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Donor (Sasaki Misato 1996)



Genre: Sci-Fi Horror (Schlocky Gore)

review in one breath

What a bizarro movie this is!

Young Yuka Yamanishi (Nakayame Shinobu of Gamera fame) has had a difficult life indeed. After the sudden, tragic deaths of both her father and mother, she was raised by her elder sister Eiko who worked as a nurse at a local private hospital. Then Eiko tragically died, leaving Yuka to her own devices for survival. Following in her sister's footsteps, Yuka has trained to become a nurse, and when we catch up with her, she is preparing for her first day on the job at the very same hospital Eiko had worked, the Kamioka Hospital. Never mind her persistent nightmares of being chased down darkened hospital corridors by a surgically garbed assailant into operating rooms adorned with horrific specimens ...

Like many hospitals in Japan, the Kamioka hospital is a private hospital founded and supervised by one or more doctors. In this case, one of the supervising doctors is the hunky Dr Naoki Kamioka, whose marriage the supple nurses bitterly lament. The other supervising doctor is Dr Hakumi Kamioka, a stern, demanding female doctor (apparently a sister of Naoki?) who seems to be in charge of most facets of the hospital.

Observant side note: Dr Hakumi Kamioka (the woman) has the immediately suspicious quality of possessing a heavy lisp, as if her tongue is a bit thick for the space granted it. Of course, there are in Japanese society many non-notorious citizens with lisps. Unfortunately perhaps, very few non-notorious figures appear in films where their character's lisp is being explicitly emphasized. The result is similar to simply having a single lock of the character's hair sticking straight up into the air (eg, Little Rascal's Alfalfa style). The audience takes one look and says "What the?". Now that the film has explicitly established Hakumi as the likely suspect (for who knows what) within the first five minutes of the film, we are ready to head into our narrative adventure.

Yuka's first day on the job consists of learning the ropes of daily nurse duties. After becoming acquainted with Mina, another young nurse who will help her during training, she is introduced to the brooding, heart-throb (but married!) Dr. Naoki Kamioka. When Kamioka catches sight of the new Nurse Yuka, he basically stops dead in his tracks and his mouth drops open. This, of course, can only mean to the audience that there is a very good chance that Yuka and Kamioka hit it off in the ensuing complex plot. And sure enough, barely days pass by before Kamioka is picking Yuka up in his slick Jaguar and treating her to a night out where he solemnly confesses that he doesn't know why he still wears his wedding band since his marriage is deathly stale, how he longingly wants children, and how the "mingling" of DNA in the creation of a child is almost sacred. (very subtle indeed.)

And, in fact, the Kamioka Hospital seems to deal almost exclusively with reproductive services and childbirth. When Dr Naoki Kamioka isn't alone on the roof playing with an empty child swing set (?), he is helping women in various stages of childbirth (but no, not in that stage of conception). But through Yuka's duties as nurse, she soon observes all sort of strange things happening to the women in the clinic.

The majority of this movie's plot consists of the following: (Believe me when I say this is a major part of the plot, since you will have the pleasure of viewing this sequence more than a handful of times.)

Since it is (apparently) customary to shut off ALL the hospital's lights after dark (?), including all hallway lights, little Yuka must do her rounds throughout the halls of the entire darkened hospital armed only with a pitifully weak flashlight. To make matters worse, nearly every night she hears some strange guttural moaning and, of course, (always) follows the noise down some darkened corridor. The noise inevitably leads her to some female in the clinic who has just undergone an unscheduled "surgery" by a guy in blue surgical garb who proceeds to run out of the room and down the hallway. Pursuing the blue garbed guy, Yuka inevitably runs into (the white garbed) Dr Hakumi who then sternly asks Yuka what the hell she is doing in that part of the hospital.

Although Yuka mentions this to Mina and her supervisors, they all view this as an internal matter, possibly endangering the reputation of the private Kamioka Hospital. Then things start the get REALLY weird. For example:

On more than one occasion, Yuka peers through a doorway to see a terrorized woman's bloody spaghetti removed, through (a) a quick incision to the abdomen, (b) the doctor sticking his entire arm in, fishing around for something, and then (c) yanking guts out! (I kid you not!) . This spaghetti, she learns, is the victim's uterus which is then nurtured and floated in a large glass tank. Fortunately for Yuka and the movie's plot, the door to the Floating Uterus Room is left unlocked and open too many times to recount.

THEN she sees the strange guy in charge of burning the hospital corpses and body parts (which, by the way is an apparently high paying job for those willing to confine themselves to the hospital basement) coming at her, dressed in blue surgical garb and wielding a bloody scalpel, saying: "You look pretty, how about showing me your stomach?". Fortunately, Dr Naoki shows up to save her, resulting in one of the most drenching low pressure blood-spray scenes I have ever seen (or likely will ever see). (!!)

THEN she later sees Dr Naoki sobbing on the floor like a baby clinging to Dr Hakumi while she soothes him saying "Good boy. You're a good boy".

THEN, after watching Dr Hakumi rip some more bloody spaghetti out of a young nurse, Yuka looks on in horror as Dr Hakumi's lisping voice drops a full 2 octaves and loses its lisp (!).

THEN, she accidentally interrupts Dr Naoki as he morphes into a 120 year old man with melting flesh and the voice of a (literally) 5 year old boy.

Think you got it figured out yet? I sincerely doubt NOT! (hee hee).

Donor starts out a bit slow with prolonged explorations of nurse culture and their fantasy of marrying single doctors. For this reason, I thought perhaps the intended audience was female. But once the rather graphic spaghetti gore sets in, which basically involves ripping out someone's internal organs by hand, it was quite clear that this was no chick flick. And the real payoff comes at the movie's conclusion, where I had to once again give a thumbs up to the innovation (and DNA-morphed balls) of even low-budget Japanese Z-Horror. The movie literally crescendos in eye-popping plot twists. (heh)

Western radar offers very little on Donor or Director Sasaki Minato, whose only other (western) recognized directed work is Deserted Hospital (1999). In Japan, however, he is recognized for his directorial work in over 20 productions, including two (of the several) Toire no Hanako (both 1997) horror installments, and Shin Gonin (2000).

Version reviewed: Unsubtitled VHS

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
This could possibly be viewed at Sasaki's contemporary critical social commentary on the moral status of several disenfranchised groups: the transgendered, the genetically cloned, and those who lisp. Then again, this could simply be pure, unadulterated exploitation. More than a little shocker gore here. For those who feel most doctors have become overly dependent on computers, you'll be happy to know that these "doctors" rely on their sense of touch: they simply stick their arm (only up to their elbow) into your abdomen and feel around for the right organ (to yank out). I do realize that, technically speaking, a uterus is a sexual organ, but let me be perhaps the first to tell you that a floating uterus in a tank is not "sexy". (no, No, NO) This has so many bizarre DNA-morphing and gender-morphing twists! Who knew? If you seek quasi-scientific, trans-gendered, utero-centric sci-fi horror, this is undoubtedly the roller coaster ride for you. (Or if you simply like Japanese Z-horror, this is indeed a bizarre riot.)

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