• Zoom In: Sex Apartments

    Released by: Impulse Pictures
    Released on: July 10, 2012.
    Director: Naosuke Kurosawa
    Cast: Youko Azusa, Erina Miyai
    Year: 1980
    Purchase From TLA Video

    The Movie:

    In director Naosuke Kurosawa’s 1980 debut feature (better known as Zoom In: Rape Apartments), Erina Miyai plays a woman named Saeko who is married to a cyclist who never seems to come in first in any of the races he competes in. After she relents and lets him bone her before his next big race (for good luck, he tells her!) he takes off and she rides her bike through an empty lot where she’s knocked off her ride and then raped by a man sporting some black leather gloves and wielding what at first appears to be an ice pick.

    After the encounter, she heads to the apartment of her former lover, a piano tuner who gave her a key to his place some time ago that she has only just now decided to use. They get it on almost immediately, and we soon learn that Saeko is turned on by submission. As the story plays out, it turns out that the rapist is very active in the area and that he gets off on dousing his victims’ genitals in gasoline and lighting them on fire. After a few bodies turn up, a disturbed woman witnesses him in action and decides to blackmail him into making her one of his victims, while Saeko tries to come to terms with her infidelity and with the true identity of the rapist.

    The promo materials for this release have drawn some comparisons to the giallo films of Dario Argento, and rightly so. If Argento had made a sex film with a few murder set pieces in it in Japan in 1980, it probably would have turned out quite a bit like this. We get someone with a musical affiliation in a lead role, and odd focus on architecture, a few red herrings of varying degrees of effectiveness and some slick, stylish camerawork that emphasizes the murders just as well as it does the sex.

    Not surprisingly, the film has a fairly rampant misogynist streak running through it that’s hard to defend if you’re one to take things like this more seriously than you probably should, but ultimately Naosuke Kurosawa proves, even at this early point in his career, that he has a knack for mixing sex and violence in interesting ways. The director’s choice of shooting the inner city environment as it is under construction gives certain scenes an eerie sense of isolation, the best example being the first rape sequence that takes place in this strange abandoned lot between two large apartment complexes. We also get some interesting contrast between the killer’s efficiency and dark appearance and the unusual warm glow of the fire he uses to ultimately get rid of his victims.

    All of this insanity is set to an effective and memorable soundtrack that’s heavy on bass and which somehow manages to propel this sixty-eight minute buffet of exploitation goodness at an even faster pace than you might expect. The movie throws in a few interesting plot twists and definitely shows off those great production values that a lot of Nikkatsu’s sex films of this period were known for. The performances are strong with all involved quite committed and believable here, showing no fear be it in a sex scene, a murder scene or one of the film’s infrequent more dramatic moments – and on top of that it’s got a pretty great lesbian scene in it too, not to mention a completely messed up bit with our pyro happy rapist and an unfortunate pregnant woman! There’s definitely something for everyone here and this is absolutely a worthy addition to Impulse’s line of Nikkatsu titles.


    Zoom In: Sex Apartments looks very good in this 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Colors are handled well and look quite natural as do skin tones. Black levels aren’t quite inky deep but they’re strong and detail is pretty good across the board. There are no issues with print damage to complain about and overall this is a clean, sharp, good looking transfer of some nice source material.

    The Japanese language Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track is crisp and clean. The levels are well balanced and there are no issues with hiss or distortion. The score sounds nice and the grunting and groaning that occurs throughout the movie is mixed in nicely alongside the actual dialogue and effects. This mix isn’t fancy but it sounds fine and it gets the job done without any problems. The optional English subtitles that are provided are free of any typos and easy to read.

    Extras on the disc are limited to a menu, chapter selection and the film’s excellent and completely quotable theatrical trailer. Inside the case is an insert containing original poster art for the feature and liner notes from film scholar/author Jasper Sharp that provide some details on Kurosawa’s career, the artistic merit of the film, comparisons to Dario Argento’s work and how this film fits in with the Zoom Up series. The notes also point out the presence of some vintage Hammer posters in the background of one key scene, indicating that the horror movie references may have been more than just a coincidence on the part of the director.

    The Final Word:

    Definitely an entertaining and bizarre blend of sex and horror, Zoom In: Sex Apartments is stylish, sexy, sleazy and nasty enough that it should be considered a pretty essential addition to anyone with an interest in the darker side of Japanese sexploitation films. Absolutely recommended.