The Japanese have a rather seedy subculture of pornography collectors who thrive on rape oriented materials. Some of the country's most popular "adult" films sport titles like "Subway Rape", "Schoolgirl Rape" and other unsavory topics, while many of their mainstream horror films feature rapes aplenty, with the victims usually content to run away, shower and privately curse the pigs who did this to them, but never pursue any legal assistance. From the amount of literature I've read about the Japanese and their tastes for extreme horror and erotica, combined with their hardliner policy on censoring any nudity involving the nether-regions it seems that, in their culture, sex is something that is equally celebrated and repressed, which may go a long way in explaining as to why other cultures view Japanese horror/erotica as misogynistic and sadistic.
Freeze Me, a sort of reinvention of the genre classic I Spit on Your Grave, is a film that would seemingly invite such criticism, but actually goes a long way toward turning the genre conventions on their ear by introducing us to Chihiro (Harumi), a woman who not only fights back against her attackers, but ultimately displays the same predatory instincts.
As a teenager, Chihiro was raped and videotaped by a school chum and two of his friends, who then went on to sell the tape on the black market. When those close to Chihiro decided it was best to forget and move on, she takes their advice and moves to Tokyo where she meets a loving suitor (Shunsuke Matsuoka) and seems to be living the life she's always wanted. When Kojima (Shingo), the ring leader of the rape, tracks Chihiro down in Tokyo and informs her that the whole gang will soon be joining him for another round with Chihiro, she is held prisoner by threats of exposure about the incident. Rather than face this revelation to her colleagues, Chihiro reluctantly accepts Kojima into her home where he brutalizes her repeatedly, until Chihiro is pushed over the edge, and develops a scheme to get her revenge.
While Freeze Me may sound like a typical exploitation film, it isn't. Director Ishii gives the proceedings, dare I say?; a touch of class. The lush visual treatment combined with assaults that are more implied than graphically illustrated, as well as Chihiro's retaliation raise Freeze Me well above its genre brethren, and by the film's third act, it's apparent that this is more a story of redemption than revenge. Harumi Inoue is a magnetic screen presence, and one cannot help but root Chihiro on even as her motives grow increasingly more questionable.
The DVD from Tokyo Shock presents Freeze Me in a gorgeous widescreen transfer with pristine image and audio quality. The disc features a bio on director Ishii as well as this film's trailer as well as other Tokyo Shock films, but not much else. A subtitled commentary by Ishii would have been a welcome addition.
Freeze Me is not a film for everybody. Many people will dismiss it as misogynistic and lump it in with lesser examples of rape and revenge genre films, but open-minded viewers will be pleasantly surprised to find an expertly made exploitation classic that blurs the lines between good and bad and delivers its message with equal doses of gallows humor and intense and effective drama.