Tetsuo [1988]

Shinya Tsukamoto draws on the marriage of flesh and technology that inspires so much of David Cronenberg's work and then twists it into a manga-influenced cyberpunk vision. A man (Tomoroh Taguchi) awakens from a nightmare in which his body is helplessly fusing with the metal objects around him, only to find it happening to him in real life... or is it? Haunted by memories of a hit and run (eerily prophetic of Cronenberg's Crash), the man knows this ordeal could be a dream, a fantastic form of divine retribution, or perhaps technological mutation born of guilt and rage. Shot in bracing black and white on a small budget, Tsukamoto puts a demented conceptual twist on good old-fashioned stop-motion effects and simple wire work, giving his film the surreal quality of a waking dream with a psychosexual edge (resulting in the film's most disturbing scene). The story ultimately takes on an abstract quality enhanced by the grungy look and increasingly wild images as they take to the streets in a mad chase of technological speed demons. This first entry in his self-titled "Regular Sized Monster Series" is followed by a full-color sequel, Tetsuo II: The Body Hammer, which trades the muddy experimental atmosphere for a big-budget sheen but can't top the cybershock to the system this movie packs. --Sean Axmaker

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