. Visitor Q fascinates me, disgusts me, makes me laugh and even on a third viewing leaves me slack-jawed. Highly recommended.
Dungeon Rating: 4/5
Directed By: Takashi Miike
Starring: Ken’ichi Endô, Shungiku Uchida, Kazushi Watanabe, Jun Mutô, Fujiko, Shôko Nakahara, Ikko Suzuki