Mutant Girls Squad (2010)

A delightfully silly slice of gory action from three masters of the genre. When Rin (Yumi Sugimoto) reaches her sixteenth birthday she is told by her father that she is a mutant. This certainly explains her feelings of isolation at her highschool and alienation from classmates. Shortly after this revelation their home is invaded by the anti-mutant police who kill Rin’s parents. Rin meets Rei (Yuko Takayama) who is part of a team of mutants fighting against the human society who are oppressing them. They are led by Kisaragi (Tak Sakaguchi), a samurai transvestite. Rin also befriends another mutant Yoshie (Suzuka Morita) and the three of them are tasked with taking down a government official opposed to mutants.

The title should give away the fact that this film does not take itself too seriously. What little plot there is acts as a slender frame on which to hang outrageous comedy-horror action sequences. Everything from the police having guns on their noses, to one girl’s power being to have two tiny arms reaching out from her ears (this is far from the most ridiculous of their abilities), will certainly appeal to anyone with a childish sense of humour and love of obscene splatter comedy. The handmade quality of the film gives it a real charm and the amount of effort that has gone into costumes, special effects (including a lot of physical effects) and gore speaks to a highly motivated and talented crew. The film is helmed by three directors, Yoshihiro Nishimura (Tokyo Gore Police), Sakaguchi (Re:Born) and Noboru Iguchi, from a script by Iguchi and Jun Tsugita. The directors clearly share a love of schlocky horror and action and their enthusiasm is infectious. The film is hyperactive and insane, feeling like a student film given a budget that allows them to bring their madcap ideas to life. All of the main actresses go all-out in their performances, embracing the wacky premise and melodrama, and do well in both comedy and action roles.

The film is essentially a bully revenge story with a well-worn message of anti-discrimination and embracing difference. It revels in weirdness and eccentricity and is a film that wants to run as far from ‘mainstream’ as it is possible to get. Only recommended for those with a black sense of humour and a love of gory violence.

Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl (2009)

Monami (Yukie Kawamura) is a vampire recently transferred to a new high-school where she falls for Mizushima (Takumi Saito). This draws the ire of Keiko (Eri Otoguro) who also has eyes on him. Unbeknownst to all, Keiko’s father, the vice-principle, and the sexually voracious school nurse are conducting experiments to create a living being from a corpse. Monami turns Mizushima into a vampire, feeding him her blood in a Valentine’s Day chocolate. When Keiko falls to her death after finding out about their relationship, her father reanimates her body and the ultimate monster match is on.

Written by Yoshihiro Nishimura and directed by Nishimura and Naoyuki Tomomatsu, the film is ridiculous from start to finish. With a title like that you would not expect anything else. What is interesting is how many of the plot points actually do tie together and build toward the climactic showdown, rather than being unrelated set-pieces. It plays with a number of genres, high-school romance, vampire and monster movie tropes, subverting them at every turn. There is a dark sense of humour here, particularly in the “wrist-cutting” club and group that obsess over Black American culture. It offers a twisted look at high-school including the more unpalatable elements. The special effects work is first class, with a lot of emphasis on physical effects and models, as well as CG. Rather than frightening the audience its aim is to disgust and it achieves this time and time again. That being said this felt a little tamer than 2008’s Tokyo Gore Police, which depending on your tastes may be a good or a bad thing. There are sequences of gore, gallons of blood, severed limbs and suchlike but rarely anything as nightmare-inducing as that film contained. Here the comedy and horror are more finely balanced.

The film is an exercise in pushing the boundaries of taste. It’s at its best when at its most outrageous and there are a few scenes where you may laugh in spite of yourself, if nothing else for the sheer effort the film is putting into some of the jokes. The actors do a great job and are clearly relishing the opportunity to act childishly with the off-colour material. The film has the feel of a child’s Halloween drawing brought to life, or a director who has been given the ultimate set of toys to play with and allowed to do whatever he wants. Schlocky horror comedy that isn’t afraid to make a fool of itself.

Tokyo Gore Police (2008)

Set a near future dystopia where the newly privatised Tokyo Police Force does battle against augmented humans known as “Engineers”, a highly skilled officer Ruka fights to uncover what is driving the spate of violence across the city. The film begins with a friendly announcement by a policeman explaining that they are there to help the citizens. This is rudely interrupted when his head explodes in a shower of blood that is unexpected and genuinely shocking. It should be said before we proceed much further that this film takes a strong stomach to get through as there are some genuinely disturbing images throughout. Following this we cut to one of these “Engineers”, a zombie-like being with a chainsaw replacing one arm. He has killed a lot of people and after dispatching an entire police troop in a brutal symphony of churned up viscera, severed body parts, and fountains of blood, our heroine Ruka, armed with a katana is sent in to clean up, expertly disarming the criminal (pun fully intended). This opening sequence serves as a sort of aperitif for what is to follow. If you can get through it without vomiting, then you are probably good to proceed (although they do continuously attempt to outdo this bold opening). The police manage to dig a key-shaped tumour out of the corpse’s head and it is this that is believed to make them into killers, somehow transforming ordinary citizens into bloodthirsty monsters who adapt their bodies to make them more efficient at bloody slaughter.

Although it is buried beneath all the insanity there is a fairly standard cop-drama plot driving Tokyo Gore Police from one outrageous set-piece to the next. It is admirable that they attempted to do something with Ruka’s character and there are even emotional scenes concerning her relationship with her father and issues with depression that help create a somewhat rounded character. Eihi Shiina (Audition) plays the heroine with style pulling off both drama and action. The film also includes a number of satirical commercials that play throughout. These largely poke fun at police violence and the suicide problem in Japanese society. Subtlety is not something this film frets over and it is fun to see the extreme way that topics are handled. The one issue I had with the story is that it is a little disjointed. Themes will be raised and then not mentioned for a long time and scenes are occasionally edited together in sequences that do not work to the best advantage of the story. But in a film such as this, the story is really the last thing people are probably concerned about. Its primary loyalty is to horror and gore aficionados. This schlock horror goes out of its way to disgust. There is a great deal of creativity and the special effects are praiseworthy. It is great to see practical effects being used for the arterial spray and prosthetics for creatures and it makes everything more shocking than CG could ever have been. Even though you know it is just rubber and make-up you can’t help but cringe when you see people being torn up by drills or chainsaws. It should be said that there is a huge amount of humour in the film and it is clear from the over-the-top nature of everything that is going on that it is not meant to be taken too seriously. Director Yoshihiro Nishimura clearly has a great creative flair. One of the more surprising things about the film is that there were some well-crafted scenes of horror. The sequence on the train was genuinely terrifying without resorting to the grotesque. On the flipside there were disappointments when scenes such as the impact of Ruka self-harming seemed undercut by the cartoonish way it was displayed. The film actually seems unhinged at times as it veers from satire to horror to outrageous comedy.

The main theme of the film is police privatisation. It satirises the commercialisation and corporatisation of the police force and public bodies. It is also critical of the sort of enjoyment ordinary people have in seeing criminals punished in violent and inhumane ways, perhaps suggesting there is little difference between the criminals and law-abiding citizens in their basic aggression. The main villain, it is revealed, injected himself with the essences gathered from various serial killers, thus becoming a violent killer himself. This is the point at which the film becomes a little confused and seems to have had a strong idea but not the conviction to follow it through or work out a sensible plot to develop it. Instead these ideas are cast to the wind for the audience to make of what they will. This is also true of the suicide sub-plot. We learn that Ruka self-harms and are then treated to a blackly-comic commercial of high-school girls encouraging their peers to buy a special knife and cut themselves. A couple more advertisements throughout cement this theme as a central pillar of the film. But once again it is left hanging as a sort of interesting aside and has no real bearing on the plot. If you can stomach extreme gore, indescribably outrageous set-pieces of sex, violence and brutality (all with a dark comic angle), then this could be the film for you. A movie that has to be seen to be believed.