Monday, June 25, 2012

Horror Film Review

Wild Zero (1999):  Zombie flick!  From Japan!  (Subtitles, with them.)  And it's so freakin' off the wall, shithouse-rat crazy, that you truly won't believe your eyes.  I mean, check out the totally out of control poster and you'll get some idea of what the movie's like.  Seriously, how do you blend zombies, rock 'n roll, aliens, true love, and, well, magic into one film?  Hell if I know.  There's no way it should work.  But it did.  There's no way I should have enjoyed it so much.  But I did.  Look, when you run across a B-movie that's part Night of the Living Dead, part Invasion of the Body Snatchers, part The Blues Brothers, and part The Crying Game, it's damn near impossible not to have a good time.  Explaining Wild Zero, though,...that might just be impossible.

We start with thousands of gold UFOs zipping through space on their way to earth.  You get the impression that they're not the welcome wagon.  A few minutes of that, then cut to Ace (Masashi Endo), a guy who idolizes rock band Guitar Wolf, especially lead singer, uh, Guitar Wolf.  Other band members are Bass Wolf and Drum Wolf.  No, really.  These three are the epitome of cool...all black leather, sunglasses, and attitude.  Bass and Drum have a car.  Guitar has a suped-up motorcycle complete with flame-belching exhaust pipes.  It's a look, and if I'm honest, an awesome one.  Just to clarify, Guitar Wolf is a real rock band in Japan and the three guys in this movie are the real band members.  They have a punk/metal sound and crank it to 11.  Anyway, the band is in a Mexican standoff with a bar owner when Ace busts in.  The distraction helps the band win, but Ace gets knocked out.  To thank him, Guitar cuts himself and Ace, does a blood brother thing, then gives his number one fan a whistle and says use it if he ever needs help.  They part ways and it's on to the next gig. 

Now, there are four subplots to jack up the whack factor:  an arms-dealing woman with a Humvee at the side of the road waiting to meet a client, the client and his bodyguard in a limo on the way to the meet, three bickering friends driving around trying to find where a meteorite had reportedly just crashed, and a mysterious young woman just walking around by herself.  Some paths cross, some don't.  Ace runs into the mystery woman, Tobio (Kwancharu Shitichai), promptly falls in love, but leaves her so he can make it to Guitar Wolf's next concert.  The others run into zombies and the carnage begins.  When Ace does, he goes back to rescue Tobio.  They run, they hide, they're overrun and then...well, Ace discovers there's more to Tobio than he first thought.  He freaks, runs away, uses the whistle to call Guitar, then grows a pair and goes Rambo on the brain-munchers with a crow bar.  Guitar shows up just as the zombies overwhelm Ace and saves him, barely, and tells him to go find his true love.  The climax involves Guitar going toe to toe with the massive alien mothership armed only with his guitar.  The aliens, who we never see, are responsible for the zombies.  Why?  Dunno.  How?  Dunno.  Does it matter?  Heck, no. 

Now, a few things are worth mentioning.  Wild Zero has some of the best head-exploding shots I've ever seen.  So cool.  And I'm thinking the filmmakers had a thing for the old Batman TV show.  Besides Guitar's motorcycle, his microphone also shoots flames as well as the bar owner's car.  No explanation; it just is.  The same is true for the seemingly supernatural powers possessed by Guitar.  Well, there is an explanation of's the power of Rock 'n Roll!  You'll understand when you watch it.  And finally, the relationship between the main character, Ace, and the love interest, Tobio, is non-traditional and refreshing.  I'm not a fan of romance in horror movies, but in this case, it fits right in with the rest of the chaos.  Oh, yeah.  Why's it called Wild Zero?  Not even a whiff of a clue.


Acting:  It's all over-the-top cheese, if I'm honest.  Frenetic, foreign B horror flick...what, you were expecting Pacino and Streep?
Story:  I have a theory.  The writer mixed LSD and NyQuil and fell asleep in a poppy field.  Unique?  Understatement.
Direction:  It should have been a mess.  The cohesion is impressive.
Production Values:  You don't get a "low-budget" vibe, which is all that matters, really.
Gore/FX:  A plethora of blood and guts, and the aforementioned exploding heads.  All pretty nifty.  The alien ships?  A little silly.  And some of the "magic" energy shots are campy but still work.  The zombie make-up runs the gamut from seriously freaky to comical. 
Scares:  There are one or two, however, that's not what the filmmakers were focused on.
Ending:  There's no other way to explain's a happy ending.
Verdict:  Should you see Wild Zero?  It's a must for anyone fond of quirky B movies and a valid entry in the zombie genre.  Rock 'n Roll!

Rating:  4 out of 5

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