Taking the term “torture porn” more literally than usual, director Adam Rehmeier’s brutal, repellent The Bunny Game stars Rodleen Getsic (who also “co-wrote” the film with Rehmeier) as a street hooker who gets shackled, stripped, and beaten by weathered trucker Jeff Renfro. And that’s pretty much the entire movie. Renfro takes Getsic to the desert, shaves her head, gags her, scars her, and jerks her around on a chain. The only thing like a twist in The Bunny Game comes nearly an hour into the 75-minute film, when Getsic regains consciousness and discovers that Renfro has encased her head in a tight, white leather rabbit mask, while he wears a similar “hog” mask. But even that development only adds a little visual variety, before Rehmeier gets back to the grind of assault and dissonance.
The Bunny Game is far from artless, or pointless. Shot in stark black and white—with extreme angles, intense close-ups, and jumpy editing—it means to have the quality of a nightmare, and at that it succeeds. The relentless, atonal electronic score makes the soundtrack thrum, matching Getsic’s near-constant screams and Renfro’s frequent high-pitched yelps. From the start, The Bunny Game pushes hard, practically demanding that its audience flee. Meanwhile, Rehmeier connects Renfro’s punishment of Getsic to her pre-abduction life of prostitution, when her regular customers also frequently treated her like a slab of meat.
But while The Bunny Game is unforgettable in its way, it also reveals the limitation of the “How hardcore can you get?” aesthetic. Undoubtedly, Rehmeier and Getsic were serious about giving the audience a no-punches-pulled experience, and about exploring degrees of human degradation, the way that some performance artists have over the years. (On the DVD/Blu-ray commentary track, Rehmeier and Getsic say that every burn, cut, and punch literally happened.) But the trick to a movie like this is to provide a hook and to vary the tone, to give people a reason to stick around besides pride in endurance. And after its first 20 minutes, The Bunny Game has done just about all it’s going to do—no matter how much Rehmeier varies the compositions.
Key features: That self-congratulatory Rehmeier/Getsic commentary track, plus a featurette that also boasts about how much of the torture was real.