The Movie Waffler Film Maudit 2.0 2023 Review - HOLY MOTHER | The Movie Waffler

Film Maudit 2.0 2023 Review - HOLY MOTHER

Holy Mother review
A transgender angel teams up with the Yakuza to battle occult property developers.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Yoshihiro Nishimura

Starring: Eihi Shiina, Anna Nagasaki, Miyuki Torii, Yudai Uenishi

Even if you don't recognise (auteur of Holy Mother) Yoshihiro Nishimura's name, then you’ll be familiar with his work. Mutant Girls Squad, Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl, etc: those headache inducing live action cartoons of candy colours, sexualised young women and extreme gore which your mate who likes anime is into. Tokyo Gore Police is the epitome of Nishimura's stuff, a film where the bloody imagery is so arrestingly hyperbolic that I used to knock it on as a silent background to parties at my flat. The cyberpunk visuals of amputee kung-fu, robots that bleed and penile canons would really set the tone for the evening!

Holy Mother review

Nishimura is certainly prolific, this is his third feature in five years, along with a few TV directorial jobs, too (at least I think so, as imdb doesn't list Holy Mother at the time of writing - they can’t keep up with him!). A quick scan of premises and a dip into trailers suggests that Nishimura has got a formula, and he's sticking to it. If it ain't broke (off the body and spraying geysers of bright red fluid), eh? This latest entry into the canon showcases the usual tropes - cute girls and silly thugs, some of whom are half machine/squidgy animal, tearing each other apart over a long hour and a half. The run here is that the main character is a transexual angel who fights alongside the local Yakuza against nasty property developers with occult powers. Trans actor Anna Nagasaki plays the avenger, a hot superhero who strides through the film like the protagonist of a video game, brutally dispatching adversaries in a mechanical manner which soon becomes repetitive, and certainly lacks the joyous ingenuity of Tokyo Gore Police.

Holy Mother review

As a cisgender man I realise I'm not the best person to pass judgement upon the film's delineation of transgenderism, and that any ensuing commentary comes from a limited perspective. However, a trans representation is central to Holy Mother, so here goes... The potential problem with Holy Mother is that it is a film which is proudly predicated upon exploitation, with the danger that Nagasaki's character could be glibly contextualised within the general "bizarre" that is Nishimura's stock in trade, equating Nagasaki with the other exotic novelties populating the screen. Obviously, sensitivity and insight aren't ever going to be factors in this sort of film, but nonetheless I found the representation of Maria to be resoundingly positive. There is an early scene where she strips naked in a public bath and the old geezers within comedically freak out at her multi-faceted body, the only moment in the narrative where her gender is a "plot point" and crucially the joke isn't on "her." Otherwise, characters, even the baddies, just accept the situation.

The portrayal is certainly in better taste than the scene where a mutated woman whose lower half is composed of a furry clam-like extended mouth with sharp teeth slides up to a female victim and scissors her to bloody death. The sequence is filmed in a salacious manner - from a preceding low angle upskirt shot to the so-called victim's moans of supposed agony sounding quite the opposite as she grinds her crotch rhythmically against the shonky prosthetic. The vagina détente motif is consolidated when a couple of blokes stab the fanny monster right between the lips, causing abject blood to shoot right up in their faces. Gross, etc, yeah? The implicit misogyny of this sequence, and its playing into the naïve menstrual fears of the adolescent boys/manchilds who are Holy Mother's rightful audience, reveals where the film's juvenile heart is really at.

Holy Mother review

"Will this do?," you imagine Nishimura saying as he blocks another arterial spray scene, has another bijin de-limb a gormless lug. For his loyal audience, and within his cheap as chahan budget, Holy Mother probably will suffice. Nonetheless, alongside the crowd-pleasing practical monstrosities, there is also a preponderance of digital effects which look dispiritingly like something a Commodore 64 crapped out. The plot (i.e. excuse for the action) runs its course about half-way through and in its third act Holy Mother baldly descends into "lol-random" territory; the film doesn’t so much end as just give up when it finally manages to reach feature length. You'll probably not make it that far.

Holy Mother played at Film Maudit 2.0 2023.

2023 movie reviews