Friday, July 4, 2008

A whole Lot of Red, White and Blue, not so much

After loving The Machine Girl so much, I became a lot more open to Japanese horror films. So it came at no surprise that I sarcastically entered a contest to win tickets for Tokyo Gore Police on Twitch Film...and I won. With the New York Asian Film festival occurring at the IFC Center in New York City I knew I absolutely couldn't turn down a chance to be in with all the Kung-Fu movie buffs in New York City. Upon reaching there I was not disappointed. Despite the IFC center being located on the seediest sex shop ridden area on this side of Greenwich Village I knew I was at the right place when the girl working at the table was trying to buy my Forbidden Planet shirt off of me, of course I'd never sell off an awesome piece of '50s nostalgia but considering how the average person only notices that shirt is either the Comic Book store of the same name or the film where Robby the Robot came from, I was fairly impressed.

I was surprised by the crowd at the festival. While there were a few of the stereotypical 18 to 20-something comic book geeks and a couple of fellow Pratt students more than half of the crowd consisted of middle-aged hipster couples most seemed to be every bit as excited for the non-stop gore and graphic violence as the youngest ones in the crowd. The man immediately in front of me in line was a grey-haired man going to see Tokyo Gore Police alone. While he was not really in touch with the Internet hype for this flick, he clearly was a connoisseur of trashy Asian cinema mentioning several different directors that I never heard of and how he has a place that sells cheap kung-fu DVDs right next to his apartment. I asked him what he thought of the Machine Girl, he told me it was "okay" but "the gore was not as ridiculous as BLANK but if you want the gore to go alongside a good plot see BLANK but then again BLANK had a five minute cameo of Quentin Tarantino in the beginning". This was one of the few times in my life as a film geek that I felt totally inadequate compared to the amount of fanboyism that surrounded me.

The crowd here reminded me of what you'd see at a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture show. Before the screening of Tokyo Gore Police started, the event curator gave a brief synopsis of the film explaining that "it has gore...a lot of gore...and police but they are a gritty kind of police that we're not used to...and a plot somewhat like Robocop and Starship Troopers". Posters were handed out to a crowd of excited hands as they geared up for their giveaways. They collected e-mail addresses on forms in a cardboard box for a raffle that according to the form "has really great prizes and really terrible ones". The first thing they raffled off was a NYAFF branded bag full of schlocky DVDs and Japanese beer. When they announced the winner was Stanley Glick everyone recognized his name and cheered. They apparently recognized him as the cult blogger from Asian Cine Fest. Afterwards, winners could pick from one of three DVDs. The first being A Tale of Two Sisters which the curator said was now a piece of nostalgia being that Tartan Asia Extreme recently closed their doors a week ago, this was followed immediately by a loud booing from the audience. I could only recognize them as the label that crowded up my local Blockbuster's foreign section and the label on the relatively awesome film Oldboy. This was followed up with fanfare when they pulled out Shogun Assassin 5 (the first Shogun Assassin movie inspired the popular film Kill Bill) and the Korean horror flick Phone. The two other winners included a bubbly middle-aged woman who waited in line for 3 hours (!) to see Tokyo Gore Police and a young blogger that went by the name ZombieAssassin9099 which lead to a huge laugh from the audience. The director then said there would be random trailers for some of their other 27 festival films afterwards. They played the trailers for Fine, Totally, Fine which looked like what would be a chick flick with absurdist interludes and Strawberry Shortcakes which looked like a Japanese take on Sex and the City.

Onward to this week's film geekery:
Tokyo Gore Police - when I came in to this film I was expecting some sort of self-parody over the top gore film along the lines of The Machine Girl, especially after seeing the ridiculous trailer for it. Tokyo Gore Police however played off more as a straight out comedy film with random interludes of public service announcements, comedy vignettes and recruitment advertisements for the graphic but noble Tokyo Gore Police squad. While these segments were all really funny, they constructed a bleak vision of the future where violence is accepted as the cultural norm and where the violent exploits of the police are followed like the WWE and a spunky blond haired Emergency Announcer that seems more MTV than local government.

But rest assured, Tokyo Gore Police didn't take itself too seriously. The plot revolved around a genetic researcher who was trying to figure out what genes created a serial killer in order to find a way to eliminate the possibility of a killer altogether. Long story short, his research was a failure and he injected himself with the genes of Charles Manson. From then on he was capturing innocent locals and inserted a key shaped brain tumor into the heads of his victims changing them into crazy zombies with regrowing hideous limbs. If your trying to make sense out of the plot your missing the entire point of the movie. It really just seemed like an excuse to have ridiculous scenes such as a Geisha dressed assassin basking with an umbrella in a rain of crimson blood, a living chair made out of the organs of a person, a guy who shot severed hands of fists and middle fingers out of a rocket launcher and a man who after getting his legs severed would propel himself in mid-air with blood fountains and would fly out with his katana for an action scene. There were a couple of other noteworthy scenes but I'll end it there to keep in the element of surprise and to maintain my blog's relatively G-rating.

Tokyo Gore Police clocked in at about 2 hours which seems a bit long for a gore film but among a crowd of hecklers and cheery-eyed inner children it definitely didn't feel like it. Tokyo Gore Police really did a stellar job switching between some great cinematography, and fights and flat out comedy. There's really nothing else like it, I suppose it would be what you'd get if you asked the guys at Monty Python to make an action movie but the themes from Robocop really set it apart from seeming like random humor just for the sake of random humor. On top of that, the special effects in here were surprisingly good. The buckets of fake blood and corn syrup all had the right color and consistency while the key shaped brain tumors looked every bit like brain tumors. If you watch the NSFW five-minute trailer you'll have a good idea of what to expect.

Media Blasters is currently looking for a theatrical release of Tokyo Gore Police under their Tokyo Shock label. I remember reading that between The Meatball Machine, The Machine Girl and Toyko Gore Police we're experiencing a renaissance in Asian slasher movies. While I have not seen The Meatball Machine (yet) if the quality of The Machine Girl and Tokyo Gore Police is any indication I have to totally agree with this statement. The DVD release of Tokyo Gore Police will be out around the holiday season, making it the perfect gift for the cult movie buff in all of us. I'll definitely be picking this one up.
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