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Review © Larry D. Burns, 2003.

Directed by Atsushi Muroga, 1999, 83 min. starring Kaori Shimamura, Yuji Kashimoto, Osamu Ebara, and Miwa.

When you watch a movie that is directed by someone who is known in Japan for directing plotlessly gory films, you pretty much know what to expect. Case in point, Junk (aka Shiryour Gari). While breezing through the blessedly short 83-minute film, I didn’t quite know what to make of what I just saw. Was it meant to shock me? Make me laugh? Excite me? Ambivalence enveloped my very being. Then, while browsing through the filmography section of the Artsmagic special edition DVD of Junk, I came across that description of his directing style – PLOTLESSLY GORY. Ahhh, that explains everything.

Call me crazy, but I’ve always found zombie movies quite silly. Imagine a bunch of bodies, in various stages of decay, ambling around like a bunch of drunkards during New Year’s Eve. I mean, once you get past the whole decaying body parts and the maggots and, presumably, the stench, and actually stick it in your head that you can outrun these freaks, the terror is GONE! But, like most horror movies, the terror of disbelief will always give us the deer-in-the-headlights syndrome when confronted with such a monstrosity.

Unfortunately for the zombies of Junk, they are neither monstrous, nor terrifying. In fact, they look rather fake, cheap, even powdered. Powdered? Yes, powdered. No dripping slime, no oozing pus, none of that fun stuff. They just wander around, breaking through doors, and eating humans (at times, even themselves!). It’s this type of absurdity that goes beyond the realm of suspended reality that makes Junk unsuccessful at any attempt it tries to make.

Synopsis

“The dead will devour the living…”

At a secret lab at an abandoned plant in modern-day Japan, the US government have been conducting experiments on how to bring the dead back to life. With the invention of DNX, they have discovered that once this mysterious green goop is injected into a deceased body, the body will live again. As with everyone who tampers with nature, the results of the initial DNX tests are without side effects (of course!)... all except an insatiable hunger for human flesh! <insert maniacal laughter here> This becomes apparent to them when their first experiment; a beautiful (and naked Miwa, in her film debut) corpse attacks a doctor right before opening credits.

Meanwhile, a group of bandits (including our heroine Saki, played inconsistently by Kaori Shimamura, and comic relief Akira, played with gusto by Osamu Ebara) rob a jewelry store in the middle of the day. After a successful robbery (though not quite as successful for Akira, as he ends up being stabbed in the foot by a teller), they contact the person they want to exchange the jewels for money for. They agree to meet at an abandoned plant outside of the city where the cops won't find them... (and I do think you know where this is going... )

Elsewhere, a doctor (Yuji Kashimoto) is summoned by the US military to answer questions about experiments involving DNX. He claims the experiments were terminated years ago and have long since forgotten about it. Unbeknownst to him, the experiments were still conducted by his former colleague (the one that was eaten during the pre-opening credits, by the way). He is shocked to find this out, and demands to know where these experiments have been going on. They have been taking place at an abandoned plant outside of the city… yep, you guessed it...

As the thieving four meet at the said plant, unaware of the zombie activity afoot, they wait for their Yakuza benefactor that’ll take the jewelry loot off their hands in exchange for dough. While there, the supposed leader of the group attempts to strike a deal with Saki, to kill off the other two for a bigger share of the money. Saki refuses (a thief with a conscience – like we’ve never seen that before), so she saunters off, leaving him to be impaled, and later, eaten, by zombies, but not before he lets out a bloodcurdling scream that gets the other three a-running. They tear through the plant and stumble upon a room where a bunch of bodies have been tied up and wrapped in sheets.

They brush this off and continue exploring, only to find their friend being eaten by two zombies (stomach open, innards being scooped out and chewed aimlessly). This naturally disgusts the heck out of them. Another zombie pops out of nowhere, so they start shooting at it. Stomach - BANG!!! – still alive! Chest - BANG!!!! – still alive! Head – okay, that did it ;-) They therefore conclude that there are zombies around them and that they should get the hell out of there.

Running out, they run into Yakuza king and money exchanger Ramon (Satsujin Gota) who, strangely enough, wonders where they're running off to in such a gosh-dang hurry. Naturally, they tell the truth – ZOMBIES ARE AFTER THEM!!! You can imagine his and his posse’s reaction, being hardened Yakuzas and all. Whatever, they decide to get down to business and do the exchange, only to find that when three thieves give up their stolen loot, they get exchanged with a complete arsenal. And believe me, it’s not for them to use. To show that Yakuza posse mean business, they shoot one of the thieves. And then there were two. Right before they’re done in as well, in comes a zombie, chews the neck off one of the Yakuzas, and all hell breaks loose. Even more hell breaks loose when during a gunfight, bullets shatter vats and tubs of the jolly green life-giving liquid DNX and it pours all over a bunch of dead bodies, therefore bringing them to life! How convenient! ;-)

At this point, things get pretty zombie-movie generic. The living try to outwit, outplay, and outlast the undead, and even each other, all for the prize of survival, and that bag of jewelry that was still at play. Throughout, we are treated to more zombies munching on human innards and body parts, a subplot involving a past relationship, a Lara Croft-esque gunfight, an unintentionally hilarious Michael Jackson Thriller rip-off (you have to look closely, around 58 minutes into the film), and more topless shots of the zombie who is revealed to be the Queen – who unbelievably, sometime during the third act, gets a kick-ass leather outfit (complete with matching leather knee-high boots), a platinum-blonde wig, and contact lenses (twice!). I’m not gonna tell you how it ends, because that would be like giving a fish a bath. You already know how it ends. Trust me.

Incredibly bad acting (especially from the American "actors"), unrealistically gory violence (everything looks rubbery) and monumentally bad dialogue (here’s a prime example – when Akira sees the doctor and another soldier arrive at the plant, he exclaims “Shit! What’s the army doing here?” I don’t know about you Akira, but two people, an army does not make), are several reasons why Junk simply does not work.

It’s sloppy, to say the least. The editing is quite decent (probably the only decent thing about this film). But it’s the acting that really gets to me. Especially of Shinamura’s. She has this annoying tendency to get out of character. One minute, she’s kick-ass, brandishing this season's niftiest semi-automatic firearm; the next she’s screaming her head off, running and ducking in a girly fashion. The dialogue is unforgivable. For example, Kashimoto’s English is, I’m sorry to say, atrocious. They should’ve just dubbed over him with something a bit more coherent. Thank God his English lines were subbed as well, otherwise I wouldn’t have understood a thing. And the direction – OH MY GAWD!!! I have absolutely no idea what Muroga wanted to happen in this film. Every action and reaction from the actors/characters was pointless. No development, no plot, no excitement.

Having said that, this film does have its target audience (I ain’t one of ‘em). It’s a film for those who enjoy zombie movies, plain and simple. It’s for those who like simple plot lines, in-your-face accessible gore, and a speedy running time. It’s for those who don’t want to think about what they’re watching – the leave-your-brain-at-the-door crowd. It’s for those who love their movies to not have any redeeming values whatsoever. But for those who are interested in the genre but want something more, I suggest you pick up Danny Boyle’s brilliant 28 Days Later as a more intelligent, and a whole lot scarier, alternative. It’s a film that goes against every zombie movie cliché ever put on celluloid.

The Japanese Horror Film-loving crowd might hate me for this review, since Junk is one of the most talked-about titles to come out of the horror film wave of Japan. But truth be told, it’s not a very good movie. I came into this film with the intent of judging it for what it was, not what I expected it to be. To not compare it to the masterpieces of the genre (Kairo, Battle Royale, Ring). I really tried so hard to like this movie, and though several might think it to have some good points – even guilty pleasures - I just can’t find them here. It’s not shocking, not unnerving, it didn’t even spoil my appetite (I was eating spaghetti at the time I watched this). So clearly, this just doesn’t work for me.

To sum up, I guess I just have this to say: after seeing this movie, I now know why it’s called Junk. ;-)

Snowblood Apple Rating for this film:
Entertainment value: 2/10
Chills: -1/10
Violence: 111/10
Gore: pure and uncut Heinz Ketchup/10
Explosions: BOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!! WHOOOOMPH!!! BAANNNNNGGG!!!/10
Dialogue: written by 10 monkeys on 10 typewriters in 10 ... minutes ;-)
Everybody Fights!: yeah, to be the first to switch off the TV when the movie starts
Topless (And Pointless) Nudie Zombie Ladies: only the one, sorry to disappoint you fellas ;-)
Similar Gory Films Of A Genuinely Better Calibre: Wild Zero, Bio-Zombie, anything from the Guinea Pig series, Versus, Stacy, Another Heaven

***Only for rabid fans of zombie genre flicks - otherwise, avoid at all costs***

Junk Wallpaper

You can download this wallpaper here: [800x600] [1024x768]
Wallpaper credit: Larry Burns, 2003


Snowblood Apple Filmographies


Atsushi Muroga
Kaori Shimamura
Osamu Ebara

Links

Junk is a film on which, like Evil Dead Trap, opinion seems to be heavily divided: there are those who worship this movie as a classic innovator of the Japanese Zombie genre, as well as others who think it stinks worse than a three-day-old reanimated topless lady corpse. So, don't just take our word for it - here's a cross-section of opinion!

http://www.artsmagic.co.uk/EasternCultCinema/ - Artsmagic have released Junk on a special uncut edition R2 PAL DVD - there are some short reviews here, a really nice gory wallpaper for you to download, and loads of images from the film
http://www.artsmagic.co.uk/EasternCultCinema/Article2.htm - and while you're there, read this delightfully titled article "Zombie Nosh: Wild Zero and Junk" by Kim Kiyoma
http://www.unearthedfilms.com/collection.htm - our friends at Unearthed Films have also just now released an NTSC version of the movie which you can also buy here if NTSC suits you better - there are also some goodies on this site, such as a downloadable trailer and lots of pictures
http://www.jpreview.com/Reviews%20HTML/junk.htm - oh dear, Gareth at JPReview hates this movie almost as much as we do :-)
http://www.kfccinema.com/reviews/horror/junk/junk.html - a fairly ambivalent review at KFC Cinema, by Janick Neveu
http://www.thespinningimage.co.uk/cultfilms/displaycultfilm.asp?reviewid=305 - this review is subtitled, I kid you not, "The Dead Walk.... Slowly" ;-D sheer genius.
http://www.profundis.it/cinema/film/junk.htm - short review in Italian, with some small images
http://www.joblo.com/arrow/junk.htm - a thoroughly schizophrenic review from those lovely chaps at Arrow in the Head, whose conclusion is that Junk is simultaneously supercrappy and supercool ;-)
http://www.rumourmachine.com/Reviews/Junk.htm - another positive review, for which I am completely and utterly baffled...
http://www.teleport-city.com/movies/reviews/i-l/junk.html - ...and another from Keith Allison!...
http://www.sleazegrinder.com/garb_junk.htm - ...well, that makes three in a row ;-)
http://www.horrordvdreviews.com/dvdreviews/junk.php - technical specs and a short summary in German

this review (c) Larry D Burns, 2003. all other text and webdesign (c) 2002, 2003 M. Apple. All characters, situations and images remain the property of their respective owners. The text and webdesign of this site may not be copied, reproduced, mirrored, printed commercially or ripped off in any other way. Do not hotlink directly to images hosted on this site.