THE BUNNY GAME (2012)
Some horror fans pride themselves in searching the outer reaches of the genre for those films that will psychologically scar them. Recent years have seen the genre move to those outer edges in a reaction to a not so subtle seismic shift in our culture after 9/11, ten years of a war in Iraq, and watching our economy plummet while people blame each other. The horror film has always been a mirror to the anxiety of the society of the time, and with the viciousness of our current times it is no surprise we have ended up with films like EDEN LAKE, MARTYRS, BROKEN and of course the very ugly and controversial A SERBIAN FILM. Now we have another very unsettling film to throw onto the short list of movies that will lay a long and nasty scar on your brain. Adam Rehmeier's and Rodleen Getsic's searing cinematic assault, THE BUNNY GAME.
But this one is quite different than even the other (some quite excellent) films mentioned, as it is as much an art film as a horror film. Shot in harsh black and white, and edited with near brilliance at times, this is a movie that is very aware of the artifice being used to bring it to the audience. The film-making on display is never less than completely assured, coupling with a nerve wracking use of sound design and loud and abrasive music all collide to make THE BUNNY GAME an experience that only a brave few will make it out alive from.
The story is really very simple. A young woman played by co-scripter Rodleen Getsic, is BUNNY, a woman who has found herself a prostitute. Whoring her way on the streets to survive. These early scenes, which make up roughly the first quarter to a third of the film, are deeply unpleasant and the perfect flip side to a movie like PRETTY WOMAN which makes prostitution look easy, clean, and never really dangerous. BUNNY is shown plying her trade in hardcore close up, sucking cocks but never for a second enjoying it. Soullessly getting roughed up, but taking it because it means enough money to get through the day. We see her in the shower in tears as she adjusts to getting past her last encounter and on to the next nasty John. Much of this is scored with super loud and abrasive death metal music just to add to the even more aggressive feel.
Soon she is picked up be a seemingly benign old truck driver played by Jeff Renfro. After a brief discussion of exchanging money for sex, he offers her some drugs and next thing she knows she has been kidnapped and her life is about to become a living nightmare.
From here on out the film is an aggressive onslaught of humiliation and torture. The Trucker systematically sets out to break her, emotionally, spiritually and sexually. Holding her captive in the back of his tractor trailer, stripping her down, shaving her head and playing an extending, extremely brutal S+M based game of total dehumanization. Oddly enough he never actually sexually penetrates her, but the entire enterprise is basically one long extended emotional rape of her very being. During some moments she has a rather disturbing rubber Bunny mask on that further dehumanizes her. All the while the Trucker laughs maniacally becoming a very demonic presence, leading the charge in this nightmare.
THE BUNNY GAME could have been just another torture exhibit freakshow for gorenographers to jerk off to. But instead the film-making on display sets it apart from that. There is real force of nature at work here. Seriously unpleasant stuff, but not without merit. Even if I had not known the back story why this was made I would look at this film and see there was more to what was on screen than simply an exploitation of a woman’s suffering.
One thing that indeed set's this apart from the horror film of it's peers is that NOTHING on screen is fake. That very fact risks making this a bit of a geek show, but it also lends the movie a visceral, raw authenticity that makes it impossible to escape from. So when we see BUNNY being bound, gagged and tormented it is for real. When her head is shaved and she is force fed a whole bottle of vodka, it is real. In the same scene there are cars in the far distance driving by that are clearly not part of the film-making crew. Just people tooling down the highway that adds a very disturbing edge in that we are watching this bound, naked woman being abused and people are just driving past. The sexual scenes early on are not fake, and there are several scenes of things like cutting and branding that are not fake either.
All of this is possible because Rodleen Getsic comes from a performance art background. Most of her former work dealt with feminist and political themes. She also was very involved with things like political activism and was well known for her charity and philanthropic work during the Katrina disaster. It is this background that allowed her to take the punishment netted out in the part. But more importantly is the WHY she conceived the the film and role. It is my understanding that some where in her past she was indeed abducted by a sexual sadist and suffered greatly while held hostage. To wipe the experience from herself she conceived this project as a way to exorcise the demons. Getsic fasted for forty days to get to a physical place to play the role and they shot the for film for 13 days during which she committed to taking all the abuse as close to reality as possible. Including the very real violence. Once the shoot was finished she went away to a retreat for a month to rid herself of the emotional experience of the shoot and the memories it was based on.
Some films are not meant to be enjoyed, or even be entertaining. Some are meant to be endured as they very act of making them were acts of rebellion for the filmmakers. THE BUNNY GAME is one such film. It isn't for everyone, only a select few will be able to stomach the horrors on display. Approach it with extreme caution, and understanding that what you are seeing is an act of extreme catharsis. It could damage you if unprepared.
Andrew Copp © Review