Blu-ray Review: THE BUNNY GAME (Autonomy Pictures)

Charlie Hobbs, Contributing Writer
In the last 2 years, I've reviewed somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 films and home video releases for Twitch. The majority of these reviews are relatively easy to write. However, I also take some interest in writing the more challenging pieces about films which aren't so easy to categorize as simply good or bad. These films often broach the boundaries of good taste and common decency, but still manage to create something worthwhile to the right audience. I don't claim to be the audience for every film, but I like to think that I can be dispassionate about films which may succeed on their own terms, but which do not necessarily inspire a positive reaction from my own gut. Adam Rehmeier's The Bunny Game is one of these films.

With all of the hubbub around the BBFC's outright ban on The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence in late 2010, many outlets missed the subsequent refusal of that body to certify The Bunny Game for release in the UK. The Bunny Game's lack of certificate in the UK means that it cannot be sold in shops nor screened in theaters without jumping through all manner of hoops to circumvent the censorship board. The reason given by the BBFC's David Cooke is,
"It is the Board's carefully considered view that to issue a certificate to this work, even if confined to adults, would be inconsistent with the Board's Guidelines, would risk potential harm within the terms of the Video Recordings Act, and would accordingly be unacceptable to the public."
Thus was created the latest Video Nasty. A film banned in the UK for being a risk to cause potential harm to viewers. It's an ingenious marketing tactic for scaring up the dollars of desperate horror fans, unfortunately, it doesn't benefit the poor UK distributor who attempted to get the film on store shelves.

The story of The Bunny Game is simple. A street walker, played by co-writer/performance artist Rodleen Getsic, gets picked up by a psychotic trucker who revels in sexual and sadistic torture. He renders the prostitute unconscious, chains her in the back of his big rig, and goes to town in increasingly unpleasant and morally repellant behavior, including physical and psychological violence. The characters are never fleshed out, we don't get back stories, we don't get motivations, we only get violence and despair, but that's what the film is about, so can it be judged as being without a conscience if none was intended?

The purpose of The Bunny Game, according to its authors, was to be a cautionary tale. Getsic and Rehmeier share a common fascination with the violent and the macabre, the story of the film is roughly based on experiences that Getsic has had. She mentions in the supplementary material for the film that she's been abducted "more than a couple of times", and that this film is an amalgamation of the worst of those experiences extrapolated to their most horrifying conclusions. The torture and violence in the film is real in that Getsic is physically assaulted frequently and she repeatedly mentions that she was either unconscious or virtually feral through most of the shooting, having fasted for a month in advance of the film's production.

Her performance is awesomely unhinged. An extremely tight shooting schedule led to very little time for her to come out of her character between shooting days, and that's exactly how she wanted it. Rehmeier and Getsic mention frequently that everything in the film, save for the drugs and alcohol, are real. The physical violence, emotional torture, humiliation, and mania on screen appears legitimate enough to make my stomach turn, though there are enough clues that the film is an ultra low-budget feature that one can separate oneself from the experience if one were to choose to do so.

Equally hard to watch the the man inflicting the violence is Jeff Renfroe, a teamster in Hollywood who makes his living driving big rigs full of movie gear to set and back. Renfroe obviously has a dark side, as he slips into the role of "Hog" quite easily, and judging him by his appearance in the supplemental features, he doesn't appear to be too far from the character, himself. Hog is given very little dialogue, however, he does wordless menace with the best of them. He's far from silent, he screeches, howls, and laughs with the best of them, keeping the Bunny off balance and in abject fear throughout the film.

The film itself is technically very simple. The entire film was crewed by Rehmeier alone. He shot, did sound, and directed, though from the sound of it, the actors more or less directed themselves. The opening half hour follows the prostitute as she encounters one horrible John after another, including Fishbone's Norwood Fisher as a man who more or less fucks her into submission and then proceeds to steal her cash when she passes out. Getsic and Rehmeier mention on several occasions during the commentary that the film could only have been made this way. Attempting to gather a crew for a shoot like this would have turned it into something else, something less intimate and frightening on a micro scale, and instead made it into a film, rather than an assault on the viewer's synapses.

Every second of the film is designed to unsettle the viewer. Whether it is the footage of Getsic strolling down the street with extreme heavy metal blasting over the soundtrack loud enough to jangle the audience's nerves, or the constant crying, begging, pleading, an screaming of the second half of the film, you are never safe with The Bunny Game. While it may be somewhat technically rudimentary, Rehmeier definitely had a goal in mind, and whether you like the film or you hate it and everything it stands for, I can't help but think that he has succeeded.

There are obvious comparisons that can be made, though most of them are only skin deep. The one that most frequently came to mind for me was Pascal Laugier's Martyrs. While The Bunny Game lacks the subtext of Martyrs, much of the visceral violence is very similar, as is the characterization by Rodleen Getsic of her Bunny character. However, as brutal as Martyrs is, and as much of an experience of endurance, it definitely seeks much deeper connection with the audience than does The Bunny Game. Though, again, I think that The Bunny Game is exactly what its creators intended, for better or for worse. Attempting to saddle a film like this with a simple adjective like "good" or "bad" is terribly reductive and wipes out the significance of the experience. Sure, a lot of people will loathe this film, and a lot of those people are men and women I respect. Hell, I might even loathe the film, but I cannot simply dismiss it, as I fear will be the tendency toward its extremity. Watch at your own peril, but don't say I didn't warn you.

The Disc:

The Bunny Game's debut on Blu-ray from fledgling Autonomy Pictures is as good as one could expect for such a no budget feature. The film's stark black and white digital photography looks fine, and the audio is effectively punishing. I have to say, I was more captivated by what was happening on screen than the technical aspects of the film, so you'll have to forgive the lack of details this time around. The film was shot digitally and looks as good as it is supposed to.

One thing I found very enlightening was the set of extras on this disc. The audio commentary runs the gamut from Getsic and Rehmeier licking each other's assholes talking about how wonderful the film they made is, to boring technical jargon, though it is mostly the former. You can tell that this is definitely a passion project, but the commentary was even a bit over the top on the hyperbole for me, and I was kind of on their side. Then there is the terribly titled "Caretaking the Monster" featurette which doesn't feature any behind the scenes footage (one man crew, remember?), but does interview all of the principles about the process of creating the story and making the film and convinces me even further that Adam Rehmeier and Rodleen Getsic are the kind of megalomaniacal egotists that could only have made a film like The Bunny Game. Quite enlightening. The extras round out with some stills and a couple of trailers. Strangely, the pop-up menu on the Blu-ray appears to be a not very well adapted copy of the DVD's menu, which is irritating to no end, not to mention ineffective. That's really my only technical complaint, though.

I can't recommend The Bunny Game, I can only warn. This isn't warm and fuzzy, it isn't gory and goofy, it is fucking bleak. Take that however you choose.
Special Features:
- Audio commentary with director Adam Rehmeier and star Rodlee Getsic
- "Caretaking the Monster" Making of featurette
- Trailers
- Photo gallery
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