Last week (July 21), producer Flying Lotus finally unleashed Kuso, an independent film the West Coast artist has been working on since mid-2011. In the months leading up to its release, all we were told of the film was that it was really gross. So gross, in fact, that people walked out of the film’s showing at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. So gross that FlyLo himself passed out barf bags at the premiere of the short film Royal, which would eventually become one of the three vignettes in Kuso.
With the movie now out on horror streaming service Shudder, I decided to take advantage of my recent move to Oregon (where recreational marijuana use is legal) by getting high and seeing just how gross Kuso really was. Were the barf bags just a silly gimmick, or was I really at risk of re-gifting the contents of my stomach to the nearest trash can?
Let me first admit that I have a pretty high threshold for fucked-up things. By 16, I had experienced many of the visual atrocities the early internet produced (never, ever Google "tubgirl"), had written my own versions of the infamous Aristocrats joke and was repeat-reading Naked Lunch, so it's safe to say my sensibilities were stone-cold.
Over the years, however, I've found myself more and more susceptible to shudder-inducing content. At 28, I found myself cringing while watching The Void on Netflix, and I had a feeling Kuso would surpass that in every conceivable way as far as grotesque weirdness is concerned.
With my brain freshly warped by a pre-rolled doobie of a strain called Dr. Who, I signed up for a free trial to Shudder, quickly found Kuso and hit play. The title scene of the movie is literally just maggots crawling everywhere so, yeah, here goes nothing...
Within the first six minutes, everyone had puss-filled sores on their faces and there's an incestuous autoerotic asphyxiation scene complete with the sharing of bodily fluids. Very quickly, I learned why Flying Lotus passed out barf bags at the flick's premiere, and just as rapidly, I lost my resolve to sit through the rest of the film having just eaten breakfast. As the movie progressed, the grotesque stimuli continued to surge towards my eyeballs in waves of gag-inducing hysteria, each attempting to top the last.
After about 15 minutes of visual nonsequiturs, I had to pause Kuso and attempt to wrap my mind around what the fuck this movie was actually about. There is a (loose) plot to Kuso, which depicts the diseased, mutated fallout of a hellish earthquake that reduces Los Angeles to post-apocalyptic rubble. Feeling slightly more equipped to handle what at first seemed like a collection of meaningless filth, I dove back into Kuso thinking things couldn’t get much grosser.
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I was mistaken.
Seeing a furry alien voiced by Hannibal Burress fling shit at his mutated roommate while watching an erect penis being stabbed repeatedly on a television is pretty much a microcosm of what it’s like to watch this movie. And if that seems like the most far-fetched metaphor you’ve ever read, just know that it’s actually a real thing that happens in Kuso.
Flying Lotus has said in interviews that with Kuso, he tried to flip the idea of everyone trying to be clean and presentable. He wanted to show humans trying to be as vile and repulsive as possible, and I’ll be damned if he didn’t hit the nail on the head (penis torture pun intended).
After pressing through the rest of the film, I felt as though I had missed some grand symbolism in between the shit-smears and talking boils. You don’t get George Clinton to act as a doctor with an alien named Mr. Quiggles living inside his rectum without some sort of deeper meaning, right? Actually, maybe you do... but still.
I was left thinking that if there was some symbolic value to Kuso, it was going to take a repeat watch to discover it, and I’m going to need a minute (and a lot more weed) to dive back into that cesspool again.
Kuso, for better or worse, has forever changed the way I will look at Flying Lotus. The fact that his original production fits so well with Kuso’s visual depravity is certainly going to change the way I hear albums like You’re Dead! and Cosmogramma.
By the end of Kuso, I felt like I had managed my way through the most horrific haunted house imaginable. I was a little worse for wear, but I emerged with hardened sensibilities and a newfound appreciation for showers and toilet paper.
Did I vomit? No.
Did I want to a couple times? Totally.
Should you watch Kuso? If you read this article and that’s still a question on your mind, go for it.