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Lust in Hell (2009) is a misleading title. While Hell appears in the movie, and there’s plenty of lust, the lust never actually occurs in Hell. In fact, nothing really takes place in Hell. It kind of pops in and out over the course of the movie, but never really takes center stage.

Honestly, such a titillating title is almost a guarantee of disappointment, and Lust in Hell is a disappointment.

The film opens with Koto, a young woman, escaping from a psychiatric facility to visit the place where her parents died in a car accident a year earlier. While there she sees Shinji, whose girlfriend was killed in the same accident, getting ready to off himself by jumping into traffic. She persuades him to give up his suicide plan by telling him he won’t go to Heaven because it doesn’t exist; all that awaits those who die is Hell. This dire warning is said in a cute, squeaky voice befitting a talking guinea pig.

Shinji logically decides to take this charming person home with him. They almost do it, but Shinji decides he’s not ready yet. Later that night, they both see the apparition of his dead girlfriend. It turns out that after the accident Koto gained the power to see rifts in this world that open into Hell, and her presence attracts the ghosts of those trapped there.

Shinji’s friend/colleague calls him to come to a meeting with his boss. It turns out that Shinji and his boss are ex-cops, and now they kill people for a reason. Shinji’s had a year off because you know, dead girlfriend, but now the boss wants him back on shift. Shinji is reluctant, so the boss invites him over for dinner that night to talk it over. But as we see, he has no intention of letting Shinji live; an ex-assassin is a big liability. The boss’ wife/girlfriend/fuck buddy doesn’t want to help him kill Shinji, but somehow a thorough (like, seriously, ten minute) bang on the counter in the kitchen- where FOOD is fucking being prepared, ew- changes her mind.

But what they don’t know is that Koto is still hanging around Shinji, and invites herself to dinner. The wife/girlfriend/fuck buddy helpfully keeps her distracted by seducing her while the boss prepares to off Shinji. Unfortunately for them, Shinji isn’t their first victim, and Koto’s ability to attract ghosts brings an unwelcome visitor, saving Shinji’s ass. And Koto has an even weirder talent, as revealed by her psychiatrist when he finally tracks her down- she can bring the residents of Hell back over to this world, though they look pretty different from when they went over…and when things with the boss get even worse, it’s Koto’s weird abilities that save them.

Lust in Hell is obviously low-budget, which actually works for the story. Everything looks pretty ordinary, and the actors even look pretty normal too (Shinji’s actor even has a creepy resemblance to my husband’s cousin. If he was Japanese. He’s not.). The glimpses of Hell are computer-generated rifts that resemble chrysanthemums and are surprisingly attractive, considering its Hell. The story itself, about Koto’s newfound association with the dead, is pretty interesting. Unfortunately the story fizzles out in favor of long, relatively graphic sex scenes that have no point and a lackluster story. The attempt to keep Koto’s dead-person-recalling power from being a deus ex machina fails since it’s not discovered; rather the psychiatrist marches in with a bunch of exposition right before the final fight.

None of the characters are particularly interesting; there’s not enough background given on Shinji’s life as an assassin to make us care that he’s quitting, and we know absolutely nothing about Koto’s life before the accident. Both are annoying in different ways. More importantly, during the drawn-out sex scenes both women (Koto and the wife/whatever) make the same high-pitched, breathless hamster gasps. I mean, really? Both of you?

The background music is good and subtle enough that I didn’t really notice it. As for the acting, it’s difficult for me as a non-Japanese speaker to properly judge acting in that language, but it seemed passable enough.

Lust in Hell might have been interesting, had they concentrated more on the Hell and less on the lust, or gone full-Grand Guignol and made the sex and violence truly extreme and shocking. But they never go either way, and the resulting middle-of-the-road movie is not memorable either way.

There’s always Lust in Hell 2, I suppose, but I won’t be watching it anytime soon.

On another note, keep an eye out on Halloween- I’ll be reviewing thirteen horror movies on October 31st.