Before there was “Tokyo Gore Police
” and “Machine Girl
”, there was “MEATBALL MACHINE” (2005). Co-written and co-directed by Yudai Yamaguchi (along with Junichi Yamamoto), is an experimental film that blends horror, Japanese Blood-Splattering elements, science fiction, romance, post-apocalypticism and a whole lot of blood and GORE. The film is insane and is a remake of the short film that carries the same title in 1999. Quite complex and yet so simple in its storyline, it’s the type of film that relies heavily on body disfigurement and a ‘cyberpunk’ backdrop.
Muraishi Yoji (Issei Takahashi), loner who is also a machine worker at a local warehouse harbors feelings for the next door factory worker named Sachiko Misawa (Aoba Kawai). After being beaten up by a transvestite after he rejects his advances at a theater, Yoji finds a golden object that resembles a turtle shell that secretes an alien-like semen. Curiosity takes the best of the young man and he takes it home to examine. Shortly after, Yoji stumbles upon Sachiko who is in danger of being raped by Tanaka (Kenichi Kawasaki), one of his co-workers. Yoji intervenes and gets beaten up by Tanaka, and the kindly Sachiko takes Yoji to his home. His wounds cleaned by Sachiko, Yoji finds some connection with the lovely young woman. But to his horror, Sachiko is attacked by the turtle-like alien shell that turns her into a Necro-Borg; a living host controlled by an alien force to do battle with other groups. These alien race has been using humans as their hosts, enhancing them with organic weaponry whose power is based off anger and depression. Now Yoji must attempt to save the woman he loves, even if it means becoming a necro-borg himself…
“Meatball Machine” actually has a very simple premise; a group of parasitic alien races battling each other for supremacy with humans as pawns may have been done many times before, but when you combine the first half of the film, directors Yamaguchi and Yamamoto is able to find a heart amid all the madness. The film brings the total alienation and loneliness of its two main leads. Sachiko and Yoji are both repressed individuals, they have had their share of bad luck in their lives. Most specifically Sachiko had been sexually abused by her own father while Yoji also has his own sad tale to tell. You see the characters’ sense of despair, pain and sadness, and therefore since this is a Japanese film, it does contain a strong commentary about negative emotions taking hold which may lead one to destruction. It also hits on some subtle hints of obsessive parental love as portrayed by an insane scientist and his daughter Michino (played by nude model Erika Sato).
The cyber-enhancements are similar to those seen in “Tetsuo the Iron Man” and they are massive, resembling the rubber suits of the aliens in “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers“ and “Ultraman“. The transformation sequences are bizarre, as the alien sphere attaches itself to its human host; they come complete with alien secretions, old-fashioned gore effects and arterial sprays. Yes, “Meatball Machine” has blood and gore in the bucket loads, there’s drills, entrails…you name it. Much of the splattering blood and gore happen in the film’s fight scenes, with limbs being severed and bodies being disemboweled. It pleases me that the filmmakers have shunned the use of CGI in favor of the old-fashioned red ink and prosthetics. While its old school approach is part of its B-movie sensibilities, some folks not adulterated to the Japanese style filmmaking may become alienated.
Truth be told, the action scenes aren’t as good as those seen in “Machine Girl” and “Tokyo Gore Police”. They aren’t as crazy and enthralling, but this film was before those other two films so I can excuse its somewhat lacking in raw craziness. Also, the film doesn’t exactly use its best aces to its utmost potential--a Necro-borg fight with a lot of spectators present would’ve been awesome. I also thought that the filmmakers focused too much on the gore effects that the story was a little downplayed, and in the end, the love between Sachiko and Yoji wasn’t fully brought into exposition. I wished that the script didn’t telegraph itself a little too early, the story just didn’t go full circle as much as I would’ve liked.
While “Meatball Machine” would be a little underwhelming when compared to the best of Japanese splatter fests, I still thought that it has enough gore, blood and bizarre alien ooze to get a ‘recommended’ rating from one educated in Japanese cinema. Part “Tetsuo” and part “Ultraman”, it is still a good cyberpunk feature that offer some old and new to the genre. It also carries some weird testament to the power of true love; wild, weird and definitely insane, the film doesn‘t let up until the final climactic fight. “Meatball Machine” is complex, outrageously exaggerated, and it would be insane to say that this is a “standard” movie in the eyes of mainstream audiences. It is still refreshing to see something different once in a while…