Foreign Objects travels the world of international cinema each week to highlight films worth visiting. So renew your passport, get your shots, and brush up on the local age of legal consent, this week we’re heading to…
Japan! Yes, I know, we were just there three weeks ago with The Machine Girl, but I was lucky enough to catch the West Coast premiere of Tokyo Gore Police last night as the closing night film of SF Indie’s Another Hole in the Head film festival here in San Francisco. I went in expecting a Machine Girl clone, something light in tone but heavy in blood, gore, and action. I’m happy to say my expectations were not met. They were greatly exceeded.
Murderous mutants are springing up throughout Japan. More dangerous than your average everyday run of the mill mutants, this new breed has been dubbed ‘engineers’ because of their ability to turn bodily injuries into deadly weapons. Cut off an arm and a chainsaw or razor-toothed mouth forms in its place. Bite off a man’s johnson and a four foot fleshy rifle grows from the stump. To fight this new mutant malady the Tokyo police are privatized and a new unit, the Tokyo Gore Police, is created. The only way to defeat the engineers is to sever a mysterious key-shaped tumor from their bodies, so of course this specialized unit carries samurai swords along with their standard issue machine guns. The squad’s most successful member with over fifty engineer kills is Ruka, played by Eihi Shiina from Takashi Miike’s Audition. Ruka is a cutter of more than just mutants, a trait she inherited from her suicidal mother; and her policeman father was gunned down before her eyes when she was a teenager. The storyline follows Ruka’s personal issues concurrently with the sickness afflicting Tokyo and the villains behind them both.
Similarities to The Machine Girl start and end with the over-the-top gore and pneumatic blood sprays. While that film was a goofy, gory, and fun exploitation flick with little to say beyond what was visible on screen, Tokyo Gore Police and director Yoshiro Nishimura are interested in adding sharp social satire and criticism to the experience. The movie is most reminiscent of Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop in this regard, from the privatized police force down to the darkly comic commercials interspersed throughout. The ‘Wristcutter G’ ad was my personal favorite with its dancing teens slashing at their wrists with a cool and cute new razor… makes your blood taste great and leaves cute designs in your skin! There was also a nice ode to the Wii with a happy family wielding a handhold remote in the form of a large knife. The jabs at Japan’s extreme consumerism and death-obsessed culture are especially relevant with recent news of internet-planned, but real world executed murders and suicides.
While the movie is much more (and much better) than a simple splatterfest, the effects on display are incredibly creative and entertaining. Using prosthetics instead of CGI, Tokyo Gore Police lives up to its title with all manner of squirm and squirt inducing grotesqueness. Limbs litter the screen and blood splashes against the lens with regularity. Some of it’s humorous, some of it’s sad, but all of it is wet. The effects often impress more than the budget should have seemingly allowed. A quadruple amputee ensconced in latex and S&M fallout mask is particularly noteworthy… aside from being disturbing, the short-limbed “pet” proves to be agile and nimble when all four stumps are fitted with swords suitable for walking, jumping, and fighting.
To state the obvious, Tokyo Gore Police is not for every one. But if you enjoyed Robocop or the body manipulations and mutations of David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, then I recommend it. If you can go in with a sense of humor, an open mind, and possibly an empty stomach then I recommend it even more. Like The Machine Girl, the overabundance of gore, grue, and depravity guarantees it a spot in cult classic history, but it’d be a shame if it wasn’t appreciated equally for its social satire, sharp humor, and for the vagina-chair golden shower scene.
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