“You won’t die from getting your hand cut off, after all I only have one arm too”
I must start this review with an apology for the heavy Asian bias on the site at the moment. Rest assured there are some European reviews on the way soon. For today’s review its back to Japan for 2008’s The Machine Girl, an over the top splatterfest directed by Noboru Iguchi, the man responsible for RoboGeisha & Mutant Girl Squad, with special effects by Yoshihiro Nishimura who would go on to direct Tokyo Gore Police.
Ami is a high school student living with her younger brother Yu after their parents were framed for murder & committed suicide. Yu & his friend Takeshi are in trouble with the school bully Sho the son of a vicious Yakuza gang leader Ryugi. Sho & his gang throw both Takeshi & Yu off a building killing them both, distraught Ami swears to seek revenge. She goes to Sho’s house but is overpowered by the Ryugi & his bodyguards. Ami is beaten & tortured, losing an arm in the process. After managing to escape she makes her way to the garage run by Siguru & Miki (Takeshi’s parents) The couple agree to help her & while Siguru builds Ami a new machine gun arm, Miki starts to train Ami in combat. Ryugi tracks down Ami & sends a squad of ninja assassins to kill her. In the subsequent battle Siguru is killed, but not before he has finished the machine gun. The two women then arm themselves (Miki with a chainsaw) & head to Ryugi’s hideout for the showdown.
The Machine girl is another over the top splatter film in the style of Vampire Girl Versus Frankenstein Girl & Tokyo Gore Police. The plot is a secondary device used purely to link the scenes of action & carnage. The end result is just dammed enjoyable. The fight scenes are well choreographed & the splatter while not at all realistic is done with a real zeal & trust me there is a lot of splatter in this movie. Limbs are hacked off, faces sliced open, hands are deep-fried, faces pulped & the arterial blood sprays literally soak the screen. It’s a movie with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek. The drill bra has to be seen to be believed & The Super Mourners squad had me in tears of laughter. The acting ranges from passable to downright awful yet somehow that doesn’t really matter. Minase Yashiro as Ami & Asami as Miki put in decent performances as does Honoka as Ryugi’s vicious wife. The rest of the cast ham it up for all they are worth, with special mention going to Kentaro Shimazu as Ryugi whose performance is so over the top it makes Vincent Price look like a subtle & restrained actor. While the movie’s energy & sense of fun can compensate for most of the film’s flaws, the CGI is dreadful & should never have been used. While the practical effects are a mixed bag quality wise, the CGI looks awful & does detract from the movie as a whole. fortunately for all it’s flaws Machine Girl’s positives outweigh the negatives & the movie provides a hugely enjoyable 90 minutes of insane carnage & craziness.
In closing The Machine Girl is a great beer & pizza movie. If You liked Vampire Girl Versus Frankenstein Girl or Tokyo Gore Police you will love this. An outrageous over the top splatter fest with a huge sense of fun, highly recommended.
“I think this will cost lives”
If I was feeling charitable & kind I would say that Shirome is a perfect example of the law of diminishing returns. Writer/Director Koji Shiraishi has made three mockumentaries, starting with the incredible Noroi, followed by the average Occult & lastly Shirome, by far the worst of the three. I could have said that but I’m not feeling charitable & Shirome is a lazy piece of filmmaking that is nothing more than a cheap cash in. This is a truly lazy & lame piece of moviemaking that Shiraishi should be ashamed of making.
For his latest mockumentary Shiraishi poses as the maker of a reality TV show where celebrities are taken to a haunted location to research the myths & legends surrounding the location. He persuades the J-Pop teen girl band Momoiro Clover to take part in his latest show. The girls will be taken to an abandoned school where there is a shrine to the demon Shirome. Shirome is said to take the form of a butterfly & will grant wishes to those who are sincere in thier wish & belief in Shirome. Should the wishmaker not be sincere Shirome will destroy the person, either driving them mad or leading them to suicide. Several unexplained deaths have been attributed to the legend of Shirome. The girls are briefed on the legend by a creepy expert in the myth & are then taken to the school accompanied by a monk & a medium. Once at the shrine the girls will perform their latest song & ask Shirome to allow them to appear on national TV to boost their popularity.
I cannot even begin to describe just how disappointed I was with this film. I knew it wasn’t going to come close to the incredible Noroi. I even suspected it wouldn’t be as good as Occult but this was just awful. What we have with Shirome is 80 odd minutes of Japanese teenage girls screaming… constantly! Momoiro Clover are a real teenage girl group (ages between 13 & 16) & Shiraishi pulls every clichéd trick in the book to frighten his young stars. While Shiraishi may have succeeded in terrifying his young stars he fails to even slightly spook his audience. With Noroi, Shiraishi weaved an incredibly creepy & unsettling story which really got under the skin of the audience. Anybody that knows me or has just browsed this site will know just how highly I regard Noroi. It is without a doubt the pinnacle of creepy-assed movies & one that has the power to pull you into the unfolding horror on repeat viewings. Shirome has none of Noroi’s atmosphere & its runtime just kind of passes you by. If it wasn’t for the constant high-pitched screaming & crying you could easily nod off at any point in the movie. Shirome is also sadly predictable, several times during the movie I guessed what was going to happen next & was right each time. The film’s ending is painfully obvious & reeks of a lack of thought & effort. It seems to me that Shiraishi was just going through the motions in the hope of a quick buck, made off of his reputation as Noroi’s creator. There really isn’t a whole lot more I could say about it. The movie is incredibly shallow & linear, leaving little to mull over.
Shirome is sadly just a dull, underdeveloped & ill thought out movie that offers little in the way of atmosphere, scares or originality. You could have more fun spending 80 minutes watching flies fuck. A desperate disappointment of a movie. One to avoid.
“Japan can’t be saved by your humanism”
I have often wondered when confronted with a film like this, surely the director/producer/actors/someone/ anyone views the movie post editing & realises it’s one big celluloid piece of crap & not fit for public consumption! In fairness Battle Girl isn’t quite that bad, it’s no Stacy, but it ain’t got a lot going for it. Even for a film with very low ambitions its bordering godawful. The shame is with a bit of effort it could have been a real low-budget gem.
Ok down to business, Battle Girl’s plot is simple enough. A meteorite crashes into Tokyo Bay leaving a toxic cloud covering most of the low-lying areas of Tokyo. Contained in this mist is an alien virus which turns people into flesh-eating zombies. The Japanese army seems unwilling to take control of the situation (surprise, surprise they have their own agenda!) So it is left to Kieko (Battle Girl) the daughter of an army general to save the survivors from zombies & armed street gangs.
Battle Girl is a film by Kazuo Komizu, the infamous violent pinku director responsible for the frankly awful Entrails Of A Virgin & the very extreme (even for a pinku) Entrails Of A Beautiful Woman. With Battle Girl Komizu takes a break from copious nudity & sexual violence which have almost become his trademark & delivered an old-fashioned low budget zombie movie. Komizu’s movie takes most of its inspiration from George A Romero’s Dead movies. His zombies are of the slow shuffling variety & the battle bus the gang of kids drove pre-dated Land Of The Dead by a good few years. To his credit Komizu keeps the pace up throughout the movie & despite the budget attempts to throw in quite a few scenes of zombie mayhem & splatter. Sadly the film just doesn’t really work. The biggest flaw of all being the casting. Battle Girl is played by Cutey Suzuki (That’s her name, I shit you not) who is a female wrestler & no thespian. Yet strangely her acting is passable, the fight scenes are not. Despite her day job Miss Suzuki has all the grace & poise in battle of a pregnant wildebeest with a cattle prod rammed up its arse! The fight scenes are incredibly stilted & stiff, rendering them utterly laughable & inept. Near the beginning of the movie Battle Girl is given a special battle suit. Now i’m guessing this black battle outfit was meant to make our heroine look sleek, sexy & badass. Sadly it looks like the costume was made for an actress about a foot taller than Miss Suzuki! It’s a worse fit than a dead epileptic & makes Miss Suzuki look dreadful & almost clumsy fighting in it. Sadly it is these facts that condemn Battle Girl to being the disappointment it is. I could accept the cheap splatter effects & barely passable zombie make up, in fact they kind of add to the charm of the movie. But when your heroine looks stupid & fights like a wet fart in slow motion the movie loses all its charm.
Sad really, Battle Girl had a lot going for it. Shame is it just doesn’t deliver in the way Wild Zero & Sars War did. Battle Girl is not a total disaster (Stacy I’m looking at you!) but there are hundreds of better zombie flicks out there.
“11 hours & 2 minutes before the ceremony execution”
Koji Shiraishi is an enigma, he is responsible for Noroi, possibly the most nerve-shredding piece of scary as fuck cinema ever. He is also sadly responsible for Grotesque & Carved, two very poor movies. So… is Koji Shiraishi a master moviemaker or did he just get lucky with Noroi? I recently found out that Shiraishi had made two other mockumentaries Occult & Shirome. I sat & watched them both & as far as Mr Shiraishi goes I’m even more confused, would the real Koji Shiraishi please stand up.
Occult is the investigation by Shiraishi himself of a brutal knife attack at a popular Japanese tourist spot. After interviewing several eyewitnesses the focus of the investigation centres on a man who was injured by the assailant. Instead of killing the man when he was at his mercy, the killer carves symbols into the man’s back stating “Your turn next”. The killer jumped from a cliff after the assault & his body was never found. Upon reviewing the footage Shiraishi & his crew spot a strange object in the sky. The injured man (a pathetic out of work loser) is interviewed & claims his life has changed since the attack & he witnesses what he calls miracles several times a week. Shiraishi & his crew decide to film the man 24/7 over a week to try & capture these miracles on film. It soon becomes apparent that there are indeed strange phenomena around the man but the question soon becomes what are these events & what will it lead this man to do?
I had high hopes for Occult when I sat down to watch it, maybe too high. After all it was highly unlikely it would be another Noroi. The movie starts well & the mockumentary style works well. Several eyewitnesses & survivors of the assault are interviewed & for a while it looked like Occult would be another film like Noroi that carefully weaved several disparate plot lines until they converged at the conclusion. Sadly this isn’t the case & after the opening Occult focuses on just the one plotline. The acting by the lead actor is superb, he really captures the essence of a man on the bottom rung of society that is given (in his mind) a gift & purpose. Shiraishi manages to create a story that does hold your interest & builds nicely to its climax. Sadly Occult is not without its faults. Firstly the SFX are abysmal. I dare say you could do better on your own PC with Paint in under 15 minutes. I can’t really specify what effects are poor for fear of giving away spoilers but you will know them when you see them. Even worse than the SFX is the loose ends not tied up at the film’s conclusion. What were the shapes in the sky? The movie gives no explanation of these & considering the movie focused on these heavily it was disappointing not to clarify this plot point. The ending is also a let down. The film builds nicely to the climax which is, in all honesty laughable. The idea is sound enough but the execution is pitiful, rendering any power the story had built up pointless. The inclusion of hints at The Lovecraft/Cthulhu Mythos is also done poorly & serves no real purpose at all.
Occult is worth a watch, if you haven’t seen Noroi I’m sure you will really enjoy it. Even if you have seen Noroi its worth a watch. Just don’t expect another Noroi, it’s nowhere near that good but a hell of a lot better than Grotesque, Carved & Shirome (his other mockumentary, which I will review when my ears have stopped ringing from the endless sound of Japanese girls screaming for an hour!) So, am I any closer to knowing the real Shiraishi?… Not in the slightest, if anything I’m even more confused.
“My god! The pigeons!”
Noroi was the first movie I ever reviewed for Subtitled Hell & one that despite rewriting twice I have never been happy with. For such a classic & important movie this just wouldn’t do. So I sat down & re-watched Noroi again (always a joy) & will now attempt with this brand new review to do this movie justice.
Noroi is an incredibly complex movie & is the story of Masafumi Kobayashi’s latest & last investigation. Kobayashi is a paranormal investigative journalist, who as the film starts has published numerous books & videos of his investigations. A voiceover narration informs us that Kobayashi’s house has burnt down, his wife’s burnt remains were found in the house but Kobayashi himself is missing. We are then presented with his last work, an investigation titled Noroi (the curse) The film starts as Kobayashi investigates a woman called Junko Ishii, who lives in an apartment with her son. One of her neighbours has complained about hearing babies crying from Ishii’s apartment. Kobayashi calls on Ishii after interviewing the neighbours & Ishii reacts aggressively, refusing to speak to Kobayashi. Ishii soon moves out & her neighbours die in a freak road accident. The movie then introduces us to several characters, all seemingly unrelated including Kana a young girl who has strong psychic powers & goes missing. Miarika, a TV personality with heightened ESP & Hori an eccentric physic who sees visions of what he calls ectoplasmic worms. As the movie progresses the separate story arcs of these characters converge, pointing to the legend of a demon called Kagutaba.
With out a doubt Noroi is the most genuinely creepy & downright unsettlingly scary movie ever made. Forget Ringu or Ju-on, they pale when placed next to Noroi. I have seen this movie several times now & even knowing the story it still has the power to creep under my skin & unsettle. The movie plays out like a real documentary, utilising footage from “other tv shows” & this works perfectly, giving the whole film an unparralleled feeling of realism. You (the audience) buy into the idea you are watching a real documentary & for that reason you buy into the terror that unfolds. Director Koji Shiraishi has crafted a wonderfully complex movie. Shiriashi takes his time weaving his plot, the movie clocks in at just under two hours & time is taken to develop each plot line until they come together perfectly at the movie’s climax. The cast is superb, each putting in completely believable performances. Satoru Jitsunashi is wonderful as Hori, his performance of a man tortured by visions to the extent that his mind has started to unravel is perfect. But it is Jin Muraki as Kobayashi that really grounds the movie. His portrayal of a man of science & reason drawn into something way beyond what he can rationalise is spot on, making what unfolds even more terrifying. Shiraishi’s movie really gets under your skin. Rather than relying on cheap scares & jumps his movie slowly builds an air of unease & mounting tension. With Noroi he has made a movie that truly unsettles & disturbs. By the time the movie reaches it’s climax the audiences nerves are truly shredded & the film’s conclusion is incredibly strong, visually stunning & downright creepy. I really want to say more but I don’t want to give anything away. Watching Noroi for the first time is an amazing experience. That feeling of being drawn into the unfolding events is like nothing you have ever witnessed on film before.
I could go on for hours about this film, but i will stop here. Noroi demands to be seen. A work of rare power. Quite simply the scariest movie ever made. A must see.
“I’ll be forgiven for all this, isn’t that right God?”
Freeze Me is a movie that could easily be summed up by using just two words, those words being “utter” & “bollocks” But in the interests of clarity I will attempt to validate that comment.
Freeze Me is the story of Chihiro, who as the movie begins has built a new life for herself after leaving her hometown five years earlier. She left after being gang raped & her assailants filmed the attack & sold it on the net. Things have gone well for Chihiro since leaving & she has a good job & is engaged to be married to one of her co-workers. One day one of her rapists turns up at her flat informing her that the others are on their way. He forces his way into her flat & after making himself at home rapes her again. Chihiro seeing everything she has achieved crumble around her takes matters into her own hands & kills her assailant, placing his body in the freezer. It’s not long before her other two assailants turn up.
The Rape/Revenge genre has long been a staple of Asian cinema, from the violent pinku movies to the Cat III movies from Hong Kong. While a lot of these movies have just been plain exploitation, some are wonderful movies like Red To Kill or Her Vengeance. Freeze Me is a movie that just fails on almost every level. The whole point of this genre of movie is that we (the audience) feel for & empathise with the victim & want to see her take her righteous & bloody revenge on these scumbags. Chihiro’s behaviour in the movie is just so ridiculous that it is truly staggering. When her first rapist arrives & forces his way into her flat, after raping her he falls asleep. Instead of calling the police, running away or even attacking him in his sleep, she simply leaves him to sleep. After which he pretty much moves in, sending her to work & waiting for the others to arrive. Finally & not before time Chihiro takes matters into her own hands & kills the rapist in the bathtub, her weapon of choice being a plastic bottle of water! With various knives in the kitchen & a variety of blunt instruments in the house she unconvincingly bludgeons him to death with a water bottle! Does this finally empower our heroine, like fuck it does. When the third & most vicious thug moves in, abuses her & again she takes ages to strike back. Chihiro’s behaviour just makes no sense at all. Director Takasii Ishii seems utterly confused on the type of movie he is making. The rape scene is handled very carefully & only briefly hinted at in flashback. After showing restraint in that area he floods the movie with endless shots of Chihiro naked (honestly she showers more in this movie than the most extreme sufferer of OCD!) It all reeks of a misjudged attempt at exploiting his lead actress. Harumi Inoue as Chihiro is one of the movies only highpoints. She really gives her all in her role & tries hard to rise above the awful script.
This almost made my Hall Of Shame. The only reason it didn’t is Harumi Inoue’s performance, the movie’s sole highpoint. Avoid this dire movie at all cost & watch something like Red To Kill instead.
“Here rest all the precious things I’ve lost”
The Guinea Pig series has become almost legendary in the realms of extreme horror, aided in no small way by “The Charlie Sheen incident” Long before August Underground, the Japanese were shocking audiences worldwide with some of the most extreme images ever caught on celluloid. Mermaid In A Manhole is the fourth installment in the series & in my opinion by far the best. Flowers Of Flesh & Blood maybe the most notorious but MIAM actually has a coherent story along with all the grossness.
A painter called Hayashi is mourning the loss of his pregnant wife, he spends most of his time in the sewers sketching. It is a place of comfort he remembers from childhood, when it used to be a river. One day he finds a mermaid in the sewers & recalls meeting her once when he was a child. He spends the following days in the sewer sketching the mermaid until he notices she is in pain. On closer inspection he sees that she has an infection & is ill. He carries her from the sewer to his house were he places her in his bath. The infection worsens & spreads but the mermaid begs him to complete the painting of her he is working on. The infection spreads & covers the mermaids body in sores which burst & pus, the painter uses the discharge to paint with. inevitably the infection, which has by now ravaged the mermaid’s body claims her life & the painter is left to face reality & the brutal & shocking truth.
Directed by Hideshi Hino from his own manga, Mermaid In A Manhole is the cream of the crop of The Guinea Pig series. Unlike the straight forward torture porn of The Devil’s Experiment & Flowers Of Flesh & Blood, Hino gives the film a plot, well fleshed out (pun intended) characters & a fantastic ending whose imagery will stay with you long after the film is over. The movie actually has a lot of subtle undertones to it, loneliness, isolation, the corruption of the mermaid can be seen as a result of man’s impact on his surroundings. After all the mermaid used to live in the river until she was trapped in the sewer by the advancement of the city. The acting of the two lead actors is adequate, neither really shine but this isn’t that sort of movie. Shigeru Saiki manages to capture the lonley depression in the painter & Mari Somei provides enough in her performance to make the audience feel for her characters physical corruption. While the storyline may be a radical departure for the series, rest assured there are some particularly strong visual scenes in this film. As the mermaid’s infection spreads her body is covered in huge boils & blisters which burst in rivers of pus, slime & even worms! Nearing the end of her ordeal she vomits up what looks like part of her intestines. The ending is incredibly graphic & horrific but I don’t want to say anymore for fear of giving away a wonderful shock ending. Sadly the film does have one flaw which detracts from the overall horror of the piece. The neighbours of the painter seem to be in the movie for comic relief (much like the police in The Untold Story or Last House On The Left) I found these scenes really detracted from the movie & lost any atmosphere the story had created.
Mermaid In A Manhole is not a film for everyone. It is a very dark & grim film, filled with some incredibly graphic images. If you have a strong constitution & can handle scenes of an explicitly graphic nature, I highly recommend Mermaid In A Manhole.