Tag Archives: Yoshihiro Nishimura

CAPSULE: THE ABCS OF DEATH (2012)

Weirdest!(segments F, W, Z)

DIRECTED BY: Kaare Andrews, , & , Ernesto Díaz Espinoza, , Adrián García Bogliano, Xavier Gens, Lee Hardcastle, , Thomas Cappelen Malling, Jorge Michel Grau, Anders Morgenthaler, , Banjong Pisanthanakun, Simon Rumley, , Jon Schnepp, , Timo Tjahjanto, Andrew Traucki, Nacho Vigalondo, Jake West, Ti West, , Adam Wingard,

FEATURING: Too many actors to list individually, and no one appears onscreen for long enough to qualify as “featured”

PLOT: 26 short horror films about death, each inspired by an assigned letter of the alphabet.

Still from The ABCs of Death (2012)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: As you might expect from an anthology with a hefty twenty-six entries in a multitude of styles, it’s too uneven and not consistently weird enough for consideration for the List. That said, there are three very, very strange shorts here, and several others that nudge the weirdometer at least a little bit, which makes this worth a look-see.

COMMENTS: Rendered in a wild variety of morbid styles ranging from the avant-garde to the zany, these twenty six short films about death derive from a new breed of up and coming punk directors working in the diffuse genre that now loosely goes by the name “horror.” All the usual disclaimers about anthology films apply to The ABCs of Death, but this compilation faces an additional alphabetical hurdle: if A, B and C are all duds (and I say they are), the movie gets off to a slow start, and there’s nothing the editors can do about it. The order is locked in place and randomized, and the curators can’t impose any sort of flow on the show. The fact that each entry has to be unusually short (after the 11 minutes of end credits are subtracted from the run time we come out to four-and-a-half minutes per mini-movie) is more of a virtue than a drawback, since we aren’t asked to invest much time in the inevitable losers and failed experiments. The necessity for each director to hit hard and fast, with no time to build up true horror, led me to expect shock, gore, and cruel comedy to dominate over true terror. ABCs delivers on that score, but there was also a trend that make me wonder where horror’s head is at. Three out of the twenty-six entries—that’s 11.5%—prominently feature a toilet, and that’s not even counting the one that’s flatulence based. Has horror finally dug to the bottom of the bucket of viscera, and now there’s nowhere else to turn but the toilet to elicit cheap disgust? A more promising development, and one that’s much more to the point of this website, is that the exact same number of shorts (3, or 11%) were unabashedly weird-–suggesting that cutting-edge horror continues to be the last refuge for surrealism in pop culture. Before describing the three bizarre gems, we’ll mention a couple of odd, and not so odd, runners-up. “P is for Pressure,” set in a third-world country and involving a prostitute’s quest to buy an expensive present for her daughter’s birthday, is the omnibus’ only dramatic entry; although it has a morally sickening climax, it is authentically and unexpectedly touching. Though not written by Srdjan Spasojevic (who turns in an extreme but unmemorable riff on “R”), the violent and transgressive porn fantasia “L is for Libido” has a disturbing Serbian Film vibe (with a hallucinatory kick) that soils the mind. On the opposite end of the sexual spectrum, Catette and Forzani’s “O is for Orgasm” is a surprisingly beautiful and experimental explosion of color-filter eroticism that traffics in the concept of sexual release as “la petite mort.” In a normal compilation, “H is for Hydroelectric,” a Chuck-Jones-does-furry-porn style adventure in which an anthropomorphic Nazi stripper fox lures a British bulldog pilot to his doom, would be the WTF-iest entry. Here, however, it’s only an honorable mention, as that title is literally taken by “W is for WTF?” This is a study in surrealistic economy: initially appearing to be a self-aware parody, it quickly establishes a comic book mesh of Satanic gore porn, killer walruses, zombie clowns, and decapitated animators, then spins the images in a psychedelic blender for two gloriously insane minutes. “W” features miniskirted nurses and princess warriors in chain mail bikinis, but for gleefully adolescent gross-out sleaze, nothing beats Noboru Iguchi’s already notorious “F is for Fart.” It’s the tender tale of a lesbian schoolgirl that defiantly expresses a humanistic preference for the gas of an earthly lover over the vengeful flatus of God. “Fart”‘s motto is “let’s pass beyond the boundaries of good taste and become one together,” and does it ever achieve the first part, at least—this is a bad-taste stunner for an unstunable age. Still, top honors in the “weird” category go to Iguchi’s frequent collaborator Yoshihiro Nishimura, who continues to set himself apart as the brigade’s most inventive and audacious talent with ABCs’ capper, “Z is for Zetsumetsu” (“extinction”). A blond Nazi hermaphrodite fights a nude kung fu woman while a Japanese Dr. Strangelove comments on the action; it’s somehow inspired by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquakes, and there are satirical references to American imperialism, the nuclear power industry, and Japan’s own sense of racial superiority. A topless rendition of the 9-11 bombings may have Americans shaking their heads, but it’s hard to be too offended by something that resembles an insane sushi chef’s wet dream (multiple characters ejaculate rice). Whatever associations this stew of mad images raises in the Japanese consciousness, its bizarro bona fides are unquestionable.

Of course, we would have highlighted an entirely different set of segments if this piece had been written for a gorehound journal or a monster blog. One of the issues with what marches under the banner of “horror” these days is that it’s a loose confederation of disreputable interests that encompasses torture porn, black comedy, sick eroticism and experimental imagery alongside traditional stories of vampires, hauntings and madman. With two films prominently featuring pedophilia, and the aforementioned scatology and surrealism joining the expected blood and guts, ABCs‘ selections suggests that the modern horror genre is becoming a final resting place for the generally transgressive rather than for the terrifying per se.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Wow, what a weird, anarchic, energetic and exciting display, from claymation to puppetry to crazy postmodern collage to regular old live action!… I’ll take the movies that pissed me off too, if in some way they help make possible things as divergent and weird and exciting as Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s abstract, erotic ‘O Is for Orgasm,’ Simon Rumley’s grave and dramatic prostitution mini-melodrama ‘P Is for Pressure,’ and animator Jon Schnepp’s hyperactive every-genre-at-once ‘W Is for WTF?’ (probably my favorite of them all).”–Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.com (contemporaneous)

142. TOKYO GORE POLICE (2008)

Tôkyô Zankoku Keisatsu

“She is the only actress in the world who can look so beautiful just standing in the midst of a gushing spray of blood.”–Yoshihiro Nishimura on Eihi Shiina

“I wouldn’t say I liked being covered in blood… [but] I really love the surrealism and beauty of these scenes, while I’m getting covered in blood which is spurting out everywhere.”–Eihi Shiina

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Eihi Shiina, Yukihide Benny, Itsuji Itao

PLOT: Mutant serial killers known as “Engineers,” who sprout spontaneous bioweapons when wounded, are terrorizing Tokyo. Ruka, a sword-wielding loner addicted to cutting herself, is the star officer of the privatized Tokyo Police Corporation and the best Engineer-hunter on the force. As she investigates the Key Man, the human monster who is creating the Engineers, Ruka finds that secrets buried in her past may influence the future direction of her police career…

Still from Tokyo Gore Police (2008)

BACKGROUND:

  • Although he made short films as early as 1995, Yoshihiro Nishimura made a living early in his career supervising gory special effects and makeup for movies like Rubber’s Lover (1996), Suicide Club (2001), and Meatball Machine (2005).
  • Tokyo Gore Police was a huge success, and following right on the heels of 2008’s The Machine Girl (for which Nishimura did the effects), it helped popularize the modern Japanese movement.
  • The character of the Key Man had shown up in Nishimura’s 55-minute 1995 experimental film Anatomia Extinction.
  • Nishimura cites the paintings of as a key influence on his design style.
  • Tokyo Gore Police was co-produced by Nikkatsu, the studio infamous for firing auteur in the 1960s because his films were too weird.
  • Fellow Nikkatsu directors (Robogeisha) and (Meatball Machine) directed the television commercial parodies.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Though many people may be stuck on the genitalia-related mutations (penis cannon, crocodile maw vagina), I believe the quadruple amputee gimp dog lady (whose missing limbs can be fitted with blades or automatic weapons) is the movie’s most bizarre creation. Because her existence is casually revealed without comment or explanation, as a natural part of Tokyo Gore Police‘s unnatural world, in many ways it’s also the most perverse element.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Tokyo Gore Police earns its spot on the List as the apex of an entire genre of movies: the gory Japanese biohorror B-movie built around absurd violence and crazy mutant creatures. With its bordello of freaks, fountains of blood spurting from decapitated heads, and sick jokes at the expense of our fragile human anatomy, Tokyo Gore Police ticks off all the splatterpunk boxes; heck, it helped draw the boxes. Tokyo Gore Police found the top and easily vaulted over it, and try as they might no one has been able to raise the bad-taste bar—yet. As a bonus, this movie provides something you don’t see in its sillier imitators: a layer of nihilistic social satire and a nightmarish sense of urban despair.


American trailer for Tokyo Gore Police

COMMENTS: While  explored the plasticity of the human body in the West as early as 1983, transforming our very television Continue reading 142. TOKYO GORE POLICE (2008)

LIST CANDIDATE: MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD (2010)

DIRECTED BY: , Yoshihiro Nishimura,

FEATURING: Yumi Sugimoto, Suzuka Morita, Yuko Takayama,

PLOT: On her 16th birthday a bullied teenage girl discovers she’s really a half-breed mutant with

Still from Mutant Girls Squad (2010)

a claw for a hand; she joins up with others of her kind and must decide if she will help them destroy humanity and usher in an age of mutants.

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: At least one of these new wave Japanese  movies will eventually make the List; it’s just a question of which one can raise its head (or more appropriately, spout its geyser of blood) above the mad crowd. This entry in the cycle has the advantage of being a collaboration between three of the top talents in the sleazy subgenre—Noboru (RoboGeisha) Iguchi, Yoshihiro (Tokyo Gore Police) Nishimura, and Tak (Yakuza Weapon) Sakaguchi—as well as being bat-guano insane in its own right.

COMMENTS: You’ll probably know whether you want to see Mutant Girls Squad or not on the basis of the still above. Three of Sushi Typhoon’s top directors each handle a thirty minute chapter of this thinly-plotted, tripped-out triptych, and each is intent on outdoing the other in outrageousness. It’s a testament to the anything-goes interchangeability of the mutant-bioweaponry genre that you probably wouldn’t realize three hands were in this pie without being told; each of the directors promiscuously mixes up styles within his own segment, from teeth-chattering action sequences to absurd organ-oriented comedy to a terrorist music video medley mixing “Ave Maria,” calypso dancing, and suicide bombings. This filmmaking procedure may result in a certain level of discontinuity (schoolgirl Rin discovers and activates her mutant claw in the first chapter, and then goes through the mutant awakening procedure all over again in the succeeding segment), but that’s not too much of an issue in a style that makes comic books look like hardcore realism by comparison. The loosely sketched storyline involving a war between humans and mutants is just a clothesline on which the filmmakers hang as many “WTF?” moments as they can. To wit, you get soldiers equipped with masks that fire bullets from their noses; a baker ironically carved up into a baguette; a mutant pop with deformed nipples and genitalia; a flashback to a decapitated head on a birthday cake; a final boss with two giant boobs on either side of his head that shoot acidic milk; and so on, and so on. All this craziness becomes so expected, in fact, that it’s the quieter touches that stand out: in context, it’s actually more bizarre that the mutant cheerleader girl wears a bright yellow sweater reading “I [heart] Texas” than that she can extrude a chainsaw from her rectum. Of course, if you’re familiar with these movies at all, you know they’re not intended for anyone squeamish around blood and guts. Squad lives up to its forebears with all the expected exploding heads, absurdly abundant fountains of blood jetting from decapitated necks, and other demonstrations of the infinitely malleable meatishness of our all-too-frail human forms. Mutant Girls Squad‘s only real ambition is to zip from one outlandish, grotesque image to the next, and to do so as fast as possible so its audience never has the slightest opportunity to get bored. It achieves that ambition, but the effect is like scarfing down a pile of candy on Halloween; it’s tasty while you’re guzzling it down, but you might feel a little sick and guilty when the feast’s over. You also might feel that you’ve been robbed of a proper nutritious meal.

Since Meatball Machine essentially founded the mutant splatterpunk genre in 2005, Japanese studios have been churning out these chaep, absurdly bloody vehicles at the rate of 3-4 videos per year. In 2010 Nikkatsu Studios (makers of yakuza potboilers and pink films, and the company that infamously fired for making movies that were too weird) spun off a sub-label called “Sushi Typhoon” to pump out these b-movies and market them to the lucrative Western market.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“The insanity and inventiveness is absolutely over-the-top.”–Zev Toledano, The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre

CAPSULE: VAMPIRE GIRL VS. FRANKENSTEIN GIRL [Kyûketsu Shôjo tai Shôjo Furanken] (2009)

DIRECTED BY: Yoshihiro Nishimura, Naoyuki Tomomatsu

FEATURING: Yukie Kawamura, Takumi Saito, Eri Otoguro

PLOT: Two Japanese high school girls compete for the affections of a fellow student. One of

Still from Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl

them is a vampire, the other becomes a “Frankenstein girl” built of composite parts with the help of her mad scientist father.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It certainly has its share of weird and outrageous moments, but on the whole Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl is too slick, too self-aware, and too ho-hum to warrant a place on the ListSplatterpunk has its place there, but this is not the best representative of the genre.

COMMENTS: Narrated by Jyugon, a spineless but attractive high school boy, the film attempts to parody several high school subcultures while the paranormal plot thickens.  Though Jyugon is forced to date Keiko, a bossy Lolita, he soon finds himself the object of the affections of quiet transfer student Monami.  She feeds him a chocolate with her blood in it and turns him into a vampire, and inadvertently kills the jealous Keiko.  The latter’s father is the unassuming vice principal to the naked eye, but with the help of the sexy school nurse he secretly kills students so he can attempt to reanimate them in his basement lab.  He has a breakthrough with a magical drop of Monami’s blood and is able to assemble a new body for Keiko so she can wreak havoc on Jyugon and Monami’s tepidly developing romance.  There doesn’t seem to be much at stake, really, since Jyugon isn’t actually interested in either of the girls who are fighting over him.

Shooting a good portion of the movie as if it were a music video, directors Yoshihiro Nishimura and Naoyuki Tomomatsu don’t lack for visual ideas.  The kabuki costumed mad scientist, wide-jawed vampire, acid-trip hallucinations, non sequitur demon fight opening, wacky Bride of Re-Animator-esque composite creatures, and of course showers upon showers of blood tie well into the quick cuts, fluorescent lighting, and spontaneous musical numbers.  Scuffles with a feisty drop of blood and all-out duels between a crazed re-animated nurse and a manservant wielding human bones as weapons are sure to amuse any fan of weird Japanese grindhouse flicks, with a number of solid blood-based tools adding that vampiric flavor.  The model-attractive high school students and mini-skirts bring an appeal to various other viewer types.

With about an hour of build-up and 20 minutes of reward, Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl tests the audience’s patience.  The scenes involving the wrist-cutting club and Ganguro club are meant to be satirical but feel haphazard and irrelevant, while Jyugon’s narration is over-obvious and not as funny as it was probably intended.  Of course one wouldn’t expect well-developed characters or an especially clever script based on the title alone, but it just isn’t as fun as it could have been.  Everything is very slick, choreographed, and over-digital, making it less loose and enjoyable than many other films of this ilk.  Its interesting battle scenes and goofy gore don’t quite make up for lackluster humor, poorly thought-out characters, and an unsatisfying climax.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Japan has never really been shy of weird and crazy horror flicks… Vampire Girl Vs Frankenstein Girl is the latest to join the cult… [this entry is] a more comedy-oriented film that still bears all the typical treats of its predecessors, but adds a layer of silly comedy not quite unlike Cromartie High. The result is mighty strange, as you might have expected.”–Niels Matthijs, Twitchfilm (DVD)

SHORT: MEATBALL MACHINE: REJECT OF DEATH (2007)

Weirdest!

DIRECTED BY: Yoshihiro Nishimura

FEATURING: Asami

PLOT: An undead schoolgirl (?) joins three ethnic stereotypes to battle a bare-breasted

Still from Meatball Machine: Reject of Death (2007)

Meatball Machine mutant in this music video-style short.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD:  Filmed by special effects maven Yoshihiro Nishimura in 2007 as an extra for the Meatball Machine DVD, Reject of Death was made without a net, and without a sense of accountability to anyone who might censor it for content, or for sense.  Done in the style of a music video, it displays all the narrative rigor one expects from the form—which actually serves this material well.  Add politically incorrect stereotypes to the fast-moving mix of absurdist gore, heavy metal music, and killer boobs, and you have one weird little extra.

COMMENTS: I can only imagine that the correct way to see Reject of Death is to view it before seeing Meatball Machine; not knowing the “rules” of the MM universe likely to boost the already pretty “WTF?” level into the stratosphere.  The scene is set by a schoolgirl causally hacking at her arm with a razor, only to find a glowing button encased beneath her flesh.  She presses the button, and heavy metal power chords assault our ears.  Cut to a scene of a wigged prostitute whose trick turning is interrupted by the whir of tentacles and spray of blood that indicates infection by alien parasites.  Intercut those scenes with three ethnic stereotypes—a Native America, and African, and an Asian—wandering bemused around the streets of a Japanese city.  Bring all three groups together on a rooftop for a bloody battle royale which sprinkles in kung fu posturing, hermaphrodism, and a nipple that shoots barbed chains into eyeballs, and you have yourself an out-of-control featurette that will score with fans of pop-surrealism and exploitation-extremism alike.   Rejects of Death utilizes the thin mythology set up in Meatball Machine, and very well may be an attempt to explain one character’s back story, but it stands apart stylistically from the feature that inspired it.  Unabashedly (and gloriously) offensive, the short isn’t special enough by itself to justify a DVD purchase, but packaged together with the feature film, it may be enough to inspire fence-sitters to take a chance on a rental.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…as good—and in some respects, much better—than the main movie.”–Bill Gibron, DVD Verdict