KUSO is an incredible, metaphysical splatter and body horror movie by Steven Ellison aka Flying Lotus.
Steven Ellison has been a long time admirer of Japanese extreme directors Takashi Miike, Shinya Tsukamoto and Takeshi Kitano, as well as lots of anime such as Cowboy Bepop, Evangelion, Dragon Ball, that he openly mentions in his interviews. But instead of mentioning Tokyo Gore Police of Meatball Machine Kodoku one should go see it without any list of references or any direct references.
Probably one of the most over the top, original, gory, splattery significant movies of the early 21st century. It abounds in the resplendent hideous and the manically scatological, lavishes in all things festering, pustulant, always brimming on the ecstatic, experimental and transformative also due to its music video affiliations. There were mass walkouts at its release at Sundance festival. It has been all too easy to hail it as the ‘grossest movie ever made’. It is definitely a superb example of WEIRD AESTHETICS and slime dynamics nowadays and it is relentless. It definitely does not settle into the old sublime/beautiful binome, but ventures into the territory of new aesthetic categories such as the icky or the ‘zany’ explored by Sianne Ngai in her seminal text (Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting 2015). This is also an afro-body horror that makes clear what are the stakes here – full hybridization, exploding all the codes of racial science and white fear, those panic buttons of asepsis and so-called ‘miscegenation’ that did seek to actively separate, contain, incarcerate and experiment upon non-white bodies.
It also makes clear there can allow for incredible pockets of abstractness even in the midst of all things squishy, oozing, overwhelming thingness, overripe wetware imagery. There are dozens of scenes that are filled with incredible tenderness, nonhuman, and inhuman eroticism, beauty and exuberance for the unruliness of matter and information, the normality and mundanity of the strange and at the same time does not cease to take one by surprise, to be completely unpredictable. A relentless channel surfing seems to transect the whole movie and tap into the virality of pay-per-view ads, broadcasting enormities and deformities, diving into an attention ecology modulated by the appetite for mindless violence and remorseless voyeurism.
An increasing portion of current media abounds in the biohazardous, the panic-stricken, horrifying, the untouchable, impure, the dirty, repulsive or what was even considered previously as evolutionary blasphemic and maladaptive – here cherished in its most unruly and in your face forms. It also draws on avant-garde Berlin Dada photomontage artists such as Hannah Höch(see her Knife Dada through the Beer-Belly of the Weimar Republic 1919 for example) seeking to upend and agglutinate existing dichotomies and gender roles.
There is no way one can summarize this movie and this is its best proof of not bowing to matters of taste, plotline narrative rule or formal rigeur. There are incredible collage animations as well as tableaux vivants – real outer world (exo biological?) ecosystems, mutant dioramas and curious and explorative human -non human relationships. Meanwhile, all the body fluids run their course.
On TV or in a bedroom reality welcomes the bubonic, the chronic carrier state of patient zero becomes the rule. There is no quarantine for the realness of constant touch, smear, sporulation. The epidemic is somehow a state of matter, it is as it is, nothing can hide it, disinfect it or banish it to the pathological. There is always a sort of teratogenesis as world-building going on. There are interdimensional furries stoners on a couch, there are alien jungles with anal flesh flowers and sentient sphincters.
Openings are important in KUSO and lead to revisiting what we have considered a final story – the evo-devo metanarrative of why we bipedal vertebrates are here, why we have an up and down or a clear separation btw the excretory and all the plurivocal portals of bodies that have multiple backs and unknown forwards, not just an up mouth and a down mouth.
Cast: Iesha Coston, Oumi Zumi, Zack Fox, The Buttress (Bethany Schmitt), Tim Heidecker, Hannibal Buress, Regan Farquhar, Shane Carpenter, David Firth
Here’s what IMDB has: “Events unfold after a devastating earthquake in Los Angeles.” Events indeed. The movie is broken up into three segments. The biggest segment, “Mr. Quiggle,” is the story of couple Kenneth and Missy, who have their active love life interrupted by Missy’s secret shame. Also, Manuel is scared of breasts, so he enlists the help of Dr. Clinton (George Clinton); his treatment involves singing into Dr. Clinton’s butthole and…I won’t spoil it for you. Further also, The Buttress and her alien buddies deal with her situation of being impregnated by a crazy stalker guy.