*. If you wanted to call Takashi Miike one of the top directors of the twenty-first century thus far, you wouldn’t get a lot of argument from me.
*. That’s not just because of his reputation and influence as a cult director, or the way he hit his stride right at the turn of the millennium with a handful of major films, but for other considerations as well.
*. In the first place, he is able to work at a very high level at incredible speed and on severely limited budgets. Visitor Q is a good example, produced as part of the Love Cinema series and costing next to nothing. And Miike isn’t a hack. He makes these films quickly and cheaply but very well.
*. Miike is also able to make movies in many different styles, on different themes, and using different idioms: from children’s films to gangster movies, dipping into horror, black comedy, and, as in this case, surrealism. One of the surest signs of real talent is range.
*. How does he do it? I think the chief thing he has going for him is his eye. I can think of few other directors who are such naturals when it comes to composition. He seems to find the perfect shot for any location intuitively and immediately. And yet none of his often grim settings ever seems excessively made-up or artificial.
*. His world is full of cruelty. This movie was made around the same time as Ichi the Killer and both are concerned with the theme of bullying and how it gets passed down a chain of violence.
*. You could also think of this movie as a dry run for Gozu. There are many shared elements, the most notable being the exaggerated lactation and the man who is caught in a deadly vagina.
*. At some point bad taste crosses a boundary and becomes comedy. It’s a fuzzy border, and different people locate it in different places. Personally, the line “It’s not a mystery of life, it’s shit!” sells the film for me.
*. As with any movie so extreme and surreal in its imagery, it demands interpretation. Who is the visitor? Why is the mother squirting milk all over the place?
*. What is it about? Here’s my interpretation. It’s about what lies at the dark heart of all horror: the family.
*. I noted in my comments on Spider Baby how often we find a grotesque parody of a family sit-down dinner appearing in horror films. We see it again here as the son throws a bowl of hot stew at his mother while his father and the visitor sit quietly on the other side of the table, not seeming to care.
*. The dinner is then in turn disrupted by the firecracker attack. Again we have an intrusion of violence that symbolizes all the dark forces just bubbling beneath the surface of bourgeois nuclear-family respectability.
*. In fact there’s nothing respectable about this family at all. The father is fucking his daughter, while mom is a drug addict turning tricks on the side and beaten by her son. Their daughter continues the family tradition by walking the street.
*. As with the schoolboy bullying, the family perpetuates a vicious cycle, not only passing on its dysfunctionality but compounding it. But are they redeemed in the end? The tables are certainly turned on the son’s bullies when mom and dad show him that the family that slays together stays together. And the final image of the mother as the Madonna Lactans is ironic, but nevertheless seems to affirm something.
*. And the visitor? There’s not much there to draw on. Does looking at Pasolini’s Teorema help? Not much. I think the visitor here is a figure like an angel or devil, sent to either shake the family out of its downward spiral or push them along their various paths to hell. The video recorder represents the eye of God. The stone in his hand is a thunderbolt. He is a force of divine or demonic intervention, I just can’t make out which.