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.

Sushi Is Hungry! Noboru Iguchi’s “DEAD SUSHI”!

Time flies by on leathery, bat-like wings here at Castle Skeleton, and a look at the cobweb-ridden calendar on the wall tells me that Candlemas has already come and gone without a single post here at my horror blog!  Well, to rectify the situation I decided to highlight one of the latest slices of cinematic WTFery to be spawned from the mind of delightfully demented director Noboru Iguchi: Dead Sushi.  Responsible for films that have gained loyal cult followings such as The Machine Girl, RoboGeisha, and Karate-Robo Zaborgar, Iguchi is sure to please once again as martial artist and actress Rina Takeda (High Kick Girl!, Dogoon V) takes on an army of killer sushi!  Shigeru Matsuzaki will also appear, along with Iguchi regulars Asami and Demo Tanaka.   This visual and gastronomical(?) delight will hit theaters soon, but for now check out the trailer and flyer, with English text supplied by my good friend Norman England.  Itadakimasu!

Raising Hell: Thoughts on the “Helldriver” Launch – Part 3

After a brief chuckle over a humorous cameo in the final scene, one could almost perceive a collective sigh (of satisfaction) as the room brightened and the Helldriver launch came officially to a close.  Slowly filing out of the theater, some audience members lingered in the lobby to examine the grotesque film props, observe the ongoing UStream talks, and donate money to the Tohoku Earthquake relief efforts for a chance to vote on their favorite Sushi Typhoon feature of the day.  I’m pleased to say that Helldriver seemed to be winning by a landslide! My date for the evening, a lovely young lady by the name of Jessica, shared with me her impressions of the film as we stepped outside into the slightly cooler night air.

Photo by Norman England

As is tradition at these events, the cast and crew members were standing outside of the theater doors with cheerful smiles on their faces, patiently taking the time to sign autographs and shake hands with their devoted fans.  I felt honored when lead actress Yumiko Hara thanked me for coming both this time and back in March for the Tokyo premiere, saying that she remembered seeing me there even though we hadn’t been able to speak with each other.  Receiving a firm handshake from Director Nishimura, I was congratulating him again on creating such a unique and “gutsy” film when, much to my surprise, he said, “Hey, let’s go drinking!”  Almost before I knew it, Jessica and I were caught up with my friend Norman England and the Sushi Typhoon crew as we hit the streets of Ginza in search of a watering hole that could accommodate our sizable group – no easy task on a Saturday night in Japan’s largest city.  After wandering about the streets like a disorganized flock of thirsty sheep and a few instances of jaywalking, we finally settled into a pleasant little izakaya (Japanese-style pub) with two large tables to seat everyone in our party.

I’m 15 years old. The film in my DVD player is called Audition, directed by Takashi Miike and featuring a beautiful young starlet by the name of Eihi Shiina as Asami Yamazaki.  Having stumbled upon the film in my local rental shop’s woefully impoverished Foreign Film section, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  It started off so innocently, like some kind of drama or romantic comedy…

Stepping into the room, Jessica and I were called over by Mr. Nishimura, and we found ourselves seated with him and director Noboru Iguchi (who told me a little about his upcoming film, presumably entitled Toilet of the Dead [EDIT: The official title has now been announced as Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead]).  A toast is made to the success of the Sushi Typhoon film launches, and the good times begin.

I have to force myself to look at the screen.  How did things end up like this?  What I thought to be, at worst, a scathing dramatic critique of Japanese gender relations, has somehow become a nightmarish buildup of tension, ultimately reaching  a conclusion that even I find difficult to watch.  The director has built up the suspense masterfully, adding another turn of the screw with each new development.  Eihi Shiina’s performance as Asami Yamazaki is terrifying, yet entrancingly beautiful.  I can’t look away.  My God…this is genius.

8 years later, I find a poster and trailer online for an “outrageous” new film.  Directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura…hmm…never heard of him.  The theatrical poster draws me in with its simplicity though…a leggy Japanese heroine with raven-black hair stands proudly in a rather provocative police uniform against what looks to be a post-apocalyptic landscape.  The bold capitalized letters of the title seem to tell me everything I need to know about this film: TOKYO GORE POLICE.  But wait a minute…this woman looks familiar…

Flash forward to 2011…

Asami Yamazaki is sitting next to me.  I can hardly believe it, but the lovely Eihi Shiina, who scarred my teenage mind (in the best way possible) with her portrayal of a vengeance-crazed sadist in Audition, and impressed me with her solid performance as engineer hunter Ruka in Tokyo Gore Police, is elegantly sipping her drink in the seat directly beside me!  Having played a key role in Helldriver, Ms. Shiina is also present for the after-party!

Working up my courage, I manage to blurt out an introduction and explain how I was first exposed to her work, and she responds with a warm smile and a gentle handshake.  When I complement her role in the film as Helldriver’s demented Rikka, mentioning that it was certainly a very different character from the calm and collected Ruka in TGP, she informs me with a wry smile that Mr. Nishimura told her to “act like Asami at the end of Audition…only for the whole movie.”  In fact, fans of Audition may notice a subtle (and somewhat humorous) nod to the film’s final moments in the end of Helldriver.  Throughout the evening I discover that Ms. Shiina is an extremely pleasant conversationalist, discussing her roles, the films of Messrs. Nishimura and Iguchi and their reception domestically and abroad, and her recently hatched plans to become the vocalist of her own band!  Not only that, but it turns out that Ms. Shiina is a huge Neon Genesis Evangelion fan, and as the night wears on and the alcohol continues to flow, we discuss the finer points of the story and its implications, along with our opinions of the latest theatrical releases of the series.  Our interests in anime run even deeper still, sharing a special fondness for director Mamoru Oshii’s early work Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer.  Perhaps I’ve found a kindred spirit?

Spending most of her time in her home prefecture of Fukuoka, Ms. Shiina tells me that she truly values such opportunities to exchange thoughts and opinions in a relaxed and casual atmosphere.  While her work as both a model (originally for Benetton) and actress have gained her international recognition, I can only hope to see more of her performances in the future, in film and on stage.  Ms. Shiina is an elegant, thoughtful, well-spoken, and intelligent lady, and I feel truly honored to have been able to meet her under such circumstances.

As the seats empty and the floor space starts to become increasingly consumed by sleeping cast members exhausted from a long day of film launches, I realize that it is time to leave this unique look into the world of Helldriver.  And so, this concludes my three-part look at the Helldriver launch.  Look forward to information on the upcoming DVD release of the film, and in the meantime, check out Shiina Eihi’s personal web site here:  Eihi Shiina Instrumentality Project ~To Tabris With Love~  She also has a report on the Helldriver launch and after-party in her most recent blog entries (Japanese)!  Until next time, stay out of the sunlight!

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!