Hang on to your ZOMBIE ASS! It’s Noboru Iguchi’s “TOILET OF THE DEAD!”

Night of the Living Dead began in a graveyard.

Resident Evil began with a virus.

And now, Zombie Ass begins from a toilet…

Noboru Iguchi, the mad genius responsible for The Machine Girl and bête noire of rectophobes around the globe, is forcing audiences to roll up their sleeves, take out their plungers, and dive down to where zombies have rarely gone before: the sh***er.

Yes, this is a real film, as if we could doubt anything to come from Japan after my recent report on the upcoming Rape Zombie: Lust of the Dead.  Offering ass-loads of toilet humor garnished with liberal amounts lots of flesh-ripping and feces-flinging action, Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead was shown at the Texas Fantastic Fest in September 2011, and just saw its Japanese premiere in Tokyo this past weekend on February 25th.

Zombie Ass stars Arisa Nakamura, Mayu Sugano, Asana Mamoru, as well as Iguchi regulars AsamiKentaro Kishi, and Kentaro Shimazu and tells the tale of Megumi, a young karate student and her friends as they find themselves confronted with the menace of a parasitic breed of intestinal worm that turns its victims into horrifying ghouls!  And what’s more, it seems that only the power of flatulence can possibly save humanity from these undying terrors of the toilet!  Remember, this is coming from a man who proudly proclaims himself as a “legendary ass-fetishist.”  I would attempt to make more toilet/anus-related jokes, but I have a feeling that I might just be beating a dead ass – er, horse, so I’ll leave you with the trailer.  Just don’t watch the film after eating.

Raising Hell: Thoughts on the “Helldriver” Launch – Part Deux

Photo by Norman England

Continuing from my previous post, after hearing Mr. Nishimura’s tales of grueling 300-cut days on the set of his latest splatterific masterpiece, it was time to partake of the gore-soaked, adrenaline-charged thrill ride that is Helldriver.  So grab your favorite rubber ducky, we’re about to jump into a serious bloodbath!

While I was able to discuss Helldriver to a fair extent in my previous report on the Tokyo premiere back in March, a second viewing allowed me to evaluate the film on a more personal and thematic level, and see the depth that lies beneath the surface of this hyperactive tale of carnage and mayhem.  The first and most obvious theme is perhaps the politics, whereby Japan’s government is stymied by a political stalemate over whether the infected humans should be captured and treated medically, or simply exterminated.  Minister of Justice Osawa (Guadalcanal Taka) favors the latter path of annihilation, while Prime Minister Hatoda (Minoru Torihada) seeks rehabilitation of the zombified citizens, much to his regret about midway through the film when he is cannibalized by the very beings he was attempting to protect.  Both characters have been assigned monikers that are not-so-subtle parodies of existing politicians, and the government satire almost hits too close to home, especially considering the eerie resemblance of the film’s plot to Japan’s current situation, with clouds of radiation and polluted foodstuffs replacing Helldriver’s plume of poisonous ash and infected population in Japan’s northern regions.

More interesting to me than the critique on politics (which is, let’s face it, almost too easy considering Japan’s recent political landscape), was the way that the film approaches the topic of family.  Woven throughout the story are various plot threads involving familial ties.  Taku (Yurei Yanagi) takes care of orphans in the memory of his departed father, while one of those orphans, Nanashi (Mizuki Kusumi) searches for his lost sister.  Newly included scenes of the always wonderful pair of Asami and Takumi Saito in their roles as “hyper-police” also show a tragic story of siblings facing impossible odds, and a Catholic priest (Kanji Tsuda) offers sanctuary and shelter to the “afflicted” relatives of families who aren’t quite prepared to be separated from their dearly departed. And, of course, the overarching plot revolves around Kika (Yumiko Hara), her sadistic mother Rikka (played by the lovely Eihi Shiina), and her equally insane uncle Yasushi (Kentaro Kishi).  Rikka incessantly reminds her daughter (while killing and eating the flesh of her own husband) that she only exists because of her, and thus is her possession.  The megalomaniacal mother-turned-zombie-queen even goes so far as to tear her daughter’s own beating heart out of her chest to replace her own, insisting that it was her belonging to begin with.

Superseding the various other plot threads, the climax of the film sees an enraged Kika crying out to have her life, her father, and her heart returned, her repetition eventually devolving into a furious chant of “Mine, mine, mine!”  The “like mother, like daughter” irony of the film’s closing casts a shadow over the otherwise fairly upbeat conclusion, and the depth of the relationships explored throughout the film certainly made a repeat viewing more than worthwhile.

So what was different about this new “extended” version?  Well, aside from the aforementioned Asami/Takumi Saito mini-arc and priest storyline, the film also contained an extended scene featuring the capture and subsequent devouring of Nanashi’s school uniform-clad younger sister (played by adult video actress Rui Saotome).  Tied down in a chair, the girl is surrounded by devilishly leering zombies and, in a somewhat disturbing scene, has her shirt torn open and both nipples bitten off a la Castle Freak.  While the unrealistic torrents of blood that gush from her ample breasts are not likely to offend the sensibilities of the film’s target demographic, and the actress herself was 22 at the time, the people at Sushi Typhoon probably thought it wise to omit this particular portion of the schoolgirl cannibal show in the film’s international version.

Some of you might remember the rant in my first review, where I expressed a few gripes about the pacing of the film and the way in which some of the action sequences seemed to drag on a bit too long.  Well, Mr. Nishimura provided an astute and eye-opening statement during the introduction to the film, where he essentially said that he “wanted to create a film that will tire foreign audiences out.”  In other words, he wished to test the limits of viewers in their craving for outrageous action and over-the-top gore, and I truly believe that the director has indeed pushed the boundaries in this particular area.  Recalling his phrase, I was able to enjoy the lengthy scenes more than the last time, although I still have my issues with the race across the Hokkaido landscape.  You can read my previous report for details, but while I still find the discombobulated settings and background images a bit distracting from the action itself, I managed to immerse myself in the scene and enjoy the zany, bloody hijinks for what they were.  Overall, I enjoyed Helldriver even more the second time around, having a bloody good time and becoming even more excited to see what Mr. Nishimura and his crew will be churning out next!

So there you have it, my impressions of Helldriver in its original gut-wrenching glory.  Watch out for a DVD release (and see me in the extras!), hopefully before the end of this year.  And if you’re in or around Tokyo, then what are you waiting for?  Get caught up in the Sushi Typhoon!

Stay tuned for part three, when I will be giving a more personal account of the Helldriver premiere after-party with the cast and crew!

Raising Hell: Thoughts on the “Helldriver” Launch – Part 1

July 23, 2011, will surely be remembered in the realms of underground film fandom as a date of historical significance, seeing the official Japanese theatrical releases of not one, not two, not even three, but four outrageous titles created under the auspices of Nikkatsu’s Sushi Typhoon label.  Alien vs Ninja, Deadball, Yakuza Weapon, and, of course, Helldriver, all made their official debut at Ginza Cine Pathos in Tokyo, possibly gracing that screen with more gut-wrenching, gory goodness than ever before.

Photo by Norman England

“Now, wait a minute, Mr. Skeleton,” you may be saying to yourself.  “Didn’t you just report on the premiere of Helldriver back in March?  What’s this business about another launch?”  Well, gentle reader, perhaps a bit of clarification is in order.  Filmed in 2010, Yoshihiro Nishimura’s Helldriver had its official world premiere that same year on September 20 at the International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia, Spain, followed by its Japan premiere at the Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival on February 26, 2011.  The showing that I attended on March 4, 2011, was the film’s Tokyo premiere, shown as a part of the Tokyo Zombie Film Festival.  Helldriver has since made the rounds of film fests, mostly in the form of a shortened (and slightly censored) “international version,” bringing Nishimura’s delightfully perverse vision to bloodthirsty gore-hounds across the globe.  And so, July 23 represented the official theatrical launch in Japan of Helldriver in its original uncensored edit, running about 12 minutes longer than the international version.

Photo by Norman England

So, back to the launch!  After a lovely dinner at the Vampire Café in Ginza, I found myself staring down a wide staircase leading to what might best be described as a glorified underground passageway.  Standing bars, udon noodle shops, and other establishments lined most of one side, while the remaining areas were peppered with film posters and entrances to the Cine Pathos theaters.  Guarded by an AVN alien, lined with bloody, severed zombie heads, and crowned with the massive scythes wielded by Tak Sakaguchi’s Kisaragi in Mutant Girls Squad, it wasn’t too difficult to spot the right entrance.  Fans milled about the area, lining up dutifully to receive felt-tip blessings upon their posters from favorite actors, actresses, and filmmakers.   I was pleased to catch up with director Nishimura, actor Kentaro Kishi, and my friend Norman England (an extra in the film and responsible for the excellent English subtitles).  I also had the privilege of conversing with the always delightful Asami, who appears in Helldriver and many other notable Nishimura/Iguchi films.

Photo by Norman England

After being pushed back for nearly thirty minutes, the eager film aficionados were finally allowed into the theater, pouring into a lobby full zombie heads, ninja suits, and other props; even the restrooms were unable to escape the carnage!  Official Helldriver T-shirts were available for sale, and a booth was set up for live interviews via Ustream throughout the day (recordings from that day can be viewed here).

The theater itself was rather cramped and could have used a bit more in the way of air conditioning, but none of that mattered when Noboru Iguchi lurched to the front of the screen in a rather loose kimono, shouting something barely comprehensible from beneath an ill-fitting latex zombie mask to welcome the audience to the final showing of that day’s Sushi Typhoon Festival.

A fully clothed Nishimura then led the cast out to the stage, including lead actress Yumiko Hara (Kika), Eihi Shiina (Rikka), Kentaro Kishi (Yasushi), Honoka (kimono zombie), Yurei Yanagi (Taku), Kazuki Namioka (Kai), Mizuki Kusumi (Nanashi), Yuya Ishikawa (Kika’s father),  and Asami (“hyper police” wall guard).  And if you did a double-take when I mentioned that Mr. Nishimura was fully clothed, fear not, for it took nary a moment’s convincing to have him strip down to the fundoshi Japanese undergarment that has become his trademark at these events.  With Mr. Iguchi serving as master of ceremonies, the cast and crew related their thoughts on the film and the grueling two weeks of Hell that gave birth to this latest monster mashup.  The fact that Mr. Nishimura managed to serve as director, co-screenwriter, editor, character designer and special makeup effects supervisor on the film and still churn out Helldriver in such a short period is truly a testament to his passion as a creator, and also the assiduous efforts of everyone involved in the production.

Photo by Norman England

When viewing these movies, I often think about the beauty of film as a medium, and how a group of disparate individuals can bring their talents together to produce a whole that is greater than the sum of its constituent parts.  Sometimes, combinations and affinities are discovered that function particularly well, and it takes a charismatic and dedicated director to orchestrate them.  Some examples in Hollywood that come to mind include Tim Burton, with his frequent collaborations with Danny Elfman and repeated use of Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Christopher Lee, and others in his films.  Perhaps closer in flavor would be the works of Quentin Tarantino, and especially Robert Rodriguez (with Planet Terror often used as a point of comparison).  Both of these filmmakers find actors and staff that hold a particular resonance with them, and use their unique characteristics and personal quirks to enhance their directorial visions.  This sense of camaraderie then gives the audience the feeling that the folks involved actually enjoy working with each other and have a vested interest in how the film is received, and aren’t just in it for a fat paycheck.  This in turn serves to make viewing the film a more enjoyable experience overall.

My own thoughts aside, the enlightening talks that eventide were cut off all too soon, but an even bigger treat was in store for us.  What are my impressions of the gore-spewing, blood-spraying, flesh-chomping, bone-gnawing action of Helldriver’s original cut?  That will have to wait for next time.  Until then, if you have the chance, check out the Sushi Typhoon Festival going on now in Tokyo.  You won’t regret it!

Special thanks to Norman England for the fantastic photos!