Reviewed by James A. Janisse
The Bunny Game is not a film in the conventional sense of the word. When director Adam Rehmeier and actress Radleen Getsic set out to make a horror film in 2008, they didn’t have a crew or a script. All they had was a goal: to make a film that never held back. To that end, they succeeded. Over thirteen days in Hollywood and a nearby desert, Rehmeier formed a one-man crew as he shot Getsic and non-actor Jeff Renfro with the singular condition that “anything goes”. The resulting 76-minute film is so graphic and independent that it’s basically a giant middle finger to the film “establishment”, best articulated by the lengthy unsimulated blowjob that begins the film.
Despite the lewd and violent subject matter, Rehmeier’s gritty black and white cinematography actually attains a kind of beauty. Jittery close-ups are balanced by carefully-composed long shots, creating a nightmarish rollicking pace. Appropriate enough; Getsic’s prostitute character (“Bunny”) is abducted by Renfro as a trucker (“Hog”) who takes her out into the desert and tortures her for 5 days in the back of his truck. His sadistic “games”, most of which involve Bunny stripped of her clothing, make up more than 75% of the film. There has never been a film more deserving of the label “torture porn.”
The Bunny Game might also earn the distinction of being a snuff film. Everything onscreen, aside from the drug use, is entirely real and unscripted. Renfro and Getsic didn’t quite “act” as much as become their roles. Getsic fasted for 40 days prior to shooting and is mentally and physically fragile because of it. She’s absolutely powerless against the brute might of Renfro, whose maniacal taunting is often as unsettling as his physical abuse. The movie blurs the line between fiction and reality and will be repellant to many people. That’d be fine, even valuable, if it had any purpose or meaning behind it.
Despite what Rehmeier and Getsic assert (and they do it often), The Bunny Game is nothing more than a show of force. It’s a recording of controlled abuse with a vague message of “This can and does happen.” No motivation or reason is ever given for Hog’s masochism. He’s merely the unknown stranger that could do this to you. Conversely, Getsic is the indescript victim. She leads a tough life full of rough sex and drug use and has no chance of escape, no power against her tormentor. It’s essentially an allegory of the most graphic and violent kind, but too self-indulgent with the torture it depicts. Bunny’s fate is shown in two apparent endings, neither of which restore her with any power or dignity.
The Bunny Game is a well shot and expertly edited work, but it’s not a film in the conventional sense. It’s more of a vicious visceral experience. Because of the style and the wholesale devotion of Getsic and Refro, The Bunny Game is captivating, but ultimately not an experience worth having.
Trailers: The trailers for The Bunny Game are just stripped-down, condensed versions of the film itself. Both include the eponymous line about playing “The Bunny Game” (which never amounted to more than putting on a bunny mask and tripping around the desert naked). Both trailers feature hardcore metal music and rapidly flashing words such as ‘black’, ‘evil’, ‘Jesus’, ‘snuff’, ‘rape’, etc. The Alt Trailer is a little less explicit and probably geared toward more of a general audience, including blurbs from reviews that praise the film for its realism.
Posters / Picture Gallery: The posters for the film are visually striking, each featuring either Bunny or Hog and a singular directive such as “Run” or “Scream.” There are also plenty of stills. Some are captivating compositions that reflect the film’s striking cinematography. Others are more mundane and seem like random screencaps. A simple slideshow feature allows you to view all the images with minimal effort.
Caretaking the Monster: The 15-minute ‘making of’ featurette sheds some light on the production process behind The Bunny Game. Interviews with filmmakers Adam Rehmeier and Radleen Getsic give them a chance to say what they were trying to do by making this film. Getsic’s revelation that she actually had been kidnapped before puts the film in a different perspective, one in which she’s exploring the possible endings to her real-life experiences that she luckily avoided. Adam seems more intent on making something shocking and unorthodox, with an unsettling intensity surrounding him – an interview with someone originally involved in the production reveals that he had to drop out because of how uncomfortable he was with the content and Adam himself. Interviews with Jeff Renfro reveal that he’s a real-life trucker and real-life creepy guy – he even met Rehmeier in the first place by trying to fight him for looking at him. All of those involved repeatedly insist that their product is an art piece birthed out of passion and negative energy (which they wanted).
Audio Commentary: Rehmeier and Getsic’s awful commentary actually takes a lot away from the film, revealing an amateurishness compounded by the fact that her commentary is recorded via Skype. The two of them describe the “make it up on the spot” method with which they shot each. Creating a film without a plan is one thing; the fact that non-actor “Mr. X” suggested the unsimulated blowjob of which he was the recipient, on the other hand, seems exploitative. Even with Getsic’s insistence that she was okay with everything they did, I’m concerned about the impact this film had on her health and dignity – she does mention, after all, that part of her soul died making it. The relationship between her and Rehmeier doesn’t help. Their dialogue is awkward and tense; they constantly dispute who was in control on set and who had which creative ideas. About the only thing they agree on is their inflated sense of self-importance, their insistence that The Bunny Game has a deep message that requires a devout viewing to understand.