With each day being punctuated with a countdown to a mysterious “birth”, “Hedoroba” follows the life of various misfits living in a complex, as they struggle against a family that rules over the complex through illegal drug trade, a spiritual cult, and murder.
Hedoroba is screening at the 19th Japan Film Fest Hamburg
Ruling over the tenants are two brothers who use intimidation to keep anyone in line that disrupts or questions their control over their daily life. Meanwhile, the tenants who already seem complacent are preyed on by the brothers’ grandmother, who created a spiritual cult that promises eternal life. Conflict arises when one of the residents begins to fight back against the brothers, finding himself bullied into a job where he often ends up having to cover costs. The man cleans up the dead bodies that are piling up. Tensions rise further when the cleaner’s handicapped sister starts up a relationship with one of the brothers, all leading up to a bloody and bizarre battle that shakes up the lives of the occupants.
“Hedoroba” mashes together various genres and does a good job of transitioning between horror, action, comedy, and exploitation. The successful mash of genres, accompanied by a fast pace provides a lot of enjoyment. To add intrigue to the production, the complex itself feels somewhat otherworldly, existing on the fringes of society, comprised of lots of souls, mindless worshippers, and deviants. Unfortunately, within the successful world building and strange characters lies the film’s greatest fault. With so much going on in such a short running time, there is not really a main protagonist, and specifically a likable one. Everyone has despicable traits that make it hard to cheer for or care for their outcome. The film starts to drag as a result and if it wasn’t for the reveal of the “birth” we were waiting for and the breakdown into the absolute chaos that comes with that, the film would be more an exercise in frustration. In regards to the ending, it really must be seen in all its chaotic glory, and avoiding spoilers is highly recommended.
Although there is a lot of success in creating intriguing characters, and some of the actors bring a certain charm to their role, this all seems more of an accomplishment of working with a good script than having anyone stand out. Visually, the film does a pretty decent job; although the budget is apparent, Kobayashi does his best to hide that, in particular with the use of great practical effects. A shining example of this is the scenes meant to gross out the audience that utilize creative and effective prosthetics and props. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself disturbed by the effects on a level that even higher budget productions can’t always manage.
Fast-paced, frantic and very chaotic. I really enjoyed my time with “Hedoroba”. Ultimately, the lack of a defined protagonist, a sympathetic character and slightly disjointed storytelling limits the production, making it a film that will be fun on first-time watch but probably won’t resonate to heavy with fans of any of the genre’s it utilizes.