Movie Review – Kuso

Kuso (2017)
Written by Flying Lotus, David Firth, & Zack Fox
Directed by Flying Lotus


An earthquake has struck Los Angeles somehow leading to the mutation of the inhabitants of the city. Through four segmented short films, we explore the absurd, body horror that is created as a result. Gallons of excrement and seminal fluids are splattered across the screen in a very singular work that screams with the intent of unsettling its audience.

Kuso is actually four short films by the rapper Flying Lotus that have been chopped up to create a wandering narrative that centers around diseased and rotting people. Flying Lotus is joined by David Firth, the creator of the viral hit Salad Fingers. The work as a whole feels very much in the vein of Firth’s grotesque output. The best way to look at this film is by examining each of the four shorts.

In Royal, we’re introduced to a couple, Missy and Kenneth who engage in some intense S&M. Missy uses a belt to choke out Kenneth as he masturbates. He attempts to return the favor but she clutches at her neck and tells Kenneth she’d instead focus on him. Apparently, something is up with neck, right? The aftermath of their first encounter is just a glimpse of what this film will do with fake body fluids, and this short culminates in such an absurdly disgusting resolution you cannot help but erupt in nervous laughter.

Mr. Quiggle
Probably the most star-studded of the shorts, this film features appearances by Hannibal Buress, Tim Heidecker, and George Clinton. The focus of the short is on The Buttress, real-life rapper Bethany Schmitt out of Chicago. She is apparently the slave/roommate of two Banishers, cartoonish fuzzy interdimensional beings who killed her parents. The Buttress finds out she is pregnant as a result of rape from her downstairs neighbor who can crawl up through her toilet, actually covered in her own shit. She goes to a clinic for an abortion where she has a brief encounter with Manuel. The film follows Manuel who has a phobia of women’s breasts and needs the specific therapy offered by Dr. Clinton. This treatment involves…well, an anal sphincter and a cockroach…that’s all I’ll say. The Buttress gets a resolution to her situation that includes a strange Marilyn Manson-eqsue music video. This probably the most overtly “comedic” of the shorts but very much a niche sense of humor.

A Japanese woman lives in a subterranean home loses the doll she believes is her baby. She pursues the lost baby doll only to end up swallowed in a strange stomach/anus of an unseen creature which is portrayed through very vibrant surreal animation.

Charlie is a grown man with microcephaly who attends a one-room schoolhouse located in a rural shack. While he is at school his mother services men as a prostitute and cooks up food possibly made from other people. Charlie’s best friend is a pod growing in the forest that has an anal-like opening (noticing a trend?) which Charlie feeds his excrement to. The friendship blossoms until Charlie makes a big mistake.

There is no argument that this film is entirely obscene and vulgar. But that is its intent, so if you watch it and are nauseated, then it has to be viewed as successful. This is NOT a film meant for a broad audience, but I would be wrong if I said I wasn’t ever entertained by it. The short Smear felt like the best glimpse of the filmmaking talent here. It built a strange and exciting world and created a strange atmosphere. Flying Lotus is not coming out of nowhere with his particular brand of art. His contemporaries would be the likes of Tyler the Creator, Tim & Eric, and Eric Andre. But going back even further Kuso sits alongside Cronenberg and Jodorowsky. I was reminded a lot of the 1980 Oingo Boingo film The Forbidden Zone while watching this as well. If those types of media are obnoxious to you or you don’t feel compelled to view, then Kuso would likely not be your cup of tea. If you have a strong stomach, then Kuso works as a very bold and loud introduction to a distinct artistic viewpoint.

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