Kuso is the debut feature from writer/director Flying Lotus, and like Julia Ducournau’s 2016 debut Raw, it has been hyped up with overblown stories (that FlyLo himself has contested) of walkouts and vomiting. The film follows a scattered handful of plague-ridden Los Angelenos as they pick through their shit-smeared, cum-stained daily lives after an apocalyptic earthquake.
Accordingly, its episodic structure is closer to the rat-a-tat gross-out of an ABCs of Death movie than the sustained debasement of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1975 Salò or its many children—each thread of the film even gets its own credits sequence. It feels like a rough-hewn anthology film, framed loosely by two virtuoso spoken-word pieces by rapper Busdriver, cut with mixed-media collage interstitials and peppered with cameos from actors, animators, musicians, and more.
FlyLo came up doing Adult Swim bumper music while working on his first record, and Adult Swim’s enervating body humor (like body horror, but for stoned teenagers) is all over Kuso. How much you will enjoy the parade of juicy farts, wet piles of shit, gloopy cum, chunky vomit and aborted fetuses is directly dependent on your tolerance for 3AM munchies television. Mine is particularly low.
That said: Kuso gets stronger as it moves into its second half, though it never feels like anything but a king-size Rubber Johnny-esque curio. Two stories in particular, one about a man being treated for a fear of breasts and one about a woman living with two TV-faced alien roommates who look like Yo Gabba Gabba! burnouts, are genuinely funny—one extended, moronic rape joke aside. But another, darker thread about a woman living underground who has to travel into “the hole” to find her child squanders its eerie, assaultive atmosphere on poop gags. The less said about the story that is fully 100% poop gags the better.
The most interesting stuff here is when FlyLo’s collaborators, many of them in the orbit of his label Brainfeeder, come to the fore: the unmistakable synth work of Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka and the glitch-art animations of Jimmy ScreamerClauz and possibly the Cool 3D World duo (although they’re uncredited, if so, but a sequence toward the end looks exactly like their work) in particular give the film a sharp curatorial edge. You won’t find an established director giving screen time to these artists, however uneven the result.
You also won’t find Kuso in a theater near you (NYC/LA folks excepted of course), because no one except horror streaming service Shudder would touch it. The ideal Kuso experience is probably a torrent your friend found somewhere and swears you have to watch, but streaming at home is a close second. It’s probably a tautology to say that the patchwork surrealism of Kuso doesn’t hang together as a coherent experience, and there’s really nothing about it you can’t get in under ten minutes from FlyLo and Eddie Alcazar’s 2015 collab FUCKKKYOUUU. Still, anyone curious enough to throw it on is likely to dig it here and there.
Director: Flying Lotus
Writer: David Firth, Flying Lotus
Starring: Hannibal Buress, George Clinton, David Firth
Release Date: July 21, 2017