Life is seemingly pleasant and happy-go-lucky when two fully loaded coach buses of high school girls travel down a forestry passageway toward a lakeside hotel until sudden violence and gore turns Mitsuko’s classmates into minced meat. Overcome with shock and fear, Mitsuko escapes the terror only to find herself in another horrifying scenario. The vicious cycle continues as Mitsuko is thrusted into one chaotic, blood-splattering world after another, quickly losing her identity with each threshold crossing, and with no clue of what’s going on and how she got into this limbo of hell, Mitsuko must stay alive and unearth the truth behind the surreality of her being.
Nothing is more terrifying than being in a heart-pounding situation and not having one single clue why bodies are being sliced in half like corks popping violent out of champagne bottles, why childhood mentors break their professional oath and slaughter students with a ferocity of a mini-gun, or why being chased by a tuxedo-decked out groom with a gnarly pig head is in tow ready to drop kick anything, or anybody, standing in the way. Writer-director Sion Sono manifests that very chaos entrenched world in the 2015 action-horror “Tag” and, once again, the “Suicide Girls” director puts Japanese school girls back into the harrowed ways of gore and death over salted with an existential surrealism based off a novel by Yûsuke Yamada entitled Riaru Onigokko aka Real Game of Tag. Yamada’s story is followed more closely to that of Issei Shibata’s 2008 “The Chasing World” that involves a Government influence and parallel universes, “Tag” serves more as an abstract remake that Sono masters a soft touch of irrational poetry bathed in gore and strung with chaos rectified with a tremendously talented cast of young actresses.
Actresses such as the Vienna born Reina Triendl. Being Japanese doppelgänger to Mary Elizabeth Windstead with soft round eyes and the picturesque of youthfulness, Triendl transcends tranquility and innocence when portraying a content Mitsuko in the midst of many of her classmates boorishly bearing the typical, low-level adolescent anarchy. When Mitsuko’s thrusted into phantasmagorical mayhem, Triendl steps right there with her discombobulated character in an undried eye panicky frenzy whose character then spawns into two other fleshy vessels, a pair of recognizable names of J-Pop fandom in Mariko Shinoda and Erina Mano, when Mitsuko enters another zone in her fictional world. Though different in all aspects of their appearance and in name – Misuko, Kieko, and Izumi, the three women share the same existence and fathom a unbroken entity of character that hacks her way through the brutal truth. The remaining cast, Yuki Sakurai, Aki Hiraoka, and Ami Tomite, sport the high school miniskirt wardrobe and garnish a bubbly-violent J-horror persona very unique to the genre.
“Tag” is a plethora of metaphors and undertones likely to be over-the-head of most audiences, but if paying close enough attention and understanding the subtle rhythmic pattern of Sono’s direction, the gore and the fantastic venues are all part of an intrinsic, underlining message of feminism and sex inequality that’s built inside a “man”-made, video game structure thirty years into the future. Sono points out, in the most graphic and absurd method, how men treat women like objects or playthings. There’s also a message regarding predestination with white pillow feathers being the metaphor for fate and being spontaneous is the key to break that predestined logic and all of this corresponds to how Misuko, the main character, needs to break the mold, to choose her path, and to remember her past in order to free all the women trapped inside a male-driven purgatory of pain, punishment, and pleasure. Supporting Sono’s ability to disclose an epic survival-fantasy horror in such a way comes from multiple production companies, one of them being NBCUniversal Entertainment, providing the cash flow that allows Sono to flesh out the gore, to acquire massive amount of extras, and to scout out and obtain various locations.
Eureka Entertainment presents a dual format, Blu-ray-DVD combo, of “Tag” for the first time in the United Kingdom. However, the disc provided was a feature-only screener and a critique on the video, audio, and bonus material will not be conducted, but in itself, “Tag” is a full throttle encephalon teaser warranting a need for no supplementary content aside from conventional curiosity into what makes Sono’s “Tag” tick. When all pistons are firing, from the visual effects of Satoshi Akabane to “The Walking Dead” familiar score, “Tag” is no child’s game with a heavily symbolic, touch-and-go and bloodied pro-feministic essence that would serve as an abrupt and acute wakeup call to all the Harvey Weinsteins in the world that women are not to be simply playthings and that their gender destiny lies solely with them despite the misconstrued male manipulation.
Living free from job responsibilities and able to workout whenever he wants, body builder Naoto is living the high life. His daily workout is interrupted by his former photojournalist ex-girlfriend in search of the next haunted house for her latest article and she calls Naoto to inquire his father’s old, creepy home that’s now in Naoto’s possession. Accompanied by a professional psychic, the three conduct a house call to get a presence reading and take pictures of the rundown, abandoned home. They find themselves trapped inside with Naoto’s father’s darkest secret malevolently toying with them and holding them hostage with her cursed power bestowed upon her death, 30 years ago, forsaken to her by the hands of Naoto’s fahter.
In 2014, first time director Shinichi Fukazawa’s endearment for Sam Raimi’s “The Evil Dead” has encouraged the filmmaker to tribute a film that has dubbed “The Japanese Evil Dead.” With all the depictions of Raimi’s film, including from a shotgun, an axe, and even a severed sarcastic-spewing mangled demon head, “Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell” views just as good as the sounds. Taking his film to the next level by going back in a time warp, Fukazawa de-amplifies the image quality with a lo-fi flare that adds chaotic charm bathed in retro-VHS vision as every desaturated hue and blanket of coarse grain is a step back in time. Fukazawa implements his own sturdy brand of macabre to branch his version of “The Evil Dead.” For instance, Fukazawa removes the Necronomicon, the book of the dead, all together. Instead, the director doesn’t forth put an outright explanation behind the cause of the cursed’s murderous revenge other than holding a jealous grudge and the lack of motivation is okay because “Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell” is a modern day video nasty.
Shinichi Fukazawa, himself, stars as Naoto, suffering every ding, boink, and bop as our hapless hero that’s aims to strike similarities to Ashley “Ash” Williams and his gift of being the king of Three Stooges foolishness. Fukazawa plays a more conservative character in comparison, but does manage spit out memorable one-liners made genre famous by Bruce Campbell, like “groovy.” THe lead actress, Asako Nosaka, holds her own as a lovely damsel in distress who can double on a dime as a Mike Tyson speed bag puncher. The trapped pair make a convincingly distressed protagonists, especially in such a small Japanese home that’s the equivalent to a cabin in the woods. Last on the roster is Masaaki Kai filling in the psychic’s shoes and conjures an performance that’s could fit right in with the Kandarian Cheryl, Scott, Linda, and Shelley demons.
“Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell” is a 2014 effects driven, blood hungry roller coaster of pure mayhem entertainment. The ingeniously creative special effects, on a shoe string budget, are made of eye-popping, skull-crushing, and limb-parting goodness that every horror fan can appreciate and love. The lo-fi cinema and melancholy horror fixes to not impress those who have a taste for the CGI eye candy and won’t knock your socks off with the latest and greatest technological, animated advances in effects that attempts to mock real life, but accomplishes the opposite in the fabricated grindhouse reel with overexposures and rough edges that are more fitting for the subject matter. Fukazawa does embody Raimi’s creative editing and angle vision that makes Fukazawa’s film feel very attached to “The Evil Dead” franchise.
The well-meshed video nasty mingles Japanese culture with a loving tribute to Raimi’s “The Evil Dead” franchise and kicks off Shinichi Fukazawa’s most interesting silver screen career. Terracotta Distribution’s “Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell” is a tightly packed 62-minute joyride with squirrelly, demented demons with heavy emphasis on the blood and the gore. Image quality is poor and that’s a good thing! The low-tech fullscreen and unrefined quality are a tall-tell sign of a SOV gruesomeness surrounded by a fuzzy Japanese dual channel stereo. Extras includes a Graham Humprey time lapsed video of him creating his DVD artwork, a behind-the-scenes gallery, a dismemberment of scene clips, and Japanese and Terracotta trailers bringing up the tail end. “Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell” packs a punch, delivers the death, and gorges itself in the gore in this UK DVD from Terracotta Distribution! and is a lovely blend of comedy, horror, and praise that’s powerfully short and sweet from a freshman director who aims to make a statement while giving appreciation in his own culturally established way.
In a small South Korean village, tight-knit families practically know one another in the quaint middle-class community. When mysteriously deadly destructions from inside local families and strange stories of animal carcass devouring creatures in the woods surface, local police sergeant Jong-Goo begins an investigation to connect a pattern of violence and superstition and at the center of it all is a suspicious and reclusive Japanese traveller. Bound by the law and an overall lack of courage, Jong-Goo proceeds to investigate with extreme caution, but when his young daughter, Hyo-jin, becomes subjected to the same symptoms that overtook destroyed families from within, the desperate father sets aside rules and regulations and uses threats and force when visiting the Japanese Stranger, whose rumored to be an evil spirit that’s plaguing the small village with terror and death.
By far, “The Wailing” sets the precedent on folklore horror. Acclaimed writer-director Hong-jin Na lands a harrowingly ambitious, well-constructed film right into the lap of horror fans with “The Wailing,” known also as “Goksung” in the film’s country of South Korea. South Korean filmmakers have once reestablished proof that foreign films can be as masterful, as bold, and as elegant when compared to any other film from major studio productions. Hollywood has started to come around by remaking one of South Korea’s most notorious films, the vengeful thriller “Oldboy,” and seeks to remake recent international hits in “Train to Buscan” and “I Saw the Devil.” Lets also touch upon that top Hollywood actors are beginning to branch out to South Korean films. “Captain America” star Chris Evans had obtained a starring role in Joon-ho Bong’s “Snowpiercer” alongside co-stars Ed Harris and the late British actor Sir John Hurt. “The Wailing” will reach similar popularity being one of 2016’s most original horror movies and one of the more unique visions of terror to clutch the heart of my all time favorite’s list.
Do-won Kwak stars as Sergeant Jong-Goo, a officer who avoids trouble at all costs and has no motivation to be on time for anything. Kwak, basically, plays the fool character, comically going through the routine of investigating brutal murders complete with stabbings, burnings, and hangings despite his Captain’s constant chastising and seizes every opportunity to act dumb and look stupid, but once the story starts to focus “The Wailing” as nothing more than an offbeat black-comedy, Hong-ja Na devilishly about-faces with a severe turn of events that’s a mixed bag of genres. Kwak no longer plays the lead role of comic relief; instead, a more self-confident Sergeant Jong-Goo takes control of the investigation as the deeper he finds himself involved in the dark plague that’s ravaging his village. He hunts down the Japanese Stranger, the debut South Korean film for long time Japanese actor Jun Kunimura (“Kill Bill,” Takashi Miike’s “Audition”) with a zen like aurora that’s enormously haunting to behold and captivating when his presence is lurking amongst the scene. Though Kunimura’s demeanor contrasts with other actors, he’s very much in tune with the dynamic, but it’s the maniacally, foul-mouth ravings of Hyo-jin, played by Hwan-hee Kim, that stand out and are the most distraught during her possession state that could give “The Exorcist” a run for it’s money and is a visceral vice grip to the soul that has to be experienced. Woo-hee Chun and Jung-min Hwang round out the cast in their respective and memorable co-starring roles as a peculiar no named woman and a flashy shaman.
“The Wailing” incorporates various folklore stemming from cultures all over the world including the Koreas, China, Japan, and even from China’s bordering neighbor Nepal and meshes them with religious practices of Buddhism to even the far corners that the Catholic faith possesses. The luxuriant green South Korean mountain backdrop sets an isolated, ominous cloud over a beautiful and serene archaic village, an awe-inspiring juxtaposition created by cinematographer Kyung-pyo Hong that coincides with the complete dread piercing through the heart of the story; a perspective vastly opposite to Hong’s works in the previously mentioned “Snowpiercer” that’s set in the tight confines of a class dividing bullet train. “The Wailing” bundles together mythos with visionary concepts and landscapes in an epic mystery-thriller that’s unforgettable; it will cling to you, like a evil-dwelling spirit, well after the film is over.
20th Century Fox, in association with Ivanhoe Pictures and Side Mirror, produce Hong-jin Na’s top horror contender “The Wailing” with Well Go USA and Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment distributing on DVD and Blu-ray. Unfortunately, I was provided with a DVD-R screener and can’t specifically comment on specifications and image or audio quality. Accompanying the screener were two bonus features: a behind-the-scenes featurette and the beginning tale of “The Wailing” featurette. Both were fairly informative that gives insight on Hong-jin Na’s mindset and how the director’s ambitious story in a malignant tale of comedy, horror, and mysterious involving demons, shamans, and, quite possibly, the devil himself. “The Wailing” significantly captivates, sucking you into the darkness with an uncanny amount of pull with a story too terrifyingly original to avert and too thick with vigorous characters in a plot twist too harrowing to forget.
One man becomes the unfortunate subject of ghastly experimentations performed by a sadistic and blood thirsty doctor. Wheeled by abiding orderlies back and forth from his sterile white and padded cell to the mad doctor’s dark and dingy operating room office, the man’s will to live quickly begins to fade, yearning for death before suffering anymore in an alternative Hell. That is, until the handwritten notes start appearing on his padded room floor. The notes seep through between the pads from another tortured soul, a female, in the adjacent room. Withstanding new atrocities done to her before the man receives them, she pleads with the man to not leave her and to make a pact to outlive the inhumanities together.
Welcome to the new American Guinea Pig series! “Bloodshock” is the 2015 follow up film, on the coattails of 2014’s “American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts and Gore,” from writer-producer and Unearthed Films president Stephen Biro and directed by special effects guru Marcus Koch. Koch, whose effects credentials include the Barbara Crampton starring thriller “We Are Still Here” and Koch’s prior directorial work “Rot” and “100 Tears,” strays away from the straight forward concept with an ultra gore art house expressionistic horror film that aims to break your mind as well as your body. Open for interpretation, “Bloodshock” fits perfectly into the ever provocative Unearthed Films’ wide open cache of underground cinema and will alleviate Koch to the next level of filmmaking. My interpretation of what this poor man and woman are experiencing is simply a penancing purgatory that’s intended to cleanse their souls in the warmth of their own wretched blood; the two victims understand their pain, as if not feeling the invasive effects of being dissected while still yielding breath, and are willing to subdue themselves to a maniacal physician until they’re able to briefly thwart his tireless work to share pain and open wounds in blood-soaked passion of hopeless ecstasy.
Dan Ellis puts in a powerful performance as the mistreated male patient with Lillian McKinnay, as the female patient, co-starring in an equally bold performance, especially being McKinnay’s first major role. Andy Winton’s diabolical medical maltreatment compares to the similar magnitude of “The Human Centipede’s” Dieter Laser by conducting exploratory, invasive, and unnecessary surgeries for sport while being candor about his blood lusting necessity. Amongst the three main actors, Biro’s script contains little dialogue, banking laboriously on physical renditions since both tortured patients’ tongues have been severed and jarred. Every movement is precisely executed and surged with attention, tuned to tell the story without much verbiage. Ultra gore isn’t everybody’s cup of cinematic tea and with an extremely thin film of dialogue as an outer coating, Ultra gore becomes that much difficult to be entertained by, but, recently, I’ve been lucky enough to come across another gore and shock film, coincidentally enough another Unearthed Films’ release entitled “Flowers” by director Phil Stevens, that had proved to me, as well as Koch has just done, that unspoken gore can be ingeniously crafted and thought provoking.
“Bloodshock’s” gore holds nothing back and leaves nothing to the imagination. The meticulous bone-sawing, head-splitting effects from a talented special effects team, consisting of Marcus Koch’s Oddtopsy FX crew, paint a sordid picture with a blood brush. Koch’s decision to go with Donald Donnerson’s cinematography under the two-tone of black and white doesn’t stiffen the poignant sight of blood, inner layers of flesh, or the splintering bone fragments. The Japanese would be pleased with their American counterparts realistically depicting gore and death captured amongst an underlying meaning. Unearthed Films has already taken the steps to continue the series with their next installment, “American Guinea Pig: The Song of Solomon,” which will pertain to a graphic exorcism and, currently, there are preview images and video scenes available.
The 3-Disc Collector’s Set from Unearthed Films and MVD Visual has priceless collector’s value. Not only does the set have a Blu-ray transfer of the 1.85:1 widescreen presentation, but also contains a DVD presentation and a third disc containing a CD of the Kristian Day industrial-jarring soundtrack. The black and white image quality is sharp and solid for a majority of 91 minute runtime. Some scenes go soft, losing shape to blotchy interference, but the qualities only supplement to “Bloodshock’s” charming grit. Only during the course of the patients unifying do colorful hues gradually seep in, almost unnoticeably, during an ostentatious sex scene involving blood and intestine that’s effectively edited to slowly build the passionate boiling point. Despite two of the main characters have their tongues removed, the Dolby Digital 2.0 audio has the dialogue so sorely crushed under the weight of the Kristian Day soundtrack that at some scenes I can’t even understand what the good mad doctor is saying. Also, on the DVD, I noticed that all audio tracks delay a second behind the action and dialogue. The bonus features are immense with interviews with director Marcus Koch, writer-producer, Stephen Biro, actor Dan Ellis, actress Lillian Mckinney, and two commentary tracks with Marucs Koch and Stephen Biro on one and actor Andy Winton, Gene Palubicki, and Alberto Giovannelli on the other. There’s also a behind the scenes featurette, production videos, and a booklet with a review from Ultra Violent Magazine! Unearthed Films certainly has a definitive release in their collection with “American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock” that’s packed with bonus material and full of venomous content abiding by the guidelines set forth by the Japanese. I don’t foresee the underground cinema juggernaut or the explicitly snuff-like Guinea Pig series ever slowing the flow of blood. “Bloodshock” fulfills the qualifications of the series by having the guts to show the guts and being just as demented and sick for fans who can stomach and endure grisly content.
In a city fueled by constant drug trafficking and violence, a weak and corrupt police department has revolving leadership, but one good cop, detective Azuma, of the vice squad doesn’t have the taste for dope. Azuma’s wild card police tactics stir much controversy in his department, placing him on extremely thin ice, but he manages to get the job done no matter the destructive, if yet effective, trail left behind. When the detective learns that his long time colleague and best friend, detective Iwaki, has been involved with trafficking drugs, Iwaki ends up dead in apparent suicide and Azuma will stop at nothing to discover the truth behind his friend’s sudden death. Azuma’s Dirty Harry-style methods catch the attention of a powerful yakuza henchman who kidnaps her and lets his entourage gang rape his mentally unstable sister and with nothing else to lose, the rogue officer shoots first and never asks questions later.
“Violent Cop” is the breakout 1989 directorial film from Takeshi Kitano, one of the most recognizable names and faces in the revival of Japan’s film industry and a staple amongst other mediums including stage performance, television, and other various liberal arts. Kitano also headlines the yakuza genre film as the lead character, the ungovernable detective Azuma, in this unforgiving cop drama under his pseudonym ‘Beat’ Takeshi. Kitano’s harden plastered mug and short, stocky stature caters to the era of lone wolf. rogue cops, providing a hearty performance familiar to that of Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson. “Violent Cop” quietly packs a punch, patiently waiting to seize the opportunity to display explicitly graphic violence while also being sleek in it’s construction, charmingly odd in it’s humor, and basking more in the parameters of performance than in it’s exposition of dialogue, which is kitano is known more for in his acting.
Much of the film revolves around Azuma’s cavalier and stoic personality. In the opening, three teenage boys unjustifiably harass and assault an elder homeless man. Azuma, who happened to witness the assault, follows one of the boys to his home, knocks on the door, identifies himself as a police offer to the boy’s mother, walks up the stairs alone, and slaps the boy around in his own room until the boy confesses and agrees to turn himself in at the station the following day. This introduction not only showcases Azuma’s descriptive title character as the violent cop, but also informs that the work alone Azuma has a vigilante moral principle that even isolates him from his unstable sister. Once a student of comedy, Kitano re-wrote the Hisashi Nozawa original comedic script into a brutal police drama, wanting to exhibit a serious side, but left alone some of the script’s initial comedy elements that blend the spirited yakuza film to being just inside the genre. Kitano’s progressive camera work includes deep long shots along with tight quarter setups, extensive and angled crane shots, slow motion sequences, and long track work that pinpoints Kitano’s diverse style.
“Violent Cop” lives up to the title. Heads being bashed with an aluminum bat, multiple gory-soaked stabbings, and a sadistic, punishing maltreatments are just a few examples of “Violent Cops” barbaric qualities. The violent scenes feel almost peppered throughout, but they’re really strategically placed between character building segments that only support the necessity of brutality. Did detective Azuma really need to run over a suspect, who just murdered a colleague, down twice with the squad car? Yes, because the suspect desperately and dangerously wielded a baseball bat as a weapon and attacked them numerous time. The actions of the criminal warranted Azuma’s unethical position of bulldozing him over, twice. Only when Azuma is pushed beyond his limits does he lose what was left of any shred of restraints that were holding him back. Azuma meets an antagonistic match, a blood thirsty foe equally resistant and, at the same time, loyal with his boss, creating a villainous mirror image whose just as a loose canon as himself.
Film Movement, the New York based award-winning and foreign cinema distributor, presents a specialized hi-definition Blu-ray treatment of “Violent Cop” in a sharply detailed 1.85:1 aspect ratio stored on a single disc BD-50. The region A disc provides the best transfer quality of this 1989 film to date with stunning, natural coloring, balanced hues, and defined edges with no signs of compression artefacts. Darker scene noise is present, but to affect the experience, the noise would need to be more extensive. With Film Movement’s release, the noise is minimal and shouldn’t be considered a factor. The Japanese LCPM 2.0 audio track is quality with no hiss or pops. Dialogue is evident in the forefront, all other tracks seem level with an accompaniment range of ambiance, and, like aforementioned, all tracks are clean and clear of distortions. Extras include a featurette entitled “That Man is Dangerous: The Birth of Takeshi Kitano” and an booklet essay with the topic of Takehsi Kitano, written by Asian film expert and film curator Tom Vick. “Violent Cop” offers no sympathy, but provides an abundance of rich, dedicated filmmaking in a raw format that seems almost archaic in the present. Film Movement and “Violent Cop” go hand-in-hand, a foreign yakuza melodrama that saw the beginning stages of rebirth in the last days of a struggling Japanese cinema market and Kitano’s face is at the forefront of that movement.