Friday, October 30, 2009

Meatball Machine (Japan, 2005)

Another great film from the home country of Issei Sagawa... that be Japan, for those of you who don't know who he is.

The not-yet-infamous Fundoshi Corps is a Japanese exploitation firm specializing in cheap Japanese school girl soft-core (?), horror anthologies, and a whole slew of machine-based horror. Among the fun stuff they have regurgitated is Robo-Geisha (2009 / trailer), Unholy Woman (2006 / trailer), The Machine Girl (2008 / trailer) and this baby, an interesting little film called Meatball Machine. The 2005 feature-length version of Meatball Machine, supposedly directed in tandem by Yûdai Yamaguchi (the man behind Battlefield Baseball [2003 / trailer]) and Jun'ichi Yamamoto, is a low budget remake of an even lower budget short film by Jun'ichi Yamamoto alone from 1999 also entitled Meatball Machine. Some DVDs out there are said to include both films; regrettably the one watched for this review did not. So who knows to what extent this newer, longer version is different, but considering how fucking great the 2005 version is, it is hard to believe that the short one can be any better. (Sometimes, size does matter.)
This time around, oddly enough, the script is credited to Junya Kato alone, who also scribed the genre-mix Death Trance (2005/ trailer). The film tells the tale of a young milquetoast factory worker named Joji (Issei Takahashi), a wimpy virgin, who secretly yearns for the young Sachiko (Aoba Kawai), a woman he often watches hang wash on the other side of the canal during his lunch break. Unknown to them – and the rest of Japan, obviously enough – parasites that look oddly reminiscent of an horseshoe crab are on the loose in the neighborhood, turning their hosts into ugly mutants called "Neoborgs". (Where the name comes from is obvious enough, especially midway through the film when one character flatly states "Resistance is futile".) The Neoborgs are killing machines that do nothing but kill anyone that crosses their path. But much like in The Highlander (1986 / trailer), they prefer to kill their own kind; only, instead of absorbing energy of the defeated dead in a cheap light show, the winning Neoborg bloodily rip the controlling parasite out of the neck of the dead Neoborg and eats it for lunch. (We get to see one such battle before the credits even roll, when a parasite converts a would-be suicide and, shortly thereafter, first splits open the head of another Neoborg and then dines in a shower of red blood.)
After a failed attempt at losing his cherry with a prostitute, Joji ends up saving Sachiko from being raped by his boss. Later, as the two would-be lovebirds begin to get to know each other back at Joji's flat, Sachiko gets attacked and converted by a parasite in a scene that brings to mind the wonderfully tasteless death of Dr. Barbara Glaser (June Chadwick) in that sleaze sci-fi classic Forbidden World (1982 / trailer). (One wonders when the first horror film will come out using the same concept but with men and the rear door.) Soon thereafter, Joji is likewise infected, but he manages to prevent full transformation and sets out to save Sachiko. But all Sachiko wants is lunch…
Meatball Machine is very much a descendent of Shinya Tsukamoto’s industrial art-splatter B&W films Testuo: Iron Man (1989 / trailer) and Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (1992 / trailer), but in full colour, less artistic pretensions and a lot more blood, guts and latex. It is a film that easily leads to you to cocking your eye in amazement as you wonder just what the fuck did you put in the DVD player. In other words, Meatball Machine is some pretty fine gonzo trash from Japan.… No CGI, good old cheap and sleazy low budget blood and guts with inferred sex and cannibalism.
The film ends with a nihilistic twist that doesn’t really hold water but is good for a laugh. Meatball Machine is not an art film – it is far more Accion Mutante (1993) than Eraserhead (1977 / trailer) – but for fans of glibbery gross-out violence and immature humour, it is an industrial blood bath well worth visiting.

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