Film Review: Kuso | Consequence of Sound

The following review was originally published as part of our coverage of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

Before the premiere screening of Kuso, a Sundance representative advised the audience that “the film you’re seeing tonight will melt your fucking brains. There will be no survivors.” It’s as reasonable a way as any into Steven Ellison’s debut feature; the man best known as Flying Lotus has created something that demands attention, whatever you might make of it. Kuso is a hallucinatory, scatological, grotesque, and occasionally hysterical work of utter mania, the kind of wild cinema that cuts through the noise of all safer, more marketable filmmaking. It will more than likely repel as many viewers as it attracts, if not far more of them, but those willing to let Ellison walk them through his 93-minute nightmare will find something challenging, revolting, and endlessly watchable. It’s a horrorshow from which it’s impossible to look away.

Though standard narrative analysis hardly applies here, Kuso loosely frames its four interwoven vignettes through the prism of a post-apocalyptic California, after an earthquake has eradicated the majority of humanity and those who remain are scarred and covered in hideous boils, shells of humanity wandering through a TV-addled wasteland. The parade of repulsion kicks off with a frenetic bit of slam poetry about the end of the world, and then moves on to one hideous sequence after the next. A pygmy eats maggot-infested soup, and finds a vaginal orifice in the woods on which he smears his feces, ostensibly in order to help it evolve. A woman gnaws on concrete in hopes of devouring her baby for survival, before being dragged into a void populated by a wormlike beast. A would-be rapper gets high on her couch with a pair of fur-covered aliens, one of which is voiced by Hannibal Burress, before discovering that she’s pregnant with Tim Heidecker’s child; he climbs out of the toilet as she’s taking a pregnancy…

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