'Kuso': Film Review

Kuso Still - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Brigade Marketing
Repugnant, but more potent than some other recent cine-provocations.

Rapper Flying Lotus (aka Steve Ellison) goes for the gross-out hall of fame in his directing debut.



Here's the problem with Kuso, a drugged-out horror film directed by Steve Ellison, the rapper known as Flying Lotus: There are no geysers of snot in it.

There's no caked-up ear wax, either; no rancid toe jam. But just about every other excretion and fluid a human body can produce is represented here, measurable in gallons and quarts rather than milliliters. And for each actual substance the film avoids, it has at least one imagined ooze to replace it, like the jet of viscous cream shooting out of the antenna of a giant cockroach that has just crawled out of — well, let's set that aside for a moment. Sensitive readers should be informed that Kuso is not for you; even those with a strong tolerance for monster-movie gore are far from guaranteed to accept its warm, clumpy bath of repugnant ickiness. But a certain sliver of the populace, raised by Tim & Eric and inured to the most scatological sights, may well make it the new midnight-movie outrage to beat.

It seems foolish to try to describe the world in which this phantasmagoria takes place, but three or four main, um, narratives share time here, bracketed with unconvincing talk of a massive Los Angeles earthquake. Whatever storyline one follows, be assured that its characters will be afflicted by boils, herpes or external tumors. They will walk in the woods to commune with rectum-like hillocks; they will chew on cinder blocks in subterranean warrens; they will seek abortions in a place called the Coathanger Clinic. While that last bit may be a spot-on imagining of a Trumpcare future, most of the film's imagery seems inspired by buckets full of hallucinogens: This is the kind of stuff that just isn't done justice by the label "bad trip."

From the opening scenes, in which a newscast is hijacked by a musician in a way that recalls The Eric Andre Show, it's clear that this eager-to-disgust-us film also hopes to squeeze out laughs along the way. But we're somewhere in the middle before Ellison and cowriter Zack Fox land on a scene with comedic promise: The movie's most ordinary-seeming inhabitant seeks help for an odd affliction at the aforementioned Coathanger Clinic, and is greeted with more than the usual doctor's-office indifference. Once he gets in to see the doctor (George Clinton, exploring the barfier connotations of the word "funk"), he's surprisingly game for a treatment we're reluctant to even hint at here.

Occasional interludes of photo-collage animation provide temporary relief from the live-action narratives; less relief is to be found in the primitive computer-graphics time-outs in which, say, one might observe a dance floor peopled with disembodied, shaking breasts. The film flirts with porn on other occasions (well, "flirts" is far too mild a word), but any viewer who finds himself aroused should leave the theater immediately and seek professional help.

Helpfully, the movie ends with a half-song whose lyrics might well speak for those who've made it to the credits without the assistance of mood-altering substances: "Skin me alive, I survived, and I can barely believe it."

Production company: Brainfeeder Films

Distributor: Shudder

Cast: Iesha Coston, Zack Fox, Hannibal Buress, The Buttress, Tim Heidecker, Mali Matsuda, George Clinton
Director: Steve
Screenwriters: Steve, David Firth, Zack Fox
Producers: Eddie Alcazar
Directors of photography: Danny Hiele, Norm Li, Benjamin Goodman
Production designer: Phillip Duffin
Editors: Steve, Luke Lynch
Composers: Aphex Twin, Flying Lotus, Akira Yamaoka
Casting director: Anissa Williams

93 minutes