Monday, March 9, 2009

Japanese Gore Roundup

While I admit I was curious at the prospect of Midnight Meat Train, I couldn't deny a premonition deep in my soul that it would be crap. Sadly, I was right. Penned by Clive Barker and directed by high-octane Japanese filmmaker Ryuhei Kitamura (who gave us Versus and Azumi), the film is defeated by what appears to be a demand by the producers never to step beyond the most basic expectations created by the phrase "midnight meat train." In other words, the story is thin on the ground, getting even thinner once we delve underground and hop aboard the titular light rail vehicle. For all it's splatitude (a favorite recurring image is that of an individual slipping on, falling into, and rising covered in thick, glistening gore), the only truly scary thing in the picture is Vinnie Jones (but he's just scary period, so no kudos there). Only at the tag end of the film do we get any sort of backstory, concerning a hungry population of demonic, C.H.U.D.-like things, but by then it's too late and the credits follow hard upon.

Then there's Tokyo Gore Police and The Machine Girl, which make Midnight Meat Train look like Citizen Kane. TGP has the better budget of the two and features Eihi Shiina (whom most of us fell hard for in Audition, despite her proclivities toward torture and amputation in that flick). Both films try their best to shock, with techno-body horror, fire hydrant-worthy blood showers and every manner of mutilation imaginable. However, the efforts of the filmmakers go right past shocking into patently ridiculous, causing even a stalwart such as me to wonder whether he's wasting his time. I kept imagining a 12-year-old boy sitting watching these films, loving every gooey, outrageous minute; that's clearly the target audience here. It reminded me of the first time I saw a Rambo picture, that chilling feeling that this film was made for someone very different from me, and that I was never going to get into it like that other individual.

While The Machine Girl revolves around a school girl getting revenge on the bullies who killed her brother (and some of their brutal yakuza relatives), Tokyo Gore Police offers a more interesting back story (although this too boils down to revenge). In the end, though, I can't in good conscience recommend either unless you, like I, have a professional interest in keeping abreast of such things. And even then, it will feel more like work than pleasure.

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