25 May 2010

Tokyo Shock

Over the past several months, I've watch several genre films which I call Tokyo Shock, based on the fact that most come from the Tokyo Shock DVD label. They're generally categorized under gore or horror, or more specifically "Asian horror," but I like the Tokyo Shock moniker to group them together for the unique combination of styles that they contain.

The most notable and most discussed feature is the absurdist gore. Decapitations and amputations are de rigueur and must be accompanied by (literally) fire-hose levels of bleeding that will end up covering the camera lens. Blood is of the translucent, cherry pie filling variety. Common also is the punch or gunshot through the torso so that the attacker can then view others through the oozing hole. The phrase "over the top" does not begin to express the over-the-top-ness, but it's all played for humorous shock rather than pure revulsion. Also common is the hero's overly-tragic past. This seems to be common in much genre Asian cinema (although bad US cinema isn't immune, see Helen Hunt's character's tortured past in Twister, or every character in a romantic comedy). These gore films are flawed but, judged within their niche, enjoyable.

The movies I've seen, alpha-ordered (most aren't reviewed widely, so no need for a Rotten Tomatoes link):

  • Hard Revenge, Milly (and Hard Revenge, Milly: Bloody Battle) [ IMDB | 3/5 ] - These are the minor and shorter entries (at 43 and 74 mins), but they're both brisk enough to keep your interest. Revenge is as much a character trait as it is in the Kill Bill movies and, obviously, revenge is what ties the action to the lead's dramatic past. The HR,M films are unique in this genre for their near complete lack of humor.
  • The Machine Girl [ IMDB | 3/5 ] - I've watched this twice. Very enjoyable and key to the genre a combination of gore, bathos, and humor. The director has such a great time setting you up for TMG to lose her arm (eventually replaced by a machine gun) that when he does it's slapstick gold. TMG's mix of human and machine is another genre staple. This theme probably comes from the classic 1989 film Tetsuo, the Iron Man.
  • Tokyo Gore Police [ IMDB | 4/5 ] - This is justifiably the most well-known and the most inventive. Gore mixed with weird, Frankensteinian perversions, mixed with a dark past and revenge. The humor doesn't hit as strong in this one, possibly because the story is more cryptic.
  • Samurai Princess [ IMDB | 3/5 ] - This movie doesn't get much love from the gore fans because of the cheap(er) sets and outlandish(er) plot, but I enjoyed it for the its balance of camp humor and affected drama.
  • Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl [ IMDB | 3/5 ] - I don't know where to start with this one. This was shocking simply for it's garishly bad acting and sincerely wtf exaggerated Japanese cultural references. Once past those aspects, it becomes a quirky love story (with gore) set against high school sub-groups (with gore). Despite my reservations in the first 15 minutes, the film won me over.

Directors and actors common across the films:

  • Eihi Shiina - lead, TGP and Vampire Girl's mother (also, lead from the artful Miike horror film Audition)
  • Yoshihiro Nishimura - director, VGvsFG and TGP, special effects on those plus HR,M and many, many others
  • Kengo Kaji - writer for TGP and directed SP
  • Noboru Iguchi - director, TMG, R-g, MGS, GS

Others in this genre to-be-watched: Meatball Machine, Robo-geisha, Mutant Girl Squad (just released in Japan).

[ updated 15 May 2017 ]

New wacky movie coming up from Noboru Iguchi called "Ghost Squad". From Matt via Birth.Movies.Death: Meet The "Meat Hammer," "Grudge Dog" And More In WTF Trailer For GHOST SQUAD.






[ posted by sstrader on 25 May 2010 at 8:32:03 PM in Cinema | tagged asian cinema ]